The interior of the G3, which is where we pilots spend most of our time, after all, is much improved over an already nicely refined environment. Again, I don't know just how many of those 700-plus changes were done on the inside of the airplane, but I'd guess a high number. There's a new, sleeker and flusher switch panel in front of the pilot, new and much improved environmental controls on the right side, all new headliner and panel surrounds and improved door mechanisms. The leather interior in the airplane I flew was black, which is a nice color, so long as you keep it hangared and have air conditioning.
The G3 is equipped with the Avidyne Entegra flat-panel avionics system, with large-screen PFD and MFD. And the system has a lot of capability, including XM Weather, engine monitoring, CMax Charts and much more. The system makes use of a pair of Garmin GNS 430 navigators with built-in comm radios. The autopilot is the rate-based S-Tec 55X. While the Entegra remains a fine system when coupled with the Garmin navigators and has a lot of added capability over the first sets in the SR22, the feature-rich S-Tec 55X seems better suited to the speeds and altitudes of the nonturbocharged model.
How Does It Fly?
I've had the chance to fly the SR22-G3 on two occasions now, once at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in April and once out of Austin this summer.
As you might know, the G3 Turbo is the result of a partnership between Cirrus and Tornado Alley, which developed the STC for the turbocharger installation. Originally, Tornado Alley was going to do the install at its home in Oklahoma, but the sheer volume of orders quickly forced Cirrus to shift gears. The STC work is now integrated into the production line in Duluth.
The mod puts twin turbochargers and twin intercoolers into the SR22, giving the airplane turbo-normalization. This doesn't boost the manifold pressure at sea level, but allows the engine to continue to develop 100 percent power all the way up to 25,000 feet. As a result, engine management is much less complicated than with a straight turbocharger while continuing to give the airplane excellent climb and cruise performance, even up to the flight levels.
We took off from Austin with a flight plan to go to Louis Armstrong International (MSY) in New Orleans at 25,000 feet, grab lunch and then head back at 12,000 before trying our luck at 16,000 feet.
Even on the takeoff roll the feel of the airplane is nice, with the rudder and aileron controls being more fluid than on previous SR22s, again because of elimination of the interconnect. After advancing the throttle as smoothly as I thought I needed to, but not quite as smoothly as I should have, we accelerated very quickly-gotta love that new prop-and we soon were at the rotation speed of 71 knots. We climbed out at 1,200 fpm and went to approach.
In the G3 the climb is accomplished one of two ways. Best power-full throttle and full rich on the mixture-puts roughly 35 gallons an hour through the system. Conversely, you can do a lean of peak climb, which gets you up at a slower rate of climb, roughly 600 fpm, but uses only 17.5 gph in the process. Cirrus estimates that when climbing to 25,000 feet, the lean of peak climb saves about five gallons of gas and increases the range by about 60 nm.
On our way out to New Orleans, there really wasn't a good reason to go at 25,000 feet. The winds up there were very light, just a few knots of a quartering tailwind, and there was no pressing meteorological need to go that high.
The climb up to FL 250 was fine. Up through 10,000 feet we maintained better than 1,000 fpm and 130 knots in the climb, and above that we were able to keep it climbing at 800 fpm all the way up to 250, on a day that was nearly 20 degrees hotter than standard. We monitored the CHTs as we climbed, and they all stayed well below 380 degrees, which is below redline but still recommended. Because there's no indicated airspeed hold function on the autopilot, the S-Tec 55X, you need to guesstimate a vertical speed in order to arrive at a climb airspeed. It's a roundabout way to do it, but not difficult.
At 25,000 feet we got the best forward speed out of the G3, 222 knots true. But that was at 98 percent power, which requires a fuel flow of around 35 gallons per hour. Which we could have done all the way to New Orleans if we'd wanted.
Instead we took a look at how best economy would look at that altitude, and it's impressive. At 2500 rpm and a measly 14 gph, we were seeing a true airspeed of 197 knots. And even though we'd been in the air for an hour already, we still had around four and half hours of flying time, or about 1,000 nm of no-wind range, left in the tanks. So for shorter trips, you can go really fast, while for longer trips, you can pull the power back and cruise at good true airspeeds for a very long time.
While the G3 Turbo's performance numbers are impressive, there are additional demands on pilots who fly up in the flight levels, demands that shouldn't be taken lightly.