Car Buying

Should Your Next Car Have a Turbocharger?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2015

These days, turbocharged engines are becoming highly popular in modern cars. The main reason is fuel economy. By offering cars with a small engine and a turbocharger, automakers can combine the excellent gas mileage of a small engine with the power of a larger one, thanks to the turbo. Should your next car be turbocharged, or should you stay away from the rapidly expanding technology? We have some suggestions.

Why Not?

Although some drivers can be leery of turbocharging, we think it's mostly a good thing. Turbocharging offers exactly what automakers and the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency claim: It delivers better gas mileage without sacrificing performance.

Admittedly, a turbocharged engine won't suddenly take your SUV and give it the fuel economy of a Prius. However, if it bumps your gas mileage 2 or 3 miles per gallon without an increase in cost, a loss of performance or extra complications, what's the problem? Why not choose a turbocharged car, if all that is true?

A Drawback

We can think of one reason why some drivers may want to avoid turbos: reliability. Although there's no proof today's turbocharged vehicles are less reliable than their non-turbocharged counterparts, the nature of turbocharging (forcing air into the engine to make it provide more power) seems contrary to the idea of long-term dependability. Some older turbocharged cars suffer more problems down the line as a result of their increased mechanical complexity.

It's important to stress that these issues may not affect modern turbocharged cars. Many of today's automakers take long-term dependability seriously, which means they've likely tested their turbocharged engines for years to make them as durable as possible. Although reliability is unproven, it wouldn't be a major concern if we were considering a turbocharged vehicle.

Our Take

In general, we think the turbocharger is a good thing. That's especially true in its current application, where it offers drivers the ability to choose between power or fuel economy with a push of the pedal. Although we're a little concerned about the long-term dependability of some turbocharged engines, it wouldn't stop us from buying one to reap the fuel economy benefits.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Should Your Next Car Have a Turbocharger? - Autotrader