By on September 23, 2013


TTAC commentator BeyondxB
writes:

Hi Sajeev!

Long term lurker here.. been seeing a lot of Turbo products lately and I wonder is turbo truly making its way to the mainstream? Will we see Corollas with 1.8 turbo engines go on sale anytime soon, and being well received by the automatic-driving masses? I still hold the idea that some Subaru turbos will explode after 3 years (some things you learn in highschool are hard to forget) , is that still true these days?

More and more articles are coming up in support of the Turbos , but in my mind I’d wait until either Honda or Toyota comes out with a standard equipment turbo engine economy car (not niche produts), and then wait another 5 years for the guinea pig phrase to be over.

Do I worry too much? Or is life too short to worry about potential engine life decerase between 100,000 to 200,000 miles?

I’ve been looking online for a used fun ride (RWD, turbo, or AWD..) , and everything turbo just screams ” timebomb” to me.. what year vintage Japanese turbo would last in your opinion?

Thanks for reading!

Sajeev answers:

Ground rule: let’s focus on gasoline engines, as diesels sans turbo must stay in the history books. Hmm-kay?

I admire your skepticism. We know auto manufacturers love being the Tail that Wags the Dog. Hell, it’s one of the reasons why this website got so damn popular.  To wit: the last Piston Slap on this subject and something I wrote many moons ago, riffed on by Csaba Csere in a Car and Driver editorial the following month.  Or at least I think it was, 2008 was a looong time ago in the Internet era.

So I’ve spilled plenty of digital ink on the matter.  And while EcoBoost may not be an SVO re-do to the extent I once believed, this claimed commoditization of turbocharging is getting out of hand.  I considered your query while playing drums during a bad rainstorm over the weekend, remembering what my 7th grade jazz drum instructor once said:

“The only way you’ll be a better Jazz musician is by working on the basics, not showing off your technique.  Do you know what K.I.S.S. means?  It means keep it simple, stupid!

The KISS principle has validity in the auto world too, if one takes a long-term (i.e. at least a decade) view on the reputation, customer perception and ultimate sustainability of a brand. All that turbo plumbing, the intercooler/cooling system upgrades, computer tweaks and the turbo itself sure as hell aren’t free. There’s a reason people buy solid-axle, naturally aspirated Corollas, and why Toyota dumps them for stupid cheap money.  Conversely, there’s a reason why Subaru is an affordable niche manufacturer with plenty of turbo goodness in their portfolio…who is now owned by the Masters of Supply Chain and Cost Management, Toyota.

And if these tail-dog-wagging, news hungry, Turbo Fanbois lived in my brain, their response would include the advancements in technology, lower cost of production thanks to outsourcing, better fuel economy in EPA tests and the likelihood that the first owner (at least) shall experience zero problems.  And they’ll shoot down my 7th grade drum instructor with, “What does he know? He’s a creepy old perv with a canary yellow Coupe DeVille.” Truth.

And perhaps both sides are right. Much like cars were 100 years ago, turbos were once relegated to people with more money than sense.  Those days are long gone, thankfully.  But will we see standard, across the board turbocharging by all auto manufacturers?  I seriously doubt it.  It’s still more expensive, takes a lot more energy to produce (parts don’t just fall from trees) and for the (majority?) of drivers who couldn’t possibly emulate the EPA’s fuel economy testing, well, they will be spinning the turbo far too often when they could be lazily lugging around a larger non-turbo four-banger, a modest V6 or a truly ree-laxed V8.

Time will tell, but don’t buy stock in the Turbos just yet.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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128 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Commoditization of Turbocharging...”


  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    there’s one thing i find amusing and that’s how slow the government is to react to new technology

    where i am, new drivers are limited to low power cars for the first 3 yrs of driving

    and with that out of the way…

    explain how a Golf 77TSI with 102hp and a Cruze with 134hp are banned and yet a GM high feature 3.6 280hp v6 RWD sedan is ok.

    Obviously because turbo means power.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    @ 370,000 + miles it is finally time to rebuid the turbocharger on my 1984 Mercedes Diesel Sports Coupe .

    No hurry mind you , it just needs doing before another year or so .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      A coworker recently had to replace the twin Turbos on his BMW (about 1-2 HR old) . I hope it was under warranty.

      The dealer told him it was partly due to inadequate warmup and cool down. In a day when ‘experts ‘tell people modern cars do not need warmup, I see trouble ahead.

      I don’t buy new cars, and I would be uncomfortable with a 150k Turbo.

      The sad thing is, a larger displacement NA engine gives comparable performance with a lot fewer parts.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Yeah- I never get on the boost in my 335i before oil temp is up to 180 or so, and don’t beat on it until it’s up to 220. If I’ve been beating on it, I’ll let it idle for a couple minutes before shutdown. This isn’t so much to cool down the oil temperature, but to cool down the metal in the turbo so it doesn’t coke the little bit of oil that’s inside.

      That said, these turbos are liquid cooled in addition to the oil that’s circulating. That should cool things down pretty quickly. If the overall coolant temp is still hot the electric water pump will also continue to run after shutdown. I’ve not heard of many of these little Mitsu turbos failing, even on modified cars.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    There’ll never be another turbot like the Fuego Turbot.

  • avatar
    jberger

    The manufacturers are adding turbos so they can perform on the EPA tests, not on the streets.

    Just look at the difference in EPA testing and real world numbers on Ford’s Eco-boost. It’s all about presentation, not performance.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Stands the reason why the Japanese brands have not embraced Turbos at all, while Ford has almost made it the one and only engines available, but since when has Ford given a crap about longevity or durability /reliability in their vehicles? It’s all about the NOW and the modern and latest!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Another reason is displacement taxes in Europe and Japan, too.

