General Motors to Turbocharge Its Engine Offerings for 2018, Literally

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Rising emissions regulations are forcing many automakers to adopt forced induction across the board. While some, like Mazda and Honda, have been milking naturally aspirated engines for all their worth, even they have turned to turbochargers to do some of the heavy lifting. General Motors has more than doubled North American sales of vehicles with turbo motors — going from roughly 288,000 units in 2011 to 712,000 in 2016, 23 percent of its total volume.

GM’s powertrain lineup has changed dramatically. A decade ago, only a handful of its models came with a turbo option, while just under half of today’s fleet uses some form of forced induction. The trend is set to continue for the 2018 model year, boosting the carmaker’s share of turbocharged offerings above the 50 percent mark.

Both the GMC Terrain, due out this summer, and the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox will be exclusively offered with turbocharged engines while most other GM models receive them as an option.

“Turbocharging is really an important technology,” Dan Nicholson, GM’s vice president of global propulsion systems, told Automotive News. “It’s enabling smaller, really smaller engines, without sacrificing peak power or peak torque.”

Turbochargers have always worked like magic at improving power and efficiency, but automakers have only recently managed to implement them without tacking on unacceptable cost or glaring reliability problems. It isn’t a perfect solution, but clever engineering has diminished the unseemly turbo lag griped about in the 1980s and early 1990s and public wariness of the technology has mostly dissolved.

Like many car companies, GM is throwing the setup into just about everything to improve economy. Currently, all but the bare bones Buick Regal 1SV is furnished with a 2.0-liter turbo and stands to become standard kit for 2018. Similarly, the Chevrolet Traverse’s 3.6-liter V6 will have to make room for the boosted 2.0 next year as the midsize SUV begins using both.

One of the few areas General Motors has yet to apply turbochargers is under the hoods of its largest SUVs and non-diesel pickups. However, that’s likely to change, as Ford has made it work in its F-Series. In June 2016, Ford said it had sold 1 million EcoBoost F-150s in the U.S. since 2011.

“Ford has just done a really good job of marketing EcoBoost as a brand across a group of loyal customers who otherwise would not have considered downsizing an engine with a turbocharger,” explained Paul Lacy, IHS Markit senior manager of Americas powertrain and compliance forecasting.

IHS Markit assumes turbo engines will represent 55 percent of all North American production by 2024, up from an expected 33 percent this year.

Nicholson didn’t specify if GM would utilize turbochargers on its trucks more broadly, but he did indicate the automaker had committed itself to adhering to regulatory benchmarks as they get progressively more stringent. “We’re never going backwards,” he said. “It’s only a matter of how fast we can move forward in improving fuel economy.”

[Image: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jun 19, 2017

    "“We’re never going backwards,” he said. “It’s only a matter of how fast we can move forward in improving fuel economy.”" Check your shifter because it is without a doubt in reverse.

  • LD LD on Jun 19, 2017

    GM does the bare minimum to stay in the race e.g. For 2018 Ford is putting in the 10 speed transmission co-developed with GM in all trim levels of the Expedition. GM is only putting that transmission into the Yukon Denali and maybe the Escalade. Both have the 6.2 liter engine and maybe it will help fuel economy in that engine, but it's the smaller 5.3 liter V8 used in the lower trim levels for Suburban and the regular Yukons that really need the gearing help the 10 speed provides to improve performance. But GM will no do that on a proactive basis, only when buyers start defecting to the Expedition that may happen.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.
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