By on January 19, 2011

VW’s 1.4 TSI “Twincharger” engine may well have been the most groundbreaking mass-market of the last 20 years, combining a supercharger and turbocharger to create a lag-free, forced-induction driving experience (a feat only Group B racers had previously attempted with any seriousness). Making either 120 HP or 158 HP in a Golf, the 1.4 TSI is rated on the Euro-cycle (non-EPA) at 6 liters per 100 km, or 39 MPG (please note, cross-cycle mileage comparisons are problematic). In the (smaller, lighter) 177 HP Polo GTI, it gets an even better 5.9l/100km. In short, it can be quite powerful, extremely efficient, and more importantly, it offers the flexibility to be tuned for a number of different applications. As a result, it won the International Engine Of The Year Award for 1.0-1.4 liter displacements four times running, and added “Best New Engine” in 2006, as well as “Green Engine Of The Year” and “International Engine Of The Year” in 2009.

And now, according to Autocar, the industry’s tortured tug-of-war between outstanding technical achievements and crushing profit-seeking grind will call the Twincharger its latest victim. The British mag reports

The company’s 1.4-litre engine, which mixes turbocharging and supercharging, is said to be too complex and expensive to produce.

Instead, VW engineers now believe that new turbocharging technology can achieve similar results at a much-reduced cost.

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51 Comments on “Who Killed The Twincharger?...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    When I first heard this I wondered if it was too costly to produce, or too costly to repair. Are there any reports on the reliability of this engine? Were there any warranty issues I wonder, or was it really just too costly to produce under VW’s new ‘mainstream’ philosophy.

    • 0 avatar
      neevers1

      It’s a volkswagen, they have reliability issues with their normal engines, can you imagine what this would be like. I bet they couldn’t get it to not break down in the warranty period.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      neevers – bite me. That old chestnut. VW’s had a bad spell in 2002-2005 but looking at Truedelta they seem average and in Europe they sell well and Europeans do care about reliability too (as well as design and driving dynamics). So lets dispel some of these VW’s are all crap, everyone else makes much more reliable cars – just not true (at least for now).

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      Why is every article about VW seen as an opportunity to bash them?  I have owned 15 VWs over my driving career, and none of them have been as problematic as the bashers here describe.  In fact, many of mine have gone over 300,000 km with basic maintenance.  Of course, as they say, your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The VW’s in our family have been fine, too. I believe what VW says about this … there’s no need for the supercharger if the turbo is done right, so why bother with it.

    • 0 avatar
      Ben

      In Australia there was a service bulletin requiring an ECU reflash for the twinchargers installed in the Golf 6, apparently to cater for local fuel requirements. This came after a number engine failures with cars <5000miles as result of blown rings.

    • 0 avatar
      tariqv

      Actually the 1.4 RSI engine referred to in this article is the “standard” Turbocharged engine in 122hp or 160hp form!!

      The Twincharger is an older design and indeed not so relevant anymore, it was a 1.4l engine and used to make 140hp and 170hp respectively if I am not mistaken.

      So the fact is that the current crop of TSI engines will continue no doubt as they are excellent, and they will get even better with time.

      Just look at BMW’s new twin-scroll 4 cyl 2.0l engine recently introduced, it develops a whopping 350nm of torque at just 1250 rpm, that trounces any diesel on the market!!!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a shame!

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Well, it’s something we in the US of A never experienced.  And it looks like the 2.0 TFSI, another wonderful engine, is being downplayed: it’s MIA in the new VW Regal…uh…er…I mean Passat.  But who has time to think about it, since we have the award winning 2.5 tractor engine to pull us through.

  • avatar
    lw

    The awards people dream up…  Geez..   “Engine of year” for something that never even reaches production?
     
    Welcome to the everyone gets a trophy generation.  These awards are worthless if the damn thing isn’t produced.
     
    Can I get author of the year for a book that is never published?
     
    How about mother of the year to a woman that tired really hard but had to give the kid up for adoption?
     
    Or better yet, The award for bankruptcy of the year goes to…….