      One car for one world means that we get quirks for every market built into the car. The n-way California Effect.

      But whatever; gasoline powered engines will only last as long as the dino-swamp juice, and then we’ll move on.

  • avatar

    I drove the new CLA and the BMW 435i over the weekend. Naturally I have videos on my Youtube. Still waiting for the CTS V-sport.

    I think Michaek Karesh said it best:

    “Large organizations are prone to overly simplistic thinking. It’s just too hard to communicate anything complicated or nuanced to all involved. One overly simple idea: reduce the size of the engine, and fuel economy will improve. Need a performance variant? Shrink the engine a little more and add a turbo. The actual result is a base engine with too little torque and an optional engine for a lot more money – to provide performance similar to everyone else’s base engines. ”

    I feel that big cars (4000 pounds or more) should have a diesel or a V8 always optional with a Twin Turbo V6 standard.

    Putting small engines in these cars only forces them to work harder and probably drives down reliability of the engine over time. I have to literally drive with my foot to the floor of some hulking masses with stupid 4-cylinders inside.

    As for the CLA and the 4-series, very quick. I was just happy I could drive both comfortably. The CLA had terrible rear seat headroom if you’re taller than 6 feet – but that’s to be expected. CLA also had poor Start/stop engine restart lag. No TURBO LAG though – which was nice.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      What difference does the number of cylinder make? 270bhp and 270lb/ft at 1500prm from a 2.0l 4-ycl will keep you from having to drive with your foot on the floor.

      • 0 avatar

        JMO – more cylinders usually equals more naturally aspirated torque.

        Decreasing the size and/or number of valves/cylinders and adding a turbo is a trick to produce more horsepower while reducing fuel expenditure.

        Add a turbocharger/supercharger to a powerful V8 and you’ve got a monster, but it’s totally unnecessary for everyday driving.

        Regardless what the manner of reaching performance goals is, I’m happy with anything that gets me from 0 – 60 in less than 6 seconds and I only buy cars that will get me from 0-60 in less than 5 seconds/ 0-100 in less than 12.

        The Model S has NO cylinders because it’s an EV, but the “instant torque” makes it feel a lot faster than it actually is.

        • 0 avatar
          vrtowc

          Any statement in line with “more cylinders … more torque” is an overly simplistic and grossly generalized.

          But, generalized to same extent of course, the opposite tends to be true. Given same displacement, the only way such a comparison even makes sense, more cylinders mean less torque and fewer cylinders mean more torque. In any case, stroke is usually more important factor.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Actually, in Europe the difference is huge. Anything over 2.0L is taxed based on amount of displacement.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Agreed on the number of cylinders, but I disagree on your example–equal displacement is equal–not equal peak hp is equal. But with the overall improvement of engines, smaller V6s now produce as much torque across the whole band as larger V8s from not too long ago, so equal displacement is not necessarily required anymore.

        With turbo engines being intended for improved mpg, there must be enough of a low rpm region without boost, which also means an rpm region without torque & poorer driving behavior regardless of peak hp.

        • 0 avatar

          “Smaller V6s now produce as much torque across the whole band as larger V8s from not too long ago, so equal displacement is not necessarily required anymore.”

          I agree with you that the technology of the V6 has improved so as to challenege the necessity of the V8, but unless you’re buying a $50,000+ luxury car, V6′s like that tend to be very expensive. Example Infiniti 3.7-L in the M37/Q50. MKZ’s 3.7-L, etc.

          Most smaller V6′s with less than 300HP tend to still drive a car’s price into the high 30′s. example: Accord V6, Avalon, etc.

          Can you name me a V6 that puts out as much torque as a 5.7HEMI or a 6.4HEMI? The 5.7 is the practical V8, so lets stick with that one. What V6 puts out as much torque/HP as the 5.7 HEMI?

          The only V6 I know like that is turboed and in the GT-R.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Stop trolling.

            I am convinced you have no real-world perspective–5.7L is huge & obsense for a car (not a full-size work truck). Why not ask if any V6 can match the 90,000 hp output of a cargo freighter’s 25,000L inline 12? But to meet your snark, if they made a ~4.5L V6, then yes, it could produce as much power as that 350 hp 5.7L hemi from 10 years ago.

            “Drive price into the high 30s”? Accord V6 starts at $31k (that’s low 30s). Altima V6 starts around $28k (that’s under $30k). And of course, let’s not forget the Mustang starting in the mid-20s. But maybe you are talking Canadian or Australian dollars.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Aside from the obvious, how about the XTS-V six?

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            Actually Hemi’s and the LT1 (Chevy’s new engine) are NOT huge. You can fit one in a Miata. They are high displacement. Overhead Cams and turbo piping take up considerable space and weight.

            High displacement engines have torque down low – even before turbos spin up. (the 900-1500). This means when you are cruising along with an auto – and you give your car a little gas – you go faster.

            For real world driving you can’t beat a high displacement V8 especially in the US where most people drive torque converter autos.

            And the beauty is for the horsepower they make – they actually get pretty decent fuel economy.

            it’s a shame that European engines got neutered by the tax man. We are lucky that the US didn’t follow suit. Taxing on displacement was really stupid.

            If your car got great gas mileage and had an engine displacement of 8 liters you wouldn’t care. Corvette will likely get real world 30mpg + on the highway with its slippery shape and low top gears.

            Whereas your average brick like Equinox doesn’t come close to its EPA estimated gas mileage with a modern 2.4 at real world highway speeds.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @CelticPete- C7 Corvettes are expected to be capable of near 40 MPG on the highway. C5′s and C6′s are easily capable of 30+ MPG.

