While it gets its best speeds up high, the turbo makes a lot of sense down low at non-oxygen-required altitudes from 9,000 to 12,000, where you can take advantage of the thinner air and less-traveled airways and cover a lot of ground fast. At 12,000 feet Cirrus advertises 194 knots true, but we were getting just a tick under 200 knots at that altitude, running at 2550 rpm and 17.5 gph. In a non-turboed airplane running at best power and optimum altitude, you'd be looking at around 180 knots and nearly 20 gph.
The airplane's top cruise speed comes at 25,000, where the example we were flying was truing 215 knots, again at 17.5 gph. At that speed, the airplane can cover a lot of ground, making up to a large degree for the high fuel consumption on the climb. And it's nice to note that the handling characteristics of the SR22 at 25,000 feet were fine. There was, in fact, no noticeable difference in its handling manners at all, though we didn't explore much of the envelope on my flight.
On my flight the airplane did better at every altitude by a few knots or more than Cirrus advertises. And Cirrus makes a very good point when it says that the speed at 25,000 feet isn't a good measure of the capabilities of the airplane. They contend, and I agree, that few pilots will be regularly operating these airplanes-Cirrus' or its competitors'-at FL 250. Instead, they're likely to frequent altitudes from 10,000 to 20,000 feet. And at those levels the Cirrus is very close in performance to its rivals while burning less fuel and running very cool, whereas up higher and burning much more fuel, its rivals are substantially faster.
With the Tornado Alley system installed, the engine's TBO remains the same, claims Cirrus, at 2,000 hours. And it's not hard to believe that it could make TBO. On my two-hour flight the airplane ran very cool the whole way with the manifold pressure never getting above around 30 inches of pressure.
The biggest downside of Cirrus' strategy of sticking with the original SR22 airframe and adding a third-party turbocharger system is that the resultant higher-fuel burn airplane doesn't have any more fuel than the original, a total of 81 gallons usable. Consequently, while the range is certainly workable-840 nautical miles at 200 knots-there are a lot of pilots who will want more. And the endurance at high-power cruise, 3.9 hours plus a 45-minute reserve, is well within the limits of many pilots, myself included, who might find themselves wishing they could get a few hundred miles further toward the destination without needing to stop for fuel.
Once you're down low, the Cirrus performs like any other non-turbo SR22, and it offers the same kinds of creature comforts, one of, if not the most comfortable cabins in its class, a great avionics package, luxurious leather and XM satellite weather and entertainment channels. And when it comes to performance, the SR22 Turbo Charged is going to be very competitive with the Columbia and the Mooney at between 10,000 and 12,000 feet, delivering around 200 knots on just 17.5 gph
Because it comes as an option, the $59,995 price of the turbo package is added into the price of the non-turbo SR22. The limited edition SE turbo sells for $532,000, and standard models with the turbocharging package will sell for around $510,000 very nicely equipped.
How popular will the turbocharged model be? Historically (at least within the past 30 years or so) newly introduced turbocharged airplanes sell in substantially higher numbers than their normally aspirated counterparts. Indeed, sales of the Columbia 400 dwarf those of the non-turboed 350. In fact, Cirrus planned to deliver more than 40 turbocharged SR22s in December of 2006 alone, and Dale Klapmeier told Flying that it could deliver as many turbocharged airplanes as demand warrants from that point on.
For more information about the SR22 Turbo Charged, visit www.cirrusdesign.com