The Force – Normally Aspirated Versus Turbo Charged

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Welcome readers,

Our topic for discussion in this blog is forced induction or to the layman turbo / super charging vs natural aspiration. The dual for supremacy between forced induction and naturally aspirated engines rages on today hotter and brighter than ever! The question we will address together is what reigns supreme, turbo or V8 for example? Every single one of you will have a preference and this is what makes this such an interesting topic. 

First off let’s cover what I think are the key areas to consider. Performance, noise, efficiency, reliability and cost. In a nutshell if an engine can win in most or all of these key areas the battle is won. However, is it that simple? No… is it 100% nowhere near that simple!

Starting with performance which should simply be a glorified game of statistic based Top Trumps leaving a clear winner. An issue the naturally aspirated fans (otherwise known as American’s) will be spouting about right now is responsiveness and how turbo’s lag and so on. Say you have an FQ400 Evo. On boost the car beats most Lambo’s but time a gear-change wrong, or get caught in fourth instead of third as you exit a corner, the car bogs and your V10 rival is gone and enjoying a brew before you cross the line. Not ideal. My point here is both engine designs to their bare bones have pro’s and con’s which is why this argument really has no end. The V10 Lambo owner would talk about “real power”, throttle response and how turbo cars experience asthma as revs climb high. Some of their points are valid and some have been engineered out. A great example of this is turbo lag. Variable vein turbos are a great example of how engineers use intelligence and what feels like wizardry to eliminate this flaw. If you simply view how a turbo works lag should be an unavoidable part of its DNA. Keep this thought in your mind and go drive an M4. There is ZERO turbo lag, the thing just leaps for the horizon the second more blood goes to your big toe! Performance therefore isn’t as clear cut as you might think and to make my preference clear the more we refine, and polish forced induction the more it leaves N/A engines behind. Admittedly some of this is fuelled by the drive for lower CO2 and increased MPG’s but we will get to that. 

Noise. All those N/A fans are now smiling like Usain Bolt in the blocks I guarantee! It is undeniable that a V8 soundtrack is one of the most provocative automotive things you will ever hear. Its iconic. Its masculine. Its bigger is better mentality is why the Americans love it so much and I can totally see why. I would rather go slower than slow in a Dodge Charger than win the race in something that sounded like the new Porsche 718 Cayman. In the Dodge you lose the race but go home with the girl leaving the Porsche driver to impress all the remaining men with his gearbox statistics. All of that said, would you pick the sumptuous burble of a V8 over the noise of a high horsepower 2JZ block running a “Precision Turbo 8685 Gen 2” at 61PSI. Mean nothing? Look up @sammutrz on Instagram. His 1400 bhp Supra runs the standing quarter in 8.07 seconds crossing the line at 180MPH. Tell me a car “with a tax disc” you can buy new that would pip him to the post! Tough one and it sounds unreal. The car sounds alive as you can hear it inhale and exhale under boost or purge. This “built not bought” mentality has its peaks and troughs but with Huracan’s out there with $250,000 under the bonnet producing proven figures north of 3000 BHP what is next!? That is THREE Veyrons………. The extremely valid counter argument here is how long will it last!? Well, not long probably and trying to explain to “the girl” previously mentioned that your 1996 Toyota is better than the guy in his P1 is a tough gig. 

Efficiency. Well there really is only one winner here and we can group cost as a topic in here too. Forced induction wins hands down on being cheaper to produce, run, insure and manufacture. The engines are lighter but produce as much if not more power making their power to weight ration supreme. Driven gently a turbo charged car hardly spins the turbo so your fuel usage isn’t much more than the same 2.0 litre non-turbo engine found in whatever lower model you want to reference. Use the throttle, the turbo spins up and off you rocket. Best of both worlds. This same logic has been adapted to large N/A cars too I must add. With them shutting down cylinders when you cruise or put the car in Eco mode. This really is the cake and eat it for all owners if only the “V4” Corvette in ECO still sounded as good…….

Reliability. Today this is much less of an issue with such bullet proof engineering available from all corners of the globe not just Germany. Go buy yourself a new Nissan GTR, drive it like a fool and I bet it doesn’t miss a beat. As with all things however the more you dial them up, the more stress you put on all parts and the more frequently they will break. Simple. Environmental pressures do mean manufacturers are focusing their efforts on small, light, forced induction engines so its fair to say that this is where most R&D is being done. It therefore isn’t much of a leap to assume this is where progression is as its fastest. 

For better or worse in my humble opinion forced induction is the future and as we refine and innovate the future I am sure is very, very bright. 


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