          • 0 avatar
            carve

            I found the C6 Corvette to have a more peaky turbo-esque feel and less low-end torque than my TT 335i. I live at altitude.

          • 0 avatar
            ellomdian

            BigTruck spends 30% of his time shilling for his YouTube channel, 30% of it making controversial old-school pertrol-head statements regarding powah and LUXURY, and most of the rest actually driving some nice cars.

            While his opinion can be insightful, I do not believe that I have ever read a “no replacement for displacement” argument from him that didn’t result in rapid head shaking.

            The 5.7 seems to be 340 hp/390 lb·ft in the 300C, and the EcoBoost 6 is 365 hp/350 lb·ft in the SHO (On paper.) The Taurus gets (real world at altitude) 19.7 mpg, the 300 gets 18-20 (I don’t drive it, so I have to rely on my roommate.) We both drive too aggressively, he prefers the brakes in my Ford, and I like the wider seats in his 300.

            Here’s the dirty little secret about Torque – My Taurus is actually more responsive passing at highway speeds, because the turbo is already up to speed. If we both pulled over into oncoming traffic, he would likely reach a higher top speed, but I can actually get over, pass, and get back faster than him.

            And the reality is when I take my Merc and Mom gets the Tarus back, she can easily make 23-25 MPG. I like to read about people making 5.7 ‘economy’ runs long distance making those numbers – she makes it in stop-and-go.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            The SHO and the Charger R/T, both with AWD, look close on paper but I’d take the turbo torque at higher rpms over the modern day Hemi.

            http://carsort.com/compare/Dodge-Charger-vs-Ford-Taurus

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Half the cylinders, half the recpriocating mass. It’s one of the reasons my Turbo Verano with 6-speed see 10 mpg more than my old, lighter 2000 C5 at the same rpms.

      • 0 avatar
        patman

        There’s a good bit of difference. To get 270 lbs-ft at 1500 RPM, no matter what size the engine or how many cylinders, it has to ingest roughly the same amount of air. A moderate sized, relatively modern V8, say 5L, has 8 cylinders to spread that volume around in, a 2l 4 banger only has 4 cylinders, each of which is smaller than those of our V8 and it has too be forced in there at probably at least twice atmospheric pressure since a 2L engine can’t suck in enough air on its own to make that amount of power and each cylinder has to produce over twice as much power to match the V8 so cylinder pressure and temps are much higher than for our V8. And then those spent gasses have to push its way out through a turbo whereas the V8 has very little exhaust restriction, especially at those low RPMs – more heat to deal with for the turbo 4 cylinder.

        I love turbos as much as anyone but I can’t be convinced that, on average, a small turbo 4 will be as durable in the long run as a larger displacement naturally aspirated engine of the same generation of manufacturing and design in gasoline automobile and light truck applications.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      “Large organizations are prone to overly simplistic thinking.”

      This is why I prefer to stick with Mazda, Subaru and Kia. They’re smaller and understand subtlety better. Especially Mazda.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    You mean Toyota and Honda don’t have mainstream turbos for the US?

    My Saturn Sky convertible with 2.4l Ecotec has had an aftermarket turbo on it for it’s entire 60,000 miles and hasn’t missed a beat 8 psi. I upped it to 13 psi for 350hp/400trq and not a hint of engine detonation. It sees over 40 mpg but probably wouldn’t pass emissions in CA.

    Here is a turbo kit for the Corolla that adds almost 100 horsepower and probably more torque over the operating range than a Toyota v6.

    http://www.turbo-kits.com/corolla_turbo_kits.html

  • avatar

    +1 for whoever calls the Lincoln MKS an “EGO BOOST”

    My uncle has a 2013 fully loaded (video on my Youtube). It’s a SHAME that Ford bothers to claim that it makes 15 horsepower more than last year. How would you ever notice?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It was minor engine changes. The Taurus SHO always had the 365 HP Ecoboost while the other D3 products made due with 355 HP. Since the Explorer Sport rolled out, everything when to the 365 HP engine.

      And FWIW, I can’t tell much of a difference between the two engines.

      • 0 avatar

        I think there really was no “change”.

        When the MKS Ecoboost and SHO first launched, the MKS made around 10HP less than the SHO – which I believe was due to the exhaust setup.

        These are still the same engines no? Isn’t it just an exhaust change?

        Regardless, I drove ALL 4 cars: Old SHO, old MKS, New SHO and New MKS.

        They have pretty quick turbo spool ups and launch well, but neither is a “very fast” car. They run 14 second quarter miles. An SRT will run low 12′s all day long.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The SRT is in a different league. It may just be an exhaust change, I’m not sure. If it was a change in the engine, it would have only been a ECU change. The best change for 2013 was the upgraded brakes.

          The Ecoboost engine is limited by the transmssion of the AWD D-Platform vehicles. The next updates should push the car/crossover version to parity with the GM 3.6L twin turbo.

          Some reviews have shown a third of a second dropped of the Flex in 0-60 times. That’s so close, it could be a number of factors. I don’t find a perceptable difference either. My MKT is plenty fast for everyday driving.

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          The SHO – 5.2/60 and a 13.7-second quarter mile @103.2.

          The SRT8 -4.3/60 and a 12.7-second quarter mile @112.0. (And that’s with the 6.4, both per MotorTrend.)

          I don’t know why you’d exaggerate “Low 12′s” unless you want to make is seem like the margin is that much larger – you already have the Ford beat by a second both to 60 and in the Quarter. And I am a little irritated I can’t find good Wet weights for either car – I would expect the SHO is heavier, it just FEELS massive.

