By on August 8, 2017

1978 buick rega turbo v6 engine

If you’re the type of automotive enthusiast who covets cylinder volume above all else, this probably hasn’t been your decade. However, if you’re of the boosted breed, things couldn’t be better. Forced induction engines are bigger than ever, not in size (again, sorry displacement fans) but in factory application.

The numbers of turbocharged vehicles sold in the U.S. rose for a sixth consecutive year in 2017, now accounting for 27.6 percent of new cars and light truck models built through March 2017. For the sake of reference, the 2011 model year only saw 10.7 percent, while previous years loitered between 4.5 and 6.6 percent annually. This makes turbocharging less of a trend and more of a revolution. 

Due to the tightening noose of emission regulation, automakers are tapping whatever technologies they have at their disposal to improve fuel economy without sacrificing peak power. This is further illustrated in the study, conducted by Wards Auto, by the downturn of supercharging. While emissions control makes turbocharging the obvious choice in most instances, mild-hybridization and even twincharging has moved into the supercharger’s territory.

Superchargers remain a niche factory application, typically accounting for 0.5 to 0.1 percent of the total market in any given year, whereas super/turbocharged compound forced induction systems achieved a 0.2 percent stake in 2016 before settling at 0.1 percent for the first half of 2017.

With diesels on the decline, one would expect to see a more modest increase in turbocharged applications as gas-burning cars pick up the flickering torch. After all, turbodiesels held a 4.2 percent total market share in the 2006 model year, 91 percent of which were light trucks. That same year saw only 1.6 percent of gas-burning passenger vehicles equipped with any kind of forced induction.

For 2017, turbodiesels were installed in just 2.7 percent of new vehicles while turbocharged gasoline engines went into the remaining 24.9 percent.

Dan Nicholson, General Motors’ vice president of global propulsion systems, outlined the company’s turbo-focused production strategy in June. “Turbocharging is really an important technology,” Nicholson said. “It’s enabling smaller, really smaller engines, without sacrificing peak power or peak torque.”

Like most 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 that mill 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 full-size crossover begins using both.

The automaker’s re-introduction of a diesel in the Chevy Cruze also helped bolster turbodiesel volume in Volkswagen’s noticeable absence.

There are, however, other fuel-sipping engineering options for use within the industry. Wards noted gasoline direct-injection engines were installed in 50.5 percent of all 2017-model light vehicles — up from the 2016 benchmark of 47.1 percent. Like turbocharging, it’s a significant increase in popularity, having risen from just 3.7 percent in 2008.

Despite being touted as the future and having billions wrapped up in research and development, electrification remains the underdog. EVs accounted for only 0.5 percent of the models surveyed for 2017 — a 0.1 increase over last year. The United States currently ranks second, behind China, with more than 570,000 total plug-in electric cars sold through December 2016.

[Image: General Motors]

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37 Comments on “Boosted Engines Are Bigger Than Ever: Study...”


  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I am sure we will see all sorts of frothing at the mouth in regards to unfounded unreliability claims etc but I cannot complain about the 2T in my 9-3 wagon. It dates back to 2003 and still feels modern. yeah there’s a bit of lag but for freeway entry it i sno issues to get to 120km/hr by the entry point on most ramps.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I shall now endeavor to paraphrase the comments about to follow:

    “Turbochargers! Bah! Too much expensive complexity!” (Even though the moving parts of a modern turbocharger setup consists of the turbo assembly itself (not particularly expensive as far as major engine parts go; the one in my 1.5T Honda goes for all of $600 should it ever die, and there’s no reason to think it won’t last as long as the rest of the engine) a single electrically-actuated pneumatic valve (the diverter valve) and two sensors.) Not exactly something from which mechanical nightmares are made.

    “Turbochargers! Bah! It’ll grind up engines due to stress! I know this because I had a turbocharged engine in 1985 and it was horrible!” Even though modern turbocharged engines are designed from the get-go for turbocharging (sharing few parts, if any, with their NA cousins), and older blown engines just involved the automaker bolting a turbo on to an existing design largely unchanged.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Your missing the part about how turbocharged engines like Ford’s EcoBoost have failed to deliver real world improvements in fuel economy compared to their larger naturally aspirated kin.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Source? The data I’ve seen doesn’t agree.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=38881&id=38850&id=38719&id=37402

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=37925&id=38339&id=38586&id=39052

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=38623&id=38086&id=38191&id=37616

          http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=39022&id=38862&id=38714&id=37517

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        MPG is directly proportionate to how far the fast pedal is pushed down.

        I have heard from a number of guys who complained the Prius did not meet MPG expectations, then I rode with a couple and realized that they wouldn’t get max MPG due to a/c use, accelerating up hills, a heavy foot, etc.