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    there are two issues with them
     
    the clutch between the turbo and the the supercharger
     
    and the general problem TSI engines have, that is carbon build up that requires laborious cleaning
     
    and yes, you don’t want to own one of these outside of warranty

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      Mazda’s 2.3 ltr turbo charged direct injection engine is having carbon buildup issues too. Normally this is noticed in the EGR valve when the buildup causes it to fail.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      @TonyJZX -
       
      The updated 2.0T from 2008.5 forward does not have the same issues that the previous version did (original was the VW FSI, new one is the VW TFSI).  That said, carbon build-up is still an issue, albeit a bit overblown, especially with comments like “yes, you don’t want to own one of these outside of warranty.”
      The 2.0T is a very, very good engine, even better in the EA8888 guise since the revision in 2008 that fixed a whole host of niggling quality issues.  Carbon buildup can be mitigated, to an extent, and for those who change oil frequently (5,000 instead of the manufacturer recommended 10,000), carbon buildup isn’t the disaster it is made out to be.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Sometimes too much complexity is just too much.
    Direct injection, variable valves and well controlled turbocharging are plenty, thank you.
     

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Man, and here I am still pining for that variable compression turbo Saab once talked about :)

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      And plenty of auto manufacturers are struggling with making direct injection systems (namely, high pressure fuel pumps) that last at least until a vehicle is out of warranty.
       
      http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-483121.html
       
      http://www.6speedonline.com/forums/997/228309-997-2-check-engine-light-reduced-engine-power.html
       
      http://www.e90post.com/forums/showthread.php?t=161244
       
      http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php?t=297793

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      There certainly are major teething pains visa-vis direct injection, but I’m pretty sure they will get sorted out. Diesel engines have used a similar technology for quite some time. I think the trick is to get reliability AND acceptable cost. Diesel users are conditioned to pay a significant premium for the powerplant whilst gas engine users are not.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Bingo – I think John hits it on the head. While the Twincharger is a great engineering feat (hello W12, can you hear me?), it’s just…too much complexity and I have to guess that this complexity has been more than offset by complex and expensive manufacturing processes and warranty costs.

  • avatar
    Bytor

    I would never have purchased a car with that engine. Too much to go wrong.

  • avatar
    Styles79

    At the risk being seen as pedantic, in regards to “a feat only Group B racers had previously attempted with any seriousness”. I should point out that Nissan made (in series production) the MA09RT powered K10 March, featuring twincharging…. starting in August ’88.

  • avatar
    Ducky

    It’s just a matter of automotive evolution. It’s too complex, and likely too heavy for what it does. Seriously, look at all the tech introduced in that video. A well designed turbo, particularly with modern ceramics and bearing technology and better integration into the engine, is simpler and achieves the same end (simpler, lighter, less expensive). The twincharger was an interesting technical exercise, but ultimately it was always going to end up disappearing.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Q: Who killed the Twincharger?
     
    A: VW, and the market it serves, just like lots of ‘great’ engines that eventually go to the dyno in the sky.  Cadillac’s V-8-6-4 was a good idea once, too.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    The moment I read of the engine, I too had concerns about the inherent reliability in such a complex design.  My faith in any car company’s ability to produce it is thin.

    I recently rented the latest Jetta and came away suitably impressed with the car (even with the cost cutting) to consider buying one as a replacement for my rather fuel thirsty SUV.  But after reading about the DSG transmission issues VW’s have been experiencing I decided against it.

    Too bad.  There are some compelling products out there, but in the absence of reliability, the joy of ownership would be short lived.  In the era of affordable, reliable, long warrantied Korean offerings, VW has little to offer.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I’m also going to defend the DSG.  Yes, there have been DSG issues and they’re likely a higher percentage than good ole’ fashioned torque-converting trannys, but of the dozen or so people I know well with DSG based cars none of them have had any issues – save one: the guy who didn’t perform the mandatory DSG maintenance.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I would not worry about the transmission in the new VW. Some people have had troubles but VW extended the warranty for 100,000 miles or 10 years. I purchased my VW TDI with the 6 speed and am quite happy. Many manufacturers have problems with their automatics. A few years ago Honda was having quite a time with their units. Finally extended the warranty but i don’t think they ever updated the unit. They still use the 5 speeds. The one i would worry about worry about are cars using the CVT transmission. I understand they can not even be rebuilt. For the record my son in law has owned 2 KIA’s and i have spend quite a few days correcting some poor designs. Just ask any owner of a KIA Sedona about the water lines to the rear heater. took me 2 days to redesign and replace those lines.  