          The more important consumer question is do you spend more time at a Drag Strip, or stopping and starting in slow traffic?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    A 1.8-liter turbo is overkill for a factory Corolla, especially given its reputation for being easy and economical. I believe 1.8-liters is the displacement of the naturally-aspirated engine. Think 1.3-liter turbo or 1.4-liter turbo, a la Cruze.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      Additionally, 1.8L is the (I believe) lowest displacement engine that Toyota is making in North America, so atleast one engine line would need to retool.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        Making or selling? Big difference there.

        As for smaller displacement engines, Toyota has a 1.5 liter engine in the Yaris, and an even smaller 1.3 engine in the Scion iQ, which are both sold in North American markets.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I’m sick of these 1.4 liter cracker jack boxes. I like the Sonic RS, but the lack of an engine making more than 140 horsepower kills it for me. Why would I buy a Sonic RS when the Fiesta ST exists?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Pretty sure the RS package is strictly meant as an appearance package.
            But yea they do lack power, a nice 2.0/2.5 like Mazda does would be a nice option, but then it would be cheaper then the turbo and according to some commenters here, nothing is allowed to be better than a turbo.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Fiesta ST runs 15 second quarter mile and is 300 lbs lighter than a not-so-econobox looking Cruze will also run 15 second quarter mile times with tune, intake, and exhaust. The later your insurance will never know unlike the 200hp ST.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Just reprogram the wastegate. 100 hp/L isn’t much at all on a turbo.

          • 0 avatar
            Sigivald

            … you’re not the target market?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            You must have a lot of speeding tickets to be concerned about insurance premiums on a 200hp compact

  • avatar
    ash78

    IMO, the best comparison is the reliability of cars where a turbo and NA options were available at the same time, all else being equal in the cars. I’m sure TrueDelta or others can do better, but in my 15+ years of collected anecdotes, the turbo will be far more hassle in the reliability department.

    If you’re a tuner/tweaker, then some of that is mitigated by the fact that you’re more proactive and attentive in your maintenance, use of proper oil and fuel, etc. But I’m forever cynical about turbos when a conservatively driven V6/8 can achieve nearly the same numbers in real life, with far less wear & tear on the engine.

    This may all be academic, because I’m talking about whether the engine lasts 200k or 300k before internal work. For most people, that’s overkill. But in terms of the used market, it’s a potential issue.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      My only turbo was an XR4Ti. Yes only 175 hp but I sold it with 280,000 miles original engine and turbo. Head gasket was replaced at 36,000, other than that the engine was never opened.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I used to own a Mazdaspeed6. Bought new in 2006, sold at 95k miles. I absolutely loved the car. That is not to say it was problem free. Thankfully I had the foresight to buy an extended warranty covering the powertrain to 100k miles. The car received multiple reflashes during my ownership, once for emissions, once because 93 octain was not widely available nationally. I believe that the reflashes had a great deal to do with my problems, but what do I know, I am no engineer or mechanic. Back to the turbo, the car would occassionally lay out smoke screens that would literally defy belief. I had serious issues with carbon buildup in the various plumbing fixtures in the turbo. The extended warranty paid for itself and then some. Thus, the impromptu sale fo a car I loved dearly before the warranty expired at 100k miles. Granted, I flogged the car on a daily basis to an extent that very few cars probably experience. I think I went through 5 sets of tires in 100K miles if that is any indication of its hard life.

    My answer is simply this, if you are buying a car and cost to own and longevity are among top priorities, perhaps you should consider the author’s K.I.S.S. suggestion and keep walking right by the turbo’s. They will no doubt cost more to maintain but hopefully not torpedo the entire car and ownership experience. If you dont mind a few repair bills and can afford to ditch the car before you get into high mileage maintenance, turbo’s can be a very rewarding in the driving experience. I would buy another, but not in a car that I intended to keep for 10 years and 200k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Your Mazada3 didn’t have turbo problems it had software(Mazada), DI(haven’t about GM’s 2.0T DI problems since it’s release 7 years ago – again Mazada), and tires every 20K(alignment or driver having too much fun 9n soft tires).

      Which one of these were turbo related?

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Mazdaspeed6 – on my list as one of the most under appreciated rides ever. Sadly circumstances conspired to keep me from buying one during the models all too brief run. Sometimes I wonder if, in a parallel universe, one of the 5 lost on the M V Cougar Ace might somehow have been mine.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Also for cost – if the turbo needs premium gas, that’s another steady leak from your wallet.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Do the math. 12K miles annually @ a low 20 mpg the difference in price is $180. How much entertainment can you buy for that these days?

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        I agree with Norm; around here Premium is maybe $.20/gal more expensive than Regular – with a base price of $3.40 that’s about a 6% price difference.

        That’s about in the line of “keep the tires inflated” or “don’t drive quite so hard” differences.

        That’s $120 (using my local prices) at 12,000 mi/year at 20mpg.

        Not A Big Issue.

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          I haven’t seen premium .20 higher than 87 in months, maybe not even since last year. Here in eastern VA the spread is typically .40 or higher.

          Yesterday at Wawa, typically the cheapest gas in my town, the spread was 46 cents yesterday. Go to brand name stations and 50-60 cents isn’t uncommon.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Do you have 93 available? I think many comparisons of “regular” to “premium” are 87 vs 91. 93 would likely widen the gap.

            I’m seeing about a $0.20 to $0.25 difference in the SF Bay Area (87 vs 91).

  • avatar

    The “Big Thing” here in Ontario Canada is the talk of a Diesel for the Chev. Cruz vehicle, all I hear how wonderful it is, hope they fix the seats too in the 2014 Model?