        I often get the sticker mpg or even 1-2 mpg more without holding up traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        @raph, what are you talking about? We rented a 2017 Escape SE AWD and got 33 mpg at 65 mph for 6 hours.

        From TTAC’S very own Mark Stevenson review :

        “Equipped with the 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder engine, the Fiesta is officially rated at 36 miles per gallon on the combined cycle (31 city/43 highway). However, over the last 1,000 miles in an equal mix of city and highway driving, our Fiesta has returned 42.7 mpg.

        Needless to say, we aren’t complaining.”

    • 0 avatar

      I also have the 1.5t in my manual civic hatch, and I think it’s a GREAT engine, minus a few things (like rev hang). I was once all against turbo engines, also crying about complexities, etc… However, I think it’s silly at this point to argue that, as reliability is way up in these new engines, so I don’t think we have much to worry about.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I am sure we will see all sorts of frothing at the mouth in regards to unfounded unreliability claims etc but I cannot complain about the 2T in my 9-3 wagon. It dates back to 2003 and still feels modern. yeah there’s a bit of lag but for freeway entry it is no issues to get to 120km/hr by the entry point on most ramps.

    One does need to know how to milk a turbo though or she will drink around town. On the freeway if you just let up a touch after hitting the state limit i can get 34mpg (car weighs in at 1550KG). About town, one needs to avoid short and sharp stabs at the gas or she will drink double that.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      On highway drives I usually can exceed EPA numbers by 20-40%. Less with V8’s, more with turbo 4-cylinder, AWD at the low end and 2wd at the high end. Manual transmission and higher tire pressures along with the mentioned above driving style.

      I got 42+ mpg on a 150 miles from south of Columbus to south of of Cleveland in a 2000 Saab 9-5 5-speed. Two stops including 4 miles of one small town 50F averaging 57 mpg. Damn front quarterly head wind @ 12 mph prevented me from mid 40 mpg range.

      The turbo-4’s always have a little pressure on the throttle body at highway cruise the V6’s do not. The turbo-4’s circumvent the restrictions of the airbox and filter along with sensors and associated plumming.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I look forward to the reliability improvements that will result from replacing all those complicated and extraneous V6 cams, heads, pistons, rods, gaskets, valves, springs, spark plugs, lifters, and timing chains with simple turbo and controller.

    • 0 avatar
      jcisne

      So you think that turbo engines do not have heads, pistons, rods, gaskets, valves, springs, spark plugs, lifters, and timing chains/belts?

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        No, I am quite confident that they will have all those things.

        However, if adding a turbo allows a V6 to be replaced by an I4 the total number of these components will be reduced by 33% for parts that are tied to the number of cylinders and 50% for parts that are tied to the number of heads.

        V6 has 6 spark plugs, I4 has 4.

        V6 has 2 head gaskets, I4 has 1. Just doing that you reduce your risk of head gasket failures by half! Pretty cool.

        Assuming we’re talking about a very basic SOHC 2-valve per cylinder engine; using just the parts I mentioned I count 20 components that would be eliminated going from a V6 to an I4.

        Of course, once you get into wrist pins and plug wires (or consider more complex DOHC multi-valve designs) etc there are actually far more than 20 parts that stand to be reduced out.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “The numbers of turbocharged vehicles sold in the U.S. rose for a sixth consecutive year in 2017”

    This data is well skewed. See, lets say, you have Mazda3, Kia Forte, and Impreza – all use NON-turbo engines. And then Civic that does use turbo engine. so, you can say, hey, 3/4 of cars have no turbos. And yet, Civic sells more that those 3, hence turbo sells 50%.

    What was turbo numbers, 27%? When Accord goes in with turbo, it will be 35 simply because it sells large number of cars. then, if Corolla goes turbo, wow!

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      In this case “skewed” apparently means “is an accurate reflection of reality”.

      “Percentage of vehicles sold” should absolutely be calculated based on number of vehicles actually sold.