  • avatar
    M 1

    I have stock N/A motorcycle engines making that much power at one third the size.
     
    Given those specs, you might as well run articles asking what killed the 454 that struggled to make 235 HP from MM’s ’75 Monte Carlo article earlier today. Who cares, really? “Time” and “better engineering” both come to mind, for starters.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Sure, but your motorcycle makes “that much power” at 10-12K rpm, and with nearly no torque at all. It would be completely unsuited to moving a 3000lb car plus passengers around. The 1.4l TC had both the power and the TORQUE (and then some) of a 2L engine, with significantly better fuel economy. A torque curve that doesn’t curve was basically the point of the exercise.

      As the article says, turbocharging and direct injection have evolved to the point that the added complexity and cost of the Twincharger is moot.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I’m willing to bet VW’s 1.4L isn’t cranking out “big” power numbers down in big-block V10 territory either, nor is it likely to be setting any torque records. There are plenty of cars on the road — mostly in history, thankfully — with engines even smaller than liter-sized and with double-digit horsepower numbers.
       
      That doesn’t make them a good idea, either. (With apologies to the hapless die-hards with irrational fascination for cars like MGs.)

  • avatar
    lw

    The link that describes the criteria and scoring….
     
    http://www.ukipme.com/engineoftheyear/rules06.html
     
    I’m not real impressed..  The Miss America pageant may be more objective and scientific…

  • avatar
    Stingray

    The company’s 1.4-litre engine, which mixes turbocharging and supercharging, is said to be too complex and expensive to produce.
     
    Captain Obvious, always hard at work.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Common sense is what killed it. Plain and simple it is too expensive and a properly done turbo system is more efficient and lower cost, see EcoBoost.

  • avatar
    DearS

    A turbo engine or even a supercharged engine provides all the power one will ever need up to 5000rpm. I never go above 5k, and my car is 3500lbs 165lb/ft. of torgue. Hell a small 4 cylinder turbo is enough for a any car even a S550 (S515). My truck has 185lb/ft of torque moving 2 plus tons with a 4 speed, and its fine, so a Mini S engine should be enough for any car and many trucks. Twin charger might make sense for enthusiasts, but its not needed. Next step for Hybrids is probably turbos.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt


    The 120hp 1.4TSI in several VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda models is turbo only, no twincharging in there
    Several new models, most notably the Sharan minivan, use the 1.4 twincharger. If it’s going to be phased out, it’s going to take some time
    The twincharger seems to work pretty nicely with CNG fuel. Many CNG models use it. (Passat, Touran…)
    Several models use the 160hp direct-injected 1.8T instead of the 1.4 Twincharger (Passat, A3/A4/A5, Skoda Octavia/Superb/Yeti, Seats). If the 1.4 Twincharger disappears, this could be the obvious replacement, although it lacks the low-end grunt and responsiveness of the Twincharger

  • avatar
    Fusion

    Its important to notice, that not every TSI engine is (or ever was) a twincharged one. In fact, only the 1.4T (with 140 to 185hp) is, and some of those variations have been introduced only very recently (A1 185hp for example), so fade-out is going to take quite a long time there.
     
    The majority of VWs TSI engines are turbocharged only, with the V6 TSI being supercharged only. There is quite an extensive list (two lists actually ;)) at the german wikipedia ( http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/TSI_%28Motorentechnik%29 ), just expand the tables where it says “Ausklappen”. :)

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    I have a question. Is anyone trying to use DI with 5v per cylinder and EH process.  This with the turbo and cylinder deactivation and start stop tech.  I suggested this to Ford in a an email about six years ago and all I got was some corporate crap about they don’t owe me anything for my idea.  Hell I didn’t even know it was an original idea.??!! I realize that this is a complicated expensive mix but can you imagine the possibilities. I am very much a Ford guy (even though I dont own one right now) but they pissed me off with the corporate speak.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    To answer the question:  I’m not sure, but I heard that “Video killed the radio star … in my mind and in my car … we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.”  Perhaps there is an answer in that!