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      No idea about the Cruze, but I recently rented a Malibu (maybe the rentals are still last year’s model?), and the seats were the least comfortable I can remember sitting in.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        That’s my thought on the Cruze. I was pretty uncomfortable within 10 minutes. Comparable to the low cost airlines like United and American.

        It’s a shame because I thought it was a great car otherwise.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    They’ll eventually give up on the turbos. They look good on the EPA tests, but they don’t return the same results in the real-world, and the customers will make their displeasure known. When outfits like Honda, Toyota, and Mazda can actually make cars that return EPA figures when real people drive them in real ways, that turns out to be what people want (even if the real number isn’t the highest around, at least they know what to expect).

    In fairness, a properly driven turbo IS very efficient. And if people knew how to drive them, manufacturers informed people how to drive them, or created telltales to allow people to drive them properly, maybe they would get closer to the EPA numbers. But it is 100% about that good EPA number. Not like they can return the car after a year of not getting that number in the real world right?

    But they will go buy a different brand next time.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    The short answer here is that there are no vintage Japanese turbos to speak of, other than Subaru.

    Other than that, it’s hard to believe this kind of conversation is happening in late 2013.

    When in probably the most conservative vehicle-buying segment (half-ton American pickups), the most popular vehicle (Ford F150) has as its most popular engine a twin-turbo V6 rather than an NA V8, the question of whether or not turbos have become commoditized is truly moot.

    Feel like I’m listening to a conversation between Archie Bunker and the Clint Eastwood character in Gran Torino.

    Jesus, just get over it already. This is like asking if flat-screen TVs or smartphones have become commoditized yet.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Both of which have become throwaway items, are engines next?

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Touché, very apropot (and some other French words)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Engines have been throwaway items for 20+years. You throw them away when you throw the rest of the car away. When was the last time anyone actually wore out an engine?? Rust, general neglect, blown transmissions send cars to the scrapper, actual serious engine issues are few and far between. We seem to be past the sludge era too. Many automakers don’t even sell internal parts for their engines anymore.

        I’ve said it here before, I’ve owned turbo Saabs, VWs, Volvos, and Peugeots, both gas and diesel. I have NEVER, not once, ever, had a turbo related issue, and most of those cars had 2x-3x warranty expiration mileage on them at a minimum. If folks got burned buying crappy American and Japanese turbo cars 20 years ago, well, that was then and this is now. Turbos are the closest thing to a free lunch physics allows under the hood of a car.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          They’re not replying to you because they’re all out in the garage now putting a 3-face valve grind – by hand – on their 265 Chevys.

          Every 30,000, you know.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @krhodes1

          Simply an observation on the progress (or blunders) of our society. The Earth’s resources are finite and we’ll have to live with them at least conceivably for our individual lifetimes. Since the population is projected to continue growing deliberately producing disposable products (or products with a limited lifespan) accelerates the depletion of the Earth’s resources. Winning!

          Outside of this, I like your last point. I do believe if done correctly a turbo could work well, but it should not be used as a crutch to meet ridiculous regulations.

          @Fordson

          Your wit aside, why is it wrong to desire an automobile that can be rebuilt or reused for decades?

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            It’s not wrong – it’s just that there are vastly fewer people actually doing it than talking about it. And it has next to nothing to do with the question of whether turbo engines have or have not been commoditized.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Exactly the industry has no incentive to give you a product you can rebuild or reuse.

            You’re correct on the second point, I went of in a bit of a tangent.

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            We aren’t turning matter into energy here. The finite resources we use stay on the earth for the most part don’t they?

            Its safe to say all of them will outlast our lifetimes – if they don’t we can pull them out of the junkyard and melt them down.

            If that doesn’t work there are plenty of asteroids out there full of shiny metals.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            You wouldn’t want to. The reason those engines had to be rebuilt was the coarse tolerances that could be achieved by backyard mechanics. New engines are tight enough not to need it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Good point, CelticPete, everything eventually gets recycled, and we’ll never run out of our finite resources. If anyone doesn’t believe that, just forget to stop your mail and go on a three week vacation. When you return, you’ll have a pile of mail on your front step, and all your copper plumbing will be gone.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      3000gt, Supra, Celica, Eclipse, Conquest, 300Z………..

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        Oh, ok…so somebody is going to buy a 20-year-old sports car, with then-immature turbo technology, and he wants to know what the most dependable one is, over the next “100,000 to 200,000 miles”?

        This is like asking whether cylinder deactivation is now mainstream (yes), and then following that up with an offhand question of which year Caddy V8-6-4 is the most dependable one (ummm…).

        Are you folks putting me on? Where is the hidden camera?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Where the Japanes turbos even water cooled back then?

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          The Japanese turbos installed in Chryslers were water cooled IIRC…A turbo need not be a reliability liability, but any additional equipment will make that model seem more unrelaiable when compared to those without that equipment. I recall being told not to own a MK VII LSC because of the air suspension, and CR showed the suspension of the Lincoln to be unreliable. It was, compared to suspensions that were steel springs and rubber bushings. But in the real world they were just fine. But fast forward to air suspensions reaching 14 years or older, you are going to have repairs that would not occur with spring suspensions. Same can be said for turbos. If it’s not there it can’t break….

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            That is a very succinct summation of the problems with any extraneous tech, including forced induction.

            Its very existence increases its chances of it failing.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny ro

        SR20VET, SW20.

        The VW G-lader got VW some bad press because the Japanese were doing so well with their small turbos and VW was going it along down an apparent dead end. Then they relented with the 1.8t.