      The metric you are describing would be phrased something like “percentage of vehicle nameplates available for sale” and is in many ways less useful, because it counts a rare exotic the same as a Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        See what this says – “Boosted Engines Are Bigger Than Ever”. But not because consumers were looking hard for them. But because manufacturers put them in popular models. And if you stick it into a popular model, it will sell. Not because turbo is popular but because model is popular.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          These are popular models that are becoming less popular as turbocharged compliance engines are forced on the public. How much of the US market’s softening is due to lack of interest in buying a car with an inferior engine to the one it is replacing?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Yeah, like the slumping F150…oh wait

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            F150s have had garbage engines for decades. What prompts someone to buy another F150 after having owned a Triton is beyond me. Spit out a spark plug? Cracked an exhaust manifold only to break off most of the studs when trying to remove it? The only time I was wrong about the engine when a customer told me he had these problems was when it turned out that he was talking about a Triton V10 instead of a Triton V8 like the other two calls a week I field on this issue. Need a replacement engine from a junkyard? Good luck, because dozens fail for every Ford that gets wrecked with one worth swapping. I’ve sent a cosmetically excellent 140,000 mile F150 to the junkyard because there were no 5.4 liter engines to be had. That thing was in nicer shape than any truck you’ll actually see doing any work, had no modifications, a mid trim level, 4wd, and wasn’t worth fixing because the only engines available were remans that cost more than KBB installed. Bigger diesel Fords have always been practical jokes too.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    A turbo is no different than on-demand artificial “displacement”. Similar to “cylinder reactivation”. As long as fuel economy increases, vs their bigger displacement, “natural aspirated” cousins, what’s not to love? Except I’m not seeing but negligible improvements .

    A turbo 4 cylinder weighs close what a NA V6 weighs so I’m not seeing that angle either. Same with a turbo V6 vs a NA V8.

    So other than for “globalization” purposes, what’s the point of turbos (once they get past the gee whiz factor) for US consumers?

    Now a turbo, or twin turbo V8 is something to look forward to, and makes sense for the winning alternative to huge power Cummins, Dmax and Pstroke pickups, since V10s and V12s don’t seem to be a future solution.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Turbocharged engines develop power far lower in the RPM range, making the engine “feel” far more powerful than it is when it is driven how most people drive their cars. (Even though the engine may be able to handle high RPMs without a problem, most people tend to use more sedate throttle inputs.) To duplicate that appearance of power with a naturally aspirated engine, you’d need one far larger.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        …”To duplicate that appearance of power with a naturally aspirated engine, you’d need one far larger.”

        But isn’t that the point of turbocharging? 2.0T instead of a 3.5NA? Or a 3.5T instead of a 5.0NA?

        • 0 avatar
          sirwired

          Yes, that is the point of turbocharging.

          The advantage you get with the turbocharger is that when you drive it like most people drive their cars, the efficiency is much improved vs. the V6. (Although certainly some automakers do a better job of it than others.)

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            The advantages are mostly on paper. Theoretically, downsized turbo engines can achieve better BSFC than similar power output, larger displacement NA engines. They can be calibrated to make great Monroney numbers, which is what really counts when it comes to regulatory penalties and marketing.

            However, in the real world, with real people driving in a variety of conditions, the higher cylinder pressures and extra heat result in over-fueling to prevent meltdown of various components. Because of this, the downsized engines often end up getting worse fuel economy than their comparable NA counterparts, and sometimes complete de-rate conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “Turbocharged engines develop power far lower in the RPM range”

        In so far as the system is designed to. low rpm power isn’t an inherent feature of a turbocharger (or even a supercharger for that matter). The current crop of turbocharged engines are designed with that low rpm grunt in mind by using small turbochargers with modestly sized ducting and intake manifold plenum volumes and so on in conjunction with a few other tricks.

        In any event like every compressor out there they have a range over which they are efficient and once they stretch beyond that point they tend to just uselessly heat the air further impacting their performance.

        At the other end of the spectrum large turbochargers have become the darling of the street and drag racing crowd where they can develop big numbers but require revving much higher with an attendant loss in low rpm power. Pretty neat though. I have an acquaintance that runs a 1500 horsepower street car and he will often brag about getting 30+ mpg on the way to the track simply by dint of the fact that at his normal cruise rpm the turbochargers aren’t even really working and not providing much in the way of boost. Even more comical is his dyno sheet where it closely follows the original power curve of the stock engine until around 5,000 rpm then the graph damn near goes vertical and keeps climbing until he hits the rev limiter.

        • 0 avatar
          ElAntonius

          Speaking in terms of what the market seems to think, as opposed to what’s actually physically true…

          Over on one of the Mustang forums I frequent, there’s an Ecoboost Part Throttle Racing meme, down to someone claiming the Ecoboost is faster at mid-rpm mid-throttle than a Mustang GT.

          Which is a pure bollock-y exercise, but it got me thinking…

          All these “sport” modes in cars, for the most part all they do is increase the throttle sensitivity in part throttle situations. A lot of drivers are loathe to actually use the whole pedal, and loathe to use the whole rev range, so increasing the mid-range part-throttle punch of the engine through small turbos and aggressive “sport” throttle mapping is a good marketing strategy, even as it actually deteriorates the car’s on track performance, which to be honest is irrelevant to 99% of drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        markx35

        well not so quick, turbo will ultimately make more torque at lower rpm but turbo lag is also more noticeable down low. It is essentially “moderate torque delivered instantly” on NA engine vs “big toque but half second later” on turbo engine.