    (The only thing that ever kills things like this is the relentless march of technology, and/or non-competitiveness, more suitable alternatives (in terms of profit, customer satisfaction, etc.

    Occasionally regulation kills things like this, but if what those things provided were really desired, then a new technology would eventually arise to replace it. 

    That is to say, that while an interesting technology, VW would never be in the business of building a product for the mass-market for that technology’s sake (as opposed to boutique technologies like Lupo 3L.)

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Two-stroke diesels combined blowers and turbochargers decades ago, but I’m not sure the blowers were adequately driven so as to completely eliminate turbo lag.
     
    Maybe VW should resuscitate the technology as the enabler for emissions-compliant automotive gasoline 2-strokes.  Applied to an even smaller engines with fewer cylinders could match the power output and save cost, assuming a 1.0L 2/3 cyl 2-stroke TFSI would cost as much as a 2.0T and probably perform similarly.

  • avatar
    JMII

    How much PSI does it generate, don’t you reach a point of diminishing returns? Seriously how much boost (air) can one stuff into an engine before it blows up? A twincharger sounds like a good racing engine but overkill for a road car. As mentioned a good turbo works just fine. I’ve got a 1.8T VW Passat – 150hp / 160tq = 30 mpg. A CPU upgrade alone gives you north of 210hp: http://www.goapr.com/products/ecu_upgrade_passat18t.html

  • avatar
    jaje

    I was hoping that this method would lead to the creation of a single unit twincharger (the turbo/super in the same unit).  By repositioning the turbo on the intake side in line with the belt / chain from the crank to provide the supercharger effect at low rpms then with some variable gearing /clutch to disengage the super and switch over to a turbo at higher rpm.  This should save costs of being able to do twin charging but it seems to require some ingenious engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      Interesting thought. One engineering issue I can see with this is handling the catalytic converter. You want it close to the exhaust to light off quickly to meet emissions standards. I suppose you could put it in front of the turbo but that would decrease efficiency of the turbo. Plus running an exhaust around to the other side of the engine before running it out the back of the car would probably create heat issues although I can envision ways to handle this like placing the charging unit low so it’s basically in the path that the exhaust would normally use.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      You are right about the cat converter…but put on a higher flow unit so that the exhaust gasses going to the turbo are not too badly slowed down.  You can also preheat the cat after the car is started to get it up to temp faster w/o relying on passive heat.  The 944 Turbo had its turbo on the intake side with a crossover pipe running to it.  It did get some heat soak issues but that is an ’80′s design.  I have no training as an engineer but the idea seems to have potential.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    The biggest problem with these engines has been the timing chain, it stretches and causes the engine to run poorly, and if not dealt with the engine will obviously be toast. Supposedly it has been updated at some point though. This is what a friend who works at a VW/Audi dealership told me.
    I’ve driven the Golf V TSI with the 170hp version of this engine. The 1.4TSI(122hp, no supercharger, just a turbo) in the Golf VI is more impressive though, considering the HP rating.
    And if it is indeed being phased out, it will takes years. Still used in at least the the Skoda Fabia, Seat Ibiza, VW Polo, Golf, Scirocco and Touran, and Audi A1, some of which have been introduced pretty recently.

    • 0 avatar
      monaco

      Good point,  Also Fusion above mentioned the A1.   More details from Audi UK recently posted today on this site:
      http://www.fourtitude.com/news/publish/Audi_News/article_6549.shtml
      “As the supercharger takes care of low-range boost, it has been possible to use a larger turbocharger designed with optimum efficiency in mind, and this is reflected in the impressively strong combined cycle fuel economy and low emissions.”
       

  • avatar
    wgmleslie

    My P-38 Lightning does just fine with this setup…


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