        Early 1.8ts were fine, if you used synthetic oil, (no I am not a troll) and all the bad coils are gone by now.

        I think the fuel economy benefit is less friction from less and smaller moving parts and you get some exhaust heat turned into cylinder stuffing effort, both increase efficiency. Its good for high altitudes but few live up high.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Actually, in Europe, we are going to try it out very soon, as unrealistic fuel economy testing methods and over-optimistic EU regulations force most carmakers to go for small, downsized gasoline engines – often leaving no N/A plants in the line-up.

    This continues the tradition of Europe being focused on irrelevant things, like engine displacement, instead of going for simplicity and rationality.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Turbos will continue to proliferate, because they do, in fact, provide higher thermodynamic efficiency and thus, better fuel economy. Perhaps more importantly, they enable lighter vehicles, which further amplifies fuel economy and performance potential .

    Turbos are capable of achieving better economy in reality. They appear to be test beaters for this reason. The emissions test procedure from which fuel economy estimates are derived, has light enough accelerations that most vehicles can achieve them. Even those with low power. I think the Olds 260 Diesel may have been an exception!

    A turbo is more efficient and the test shows it, but what happens in the real world is that vehicle drivers tend to use the power. It is probably why they chose a turbo over a naturally aspirated alternative in the first place. Faster accelerations cause lower gas mileage.

    Simply put, the turbo driver may tend to drive away more briskly deteriorating fuel economy, but would achieve better efficiency when accelerated at the same rate as a lower powered would be driven.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s hard not to since if the turbo isn’t spooling, you get little torque. Given the number of people who claim anything less than 200 hp will get them killed as they try to merge on the freeway, I can safely bet that the lackadaisical acceleration of the tests won’t cut it in the real world.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Some turbos are actually tuned to give a large amount of torque at low RPM before boost. Of course, drivers still put them in boost to get all that HP, and since no one implements a boost gauge, they don’t even know they’re in boost. Otherwise they might know to stay out of it.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Direct Injection has you covered in the low rpms before turbo boost builds. Maybe you should go drive a manual transmission 1.4T Cruze. It produced peak torque a couple of hundred rpms off of cold idle.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “in the real world is that vehicle drivers tend to use the power”

      The average driver?

      I helped a friend buy a new car and I noticed on the test drive that she was a very cautious driver. I asked her, “Have you ever pushed the gas pedal down as far as it will go?” Her response, “Oh no, I’d never do that.”

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “Oh no, I’d never do that.”

        Live long and prosper, sister from another mother.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        So, I am betting she would not choose a turbo, supporting my point?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Here in Northwest Ohio, the “average driver” doesn’t know enough to accelerate when merging into freeway traffic to know to be at least somewhere in the vicinity of the posted speed limit, much less actual traffic speeds! 50mph into a 65 zone with 70+mph traffic is the norm.

        Worst of all is my commute on I-75 south approaching my home exit, which is just south of the onramp from the Ohio Turnpike; the traffic at 5:30pm entering there, into which I must merge to exit a quarter-mile later is always like a funeral procession! Some of that traffic exits at my exit, so this stretch becomes an effective deceleration lane. There’s a turn-around area for cops to hide in that stretch, and it amazes me that they don’t watch for slow traffic rather than speeders; some days, it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel! (Just last week one day, I looked down at the speedometer–40mph!!! On the freeway!!!)

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    It’s a shame diesels were left out of this discussion. While gas turbos still largely used for “performance” the turbo’s in diesels are engineered for reliability. You see, the turbo charger has now been around for a very long time. Engineering knowledge did not stop growing in the 80′s…

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      Would Sajeev, or anyone, care to elaborate on the reason for the “no turbo diesel” ground rule? Too niche of a discussion? Too many turbo diesel fanboys?

      Since I’ve been given to understand that much of today’s direct injection / turbocharging trend owes its roots to this, is it unreasonable to draw reliability parallels?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        The only use for a non turbo diesel in a moving object these days are lawn mowers, hell even then most land equipment these days have a turbo.

        The Diesel engines makes much better use of forced induction than a gas engine, and since they are built stronger they can handle it better.
        Turbos also work much less for a diesel, gas engines get much larger gains from increasing displacement, which renders turbos mostly useless, until that is, we can no longer control detonation due to size, in which case it will most likely need diesel anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      From something I recently read, turbos on diesel are generally more reliable because they only have a small ratio of throughput between idle and WOT (6:1 or something) vs 50+:1 for gas engines.

      I’m still a big turbodiesel fan because let’s face it, non-turbo diesels generally suck.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I’ve learned a lot from these turbo posts and related browsing.

    I’ve learned that my nanny-style driving would yield the best FE from a turbo.

    And then I learned that my nanny-style driving makes moving away from simple, proven NA 4-bangers preposterous.

    So turbos are a solution to a problem I don’t have. Yay.

  • avatar

    Dude, C.A.F.E.

    Turbos are more expensive? OF COURSE THEY ARE. This is how this whole expense transfer thing works. Someone has to pay for the legislation. They could, for instance, tax the hell our of drivers. That would be a direct transfer. Or, they could squeeze the automakers so they must introduce more and more expensive technology. That is the indirect way. The end result is the same: people are made to pay more for their cars.

    It’s not just the turbo. Who’s going to pay for the aluminum F-150? We are, of course.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Turbos on daily drivers makes about as much sense as the EPA and light trucks… it’s an aberration of legislation. If the test cycle were any different we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    A turbo makes sense when you shave cylinders… going from a V8 to a V6 or a v6 to an i4 shaves weight off the engine and allows for the engine bay to shorten up as well. (Theoretically, anyway, assuming that there isn’t an option for a larger engine. The BMW 328i would be a truly nice car if it didn’t also have to accommodate the 335i engine.)