        Also, when turbo engine is under boost, extra gas needs to be injected to cool the fuel air mixture. Fuel efficiency isn’t great when this happens. But the EPA tests accelerate so slowly that does not really require the boost, giving turbo engines artificially high mpg ratings.

        Where turbo engine definitely feels superior is mid range, big fat torque and less noticeable lag.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    It’s not like I had a choice. I’d opt for a 3.5L V6 over my 2.0T Fusion turbo in a heartbeat if given the choice.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    More “progress” that isn’t.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    nvinen

    My biggest problem with turbo engines is soggy throttle response and the difficulty of predicting how much power will be available when you hit the pedal. I’ve yet to drive a turbo car with throttle response to match supercharged or naturally aspirated engines.

    My wife has an Escape with the 2l Ecoboost and it’s a decent engine which is reasonably refined and has quite decent power but the lag inconsistency really bothers me.

    I had a V6 Accord before and while the Ecoboost has more low rev torque, at least with the Accord I knew if I pressed the accelerator I would get an instant response. With the Ecoboost, it depends on whether the turbo is spooled which depends on how much throttle you’ve been using in the last few seconds. So you have to constantly keep track of how you’ve been driving so as to have some idea of whether you have the power for a quick overtake if necessary. That’s annoying and possibly dangerous if you pull out into a gap to overtake, hit the pedal and nothing much happens (which has happened to me more than once). Never an issue with my other cars (the 3.5l V6 N/A Accord and my 5l supercharged Ford).

    And the 2l turbo Escape gets pretty similar fuel economy to my old V6 Accord on the same routes. It weighs about the same; it is AWD compare to FWD and probably is less aerodynamic but I still thought it would probably have a more clear fuel economy advantage given that it has barely half the engine capacity and less peak power (~250hp compared to ~280hp).

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I agree, I sampled a Fusion 2.0T back to back with an Acura TL and while I liked the strong shove of the Fusion around town I preferred the linear build of power from that delightful Acura six. The Fusion’s acceleration also really starts dropping off by 40mph, whereas the Acura is just getting started.

      Regarding keeping track of whether the turbo is spooled prior to passing, have you tried using the manumatic function to drop a gear before making the maneuver? I’ll do this even with NA engines because I prefer to not wait for the transmission to kick down.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      That’s my second biggest beef with Honda’s Accord decision. (First being potential reliability issues!)

      That V6 in my avatar will just PULL! No waiting! No indecision! (The past couple days, I’ve had to briskly accelerate from between 10 and 20mph to 40 or 50mph! I can do that all day, in second or third gear, without the transmission shifting at all. (Jack could probably do that all day with his, as well, without needing to touch the clutch.)

      Hopefully the 10-speed slushbox in the new ones will help to get things going in those situations whilst the gerbil in front is getting its act together, but that same maneuver is still going to require a skip-shift or two down, with a bit more NVH from up front. (Well, at least the “N!”)

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Think of the turbo-4 as the balsa wood plane with rubber band propeller. Allot of torque early in the rpm range and then tapers off at higher rpms.

      With ecu and tcu tune we are loosening the torque management and put a slightly bigger rubber band like increasing boost. Many tuners won’t touch timing tables and just work on driver demand (acceleration pedal) on a turbo-4 where the timing tables would need to be increased to make power on a V6.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I suspect that if Honda tunes the auto to drop a gear whenever brisk throttle input is sensed, that’ll be a good start.

        With the J35, you get the burst down low, then VTEC kicks-in, yo! If they’ve got that dialed-in right, it’ll feel like a classic Accord 4 with a ton of low-end, then hopefully the VTEC on the 2.0 will take care of the upper revs.

        It’s just that the whole thing seems needlessly complex! Honda needs to re-learn the KISS principle, which was their advertising slogan two decades ago!

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I drove all of the full-sized trucks prior to buying a 2.7 Ecoboost F150. Honestly the 5.3 powered Chevy felt like it had more turbo lag than the Ford motor in spite of having no turbos. I wasn’t willing to spend what it took to get one with the bigger motor and my friends all get low teens with it anyway. Same for the Hemi RAM. I am in the low 20s over 30000 miles with a few thousand of those pulling a 5000 pound travel trailer. It pulls that without issue though mileage drops to the 12-15 range. Honestly the fuel economy is a bonus…it was simply the best driving truck engine for what I was looking at.


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