There is a major horsepower per cubic inch ratio battle raging beneath the bonnet of many new cars and the truth is that this is long overdue here in the United States.
Using more potent and powerful four and six cylinder engines is certainly not a new idea but the current performance advances which are being made by auto manufacturing companies seems to be focused on using simple in-line four cylinder and small V-6 engines to their maximum potential. This thrifty yet powerful performance trend is moving forward at a very rapid pace.
A brief history of interesting turbocharged and supercharged cars
Adding a turbocharger to an in-line four cylinder engine has been going on for more than half a century now. My friends dad had a 1961 Triumph TR4 and this cool little car had a 2.2 liter four cylinder engine which had a supercharger on it which boosts intake manifold pressure by spinning a set of interlocking lobes that raise the pressure of the air which is passed through them. Superchargers can offer a similar performance boost to a turbocharger in that they both boost the intake manifold pressure which in turn dramatically increases the amount of air and fuel the engine is allowed to digest. The added air flow obviously brings more fuel along with it and this increases the power that an engine can produce. expedisi
What about turbochargers in Classic cars?
Many classic auto models have come before with superchargers or turbochargers under the hood and one that comes to mind would be the Buick Regal from 1978. The turbocharged version of this car sported a 3.8 V-6 engine which had similar power output of a larger V-8, and this same trend is exactly what is happening now with the in-line four cylinder engines putting out more power than a regular V-6 and getting better mileage as well. The reason this was a special model to me was the interesting fact that there were only a handful of other models that year which offered a turbo version, one was the Buick LeSabre, and the other two were foreign imports!
Which is the best power booster?
Both of these devices, turbocharger and supercharger are used to boost the incoming air pressure so that the engine can be operated to its fullest potential. The Turbocharger uses exhaust gas flow to spin a small turbine that has a mating turbine blade on the intake manifold side which forces more air into the engine, and the supercharger uses spinning lobes to increase intake air flow and pressure. The turbo system is typically smaller and lighter and these can be adapted more easily onto almost any engine, while the supercharger seems to be more beneficial to larger engines which require larger amounts of air at higher boost pressures.
Performance related issues.
There is no “Lag” in response with a supercharger where a turbo will take a second or two to get spinning up to its operating speed. Many engineering advances are being aimed at eliminating this classic turbo lag since it is not a very desirable performance feature. Some have overcome this to a greater extent by using two or more turbochargers on the engine and others have focused on shrinking the turbo size and improving the exhaust flow and waste gate controls to help optimize the availability of the turbochargers boost potential.
Performance and fuel economy?
So we come to modern times and now you have many new car models to choose from which have a turbocharger in them to help boost performance while maintaining decent fuel economy by using smaller four cylinder engines. The comparison is typically that the turbo four can easily perform as well as a normally aspirated six cylinder.
Diesel turbos have been around for a long time now.
For a long time now there have been turbochargers on a number of cars with diesel engines since this is one of the simplest ways to boost performance on a diesel engine. Many current vehicle models which have taken advantage of the power gains offered by adding a turbo! For example: Chevy Cobalt, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Flex, and many more! I feel that one of the hottest V-6 engines coming to us will be the “EcoBoost” V-6 engine in the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO, a medium size V-6 with twin turbochargers! In fact almost all car companies have at least one model which is turbocharged right now.
What is the next big Turbo trend?
The next big trend with turbochargers is in the Do It Yourself tuner upgrade market where people are putting turbochargers on all kinds of regular cars. So do not be too surprised when that little docile looking Chevy Cobalt next to you at the traffic light smokes the tires when he takes off to get ahead of you on the road! It is quite likely she has a turbo under the hood!