    Going from a larger engine to a smaller displacement version with a turbo is silly. You don’t get as much of a size reduction but you get the added complexity… it’s the wrong application for the wrong job. No matter how much they tell you “they build them better now”, you will still have more reliability driving a car without a turbo (or live in a condo without a pool,or wear a watch that only has three hands in stead of 3 extra dials etc etc.)

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @Hummer: Huh, I thought it was also a suspension package. Well, GM does have a 1.8 engine, and turbocharging that to at least 200 hp would make for good sport-ish variants of the Cruze and Sonic.

    Apparently GM does have a new engine in the works for the Cruze and Sonic called the Medium Gasoline Engine, though.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_Medium_Gasoline_Engine

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Here is a crazy thought: why not supercharge instead of turbocharge the 1.8? A small engine like that would likely benefit more from the instant low end provided by a supercharger and then rev like those small engines tend to.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Because GM’s past supercharged I4 wasn’t nearly as powerful as the turbocharged car? 205 hp vs 260, 260 wins any time. Keep superchargers to V6s and V8s.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        > why not supercharge instead of turbocharge the 1.8?

        Because of the parasitic losses from the supercharger. At least with the turbo, you are tapping into lost energy of the exhaust stream to power the compressor. On paper, a really ideal solution for an economy engine would be turbo-compounding, not turbo-charging, but that brings in a whole host of issues post-combustion chamber… back-pressure, catalytic converter heath management… etc.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Yeah, 4 cylinder engines suffer more from the parasitic losses of a supercharger. When you supercharge a V8, like the “Terminator” Ford 4.6, the engine produces more power and thus suffers less for having to run the supercharger.

          Turbochargers are all power with no parasitic loss, making them perfect for smaller engines.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Fair comments friends, and you will get no argument from me that the LNF developed far more HP and torques than the LSJ.

        My feeling is, a 200/200 1.8 SC in something the size of the Sonic and even the Cruze would provide more than adequate power for easy enjoyable driving, coupled with the sharper throttle response available from a supercharged engine.

        So yeah, I agree the turbocharged ECOTECS make much greater power numbers but, the LSJ was really nice to drive. Just my thoughts and preferences.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m failing to see much evidence that turbos are so uniquely baffling in their complexity in comparison to all of the other equipment that is commonly found in modern cars.

    Should we panic about variable valve timing? All of the valves are so…variable.

    Should we lament the multi-valve, DOHC motors of today? They have twice as many valves and camshafts as there used to be!

    What about water cooled motors? Radiators, water pumps, hoses and thermostats that can all FAIL!!!! Where is my German-engineered Beetle when I need it?!?! OHMIGAWD!!!

    I haven’t even mentioned power windows and windshield wipers yet. All of this electrical stuff that can break. It’s a wonder that I bother to ever leave the house and get the car out of the garage, when you never know what could implode next.

    To hell with all of it, I’m just going to dump the car and get myself a horse. No mechanical parts at all to mess with on those, so they must be reliable. Even Rick Wagoner couldn’t screw up a horse.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @Pch101 – It’s not that turbos are rocket science, but when not building a GNX, Esprit or SVO, stick to what’s simple, proven bulletproof/reliable, as fuel efficient and will most likely outlive the car itself.

      It’s not that turbos are scary technology either, but why not supercharge? Same results, but less parts to wear out. Plus zero turbo lag. Either way, there’s no FREE lunch. It takes more fuel to make more power, bottom line.

      Since we’re not taxed by displacement, aren’t we just trying to be more European? And chasing our own tails in the process?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Figures that you’d go for the high maintenance horse when a mule works just as well.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @Pch101 – It’s not that turbocharging is rocket science, but when not building GNXs, Esprits or SVOs, let’s stick to what’s simple, bulletproof/reliable, as efficient and will likely outlive the car itself.

      But who decided on turbos and not supercharging? Blowers give you instant boost with less moving parts, moving at half the speed. Either way, their’s no FREE lunch. You can’t make lots more power without burning lots more fuel.

      And turbocharging isn’t ‘scary tech’ either. It’s just a shortcut to more power when it’s simpler and easier than adding displacement or cylinders. Or for keeping a sports car as light as possible without compromising weight bias. Turbos are not for everyday Camrys or Focii.

      Let the Germans turbocharge everything, right down to lawn mowers. We don’t need to. We’re not taxed by engine size.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Sajeev, Subaru is 17% owned by Toyota. They probably have a life-man on the Fuji Heavy Industries board. Blinking owlishly.

    I’ve owned two Subaru turbo cars, an Talon turbo and an Audi 5000 turbo. No turbo problems on any. I can actually squeeze semi-decent mileage out of the Legacy GT by driving like a normal old style Buick owner. In I mode. But that’s no fun. Give her a shot of gas and surf the torque wave. Take it out to 6500 and it feels great, but the AFR is probably around 10 to 11, and gas is gobbled.

    These new turbos tend to have cylinder heads with integral exhaust manifolds that are water cooled. Allows them to run leaner AFRs than older designs at high power and rpm. But Honda has similar heads on the K24 and J35 normally aspirated engines, so they are very economical at high load too without the extra heat dissipation a turbo mounted there requires.

    I love turbo power, but a prudent engineer serving the masses would not use them unless forced to by fashion or regulation. Obviously regulation is forcing nobody, so we may safely assume turbo proliferation is fashion. A Great Big Feature along with Electronics to blow your mind – we’re just the mosted latest super wowie we get it guys cool car company. About sums up Ford TV ads in Canada these past 3 months.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Without going through all the comments first:

    No. Replacement. For. Displacement.

