Turbocharged engines used to be mostly limited to performance cars and diesel trucks. However, they’re pretty common in regular vehicles these days. A turbocharger is an excellent way to add power and torque to an engine of any size.
What is a Turbocharged Engine?
Turbocharging is a form of forced induction for internal combustion engines. With forced induction, compressed air is sent into the engine, resulting in more power and torque. That ultimately improves the engine’s performance.
Vehicles with available turbocharged engines range from sports cars like the Chevrolet Camaro to pickup trucks like the Ford F-150. Turbochargers are common on modern luxury vehicles and performance-oriented variants of regular cars and SUVs like the Mazda CX-5 and Kia Forte.
How Does a Turbocharged Engine Work?
A turbocharger is little more than a glorified air pump. It consists of a pair of turbines and a wastegate regulating the amount of boost created. One turbine is turned by exhaust from the engine, and the other by ambient air. These turbines spin and force compressed air back into the engine through the intake manifold. Forcing compressed air into the engine creates a boost, which quickens the internal combustion process, resulting in better performance.
Where Can You Find a Turbocharged Car?
You can get a turbocharged car from almost any car manufacturer today. A wide range of vehicles like the Ford Mustang, Chevy Silverado 1500, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Altima, and many more are available with turbocharged engines.
Unless you’re shopping for a minivan or a subcompact sedan, there are probably multiple turbocharged options available in the class of cars, trucks, or SUVs you’re looking for.
- Performance: The biggest advantage of a turbocharged engine is the improved performance, thanks to the boost created by the turbocharger.
- Efficiency: Compared to a belt-driven supercharger, a turbocharger is an efficient way to add a boost to your engine. Since a turbo can give a small engine more useable power, turbocharged engines are often relatively fuel-efficient.
- Cool sound: If you get a more performance-oriented turbocharged vehicle, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to hear satisfying sounds of the turbo winding up and the blow-off valve exhaling air pressure. It also doesn’t have the “whine” associated with superchargers.
- Turbo lag: This isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, but some turbocharged engines have a bit of a lag between hitting the accelerator and the boost kicking in since the turbo needs a little time to spool up.
- Price: A turbocharged car almost always costs extra compared to its non-turbocharged counterpart.
- More that can go wrong: Turbocharged engines have gotten pretty reliable, but introducing more moving parts to an engine always means that there’s more that can require service.
Turbocharged vs. Supercharged
Supercharging is a form of forced induction like turbocharging, but it creates a boost differently. A supercharger is traditionally a belt-driven turbine that uses torque from the engine to make the boost. It’s good for adding performance to big engines, but it’s rare to find a supercharger on a small engine.
Since a supercharger uses torque from the engine to create a boost, it typically makes it less efficient, like an air conditioning compressor. However, there’s such a thing as an electric supercharger with the performance advantages of a supercharger without the fuel economy penalty.
For most drivers, a turbocharged engine makes more sense than a supercharged engine.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.