  • avatar
    jetcal1

    Maybe I missed this on another post, but let me throw in my two cents;
    Turbocharging is inherently advantageous to make more power and torque for a given displacement.

    However, there is no free lunch.

    The level of heat and stress placed on the lubrication system and resultant damage to the lubricated portions and exhaust valves of the engine can reduce engine life. So what can be done to mitigate these problems?

    1st and foremost an additional thermostatically controlled air to oil cooler. After that, synthetic oil and a pre-lube pump should be incorporated. Sure, you’re adding weight and complexity to the engine, but the power increase will mitigate any increase in weight. If the pre-lube pump is set to circulate oil for 15-20 minutes after shut down, you gain the advantages of pressurized bearings prior to start and circulating oil during spool/cool down of the impeller.
    The key to making your bearing last is proper lubrication with oil temps never exceeding 115 C or 240 F. The oil must never be allowed to settle into a place where it can coke.
    (A larger sump with a higher displacement oil pump would also be on my list along with a water cooled turbocharger.)

    An increase in scheduled inspections and oil changes should also mitigate some potential failure modes.

    If this was on an aircraft engine or an extremely stressed engine I would also add a sampling regimen.

    BTW, my background includes turbocharged/Turbo-Compounded large displacement aircraft engines of 1,475-3,300 HP and turbine APUs with operating RPM in excess of 80,000 RPM. These are old, old issues in aviation.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that the future is going to be filled with $70000 V8 Kias, curvy Jeep crossovers, giant center consoles, LED front ends, and turbocharged everythings.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    One point nobody has yet addressed: first world roads and first world mechanics are a much more friendly environment for the turbocharged gasoline engine. Elsewhere, not so much. As much as I despise the buzzy little bastards, they are the future. Just don’t expect me to be your beta test site.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    My last car was an 11 Sonata Turbo. Long story how I ended up with that car. It was a pretty cool sleeper though, not many people in this neck of the woods (central Maine) really knew what it was.

    Anyway, I only put about 20K on it before I traded it in early before my lease was up, but didn’t have any issues. Which, for 20K should be the case for anything made. I actually averaged around 33MPG on my commute (mix of interstate, back roads, and city) if I drove like a normal person. If I turned on eco mode and drove very conservative I could hit high 30′s all day long. If I drove it really hard I’d be in the mid to high 20′s.

    While I didn’t really like the car for other reasons, the motor was the one good point (except the engine sound, my vaccum cleaner is more exciting to listen to than that car). It will be interesting to see how they hold up long term.

  • avatar
    George B

    I find it interesting that the high volume US midsize category is converging on the 2.5L naturally aspirated I4 with timing chains. Seems like a sweet spot for lowest cost over time. Using the turbo I4 as the upgrade engine potentially gives some packaging advantages over the V6. Where I think manufacturers go wrong is pushing turbocharging into the high-volume mainstream appliance car market. Average buyers are lax about maintenance and ignore warm up and cool down times. The manufacturer gets favorable treatment under CAFE, but the buyer gets stuck with higher ownership cost.

  • avatar
    Streetcruiser

    In Germany Turbo-charging and downsizing has a long tradition. With fuel prices as high as $8 per Gallon the need for fuel saving cars is as big as ever. Here not only Ford but basically every manufacturer has a lineup of Turbo charged cars. And also that you have to pay annual taxes for 100cm³ more doesn’t make you want to pay for big displacement either.

    Over the long term you won’t save a lot of money because the purchase in general is higher for a Turbo-ed car and also you have to put aside your fuel savings to be able to pay the 4-digit bill for a new turbo that will come sooner or later. So there is not much sense to keep the car long for the average driver who wants to save money. But if you look at one of the most common cars on the german market, the VW Golf 7 you’ll have a hard time to find an engine, that is not Turbo-charged. So it’s not like you have much of choice. If you want a Golf with an engine that produces at least a little bit of decent power, there is no way around the Turbo. And that’s how they sell you cars.

  • avatar
    Type44

    My anecdotal evidence means nothing… But never having a turbo issue on 15 different cars in 22 years of driving seems to indicate that such worries are overblown. I have had considerably more issues with windshield washer pumps than with turbos. And I drive hard.

    generally, I think of a turbo as an expensive muffler that adds 100 hp. Have never needed a muffler on a turbo engine. On Audi 5s, in fact, it usually made it louder to add a muffler!

    No replacement for displacement, except turbo’d big displacement. That’s the path I really like- having enough cubes to be really quite punchy by itself, then about 15 psi on top of that for the OMFG warp drive effect on the freeway, regardless of uphill grade. This is where I’m going with my 635CSi. Knock sensing ignition works wonders when you’re dealing with old school parts such as this.

    Tis a pity we all have to concern ourselves with EPA mileage testing. As I thought aloud while whistling past traffic in the HOV lane on my $1500 BMW K75, getting 58 observed MPG… “If you were serious about MPG’ you would get a bike. But you’re not. You’re serious about showing the neighbors that you get good MPG, even if it costs you $500/mo to do it!”

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    Thanks for the reply Sajeev! (This was actually my question, but I gave you the wrong username in email..)

    Nice Roc-N-Soc! Gotta get one of those myself one day, but for now the standard issue DW throne is holding up fine for home use. Clear pinstripes!… interesting choice.

    For those that care, my question was actually twofolds.. partly to ask about the path of the new surge of turbo engines, partly to ask about a eventual(fantasy?) toy purchase.


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