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Why Turbos Don't Spin Me Up With Excitement

The car industry is entering a turbo era, and that is something that even the most hardcore naturally aspirated fan cannot deny these days. If, for pure example, you were a fairly successful person in life and you wanted to splash the cash on a brand new BMW, you wouldn't be able to purchase a single naturally aspirated car at all. That's right: all BMWs now (even the M range) have turbines and witchcraft force feeding their hearts some additional air.

Even your basic 114i has a complex turbo system now. Via
There always has to be a reason why such changes occur, and the turbo takeover is no different. Emission laws have been ever tightening, and they are getting more and more tighter quicker than manufacturers can make their engines as green as desired. So other options have to be explored in order to make the big cheeses happy. Volkswagen took a particularly extreme approach, but let's not get into that...

If manufacturers wanted to avoid the costly and complex solution of electrical power in humdrum hatchbacks, the only other properly viable option was to go turbo. These magical spinning devices allowed engines to downsize and gain efficiency whilst still maintaining the same power as their larger predecessors. It seems like a complete win-win, which is probably why they're so widespread these days.

However, whilst I'm no naturally aspirated hardcore nutcase (though they still are my weapon of choice), I just can't seem to warm up to the idea of a turbo-dominated range of cars. Here are a few of my reasons...

1) They aren't actually that efficient

While you see 1.2L turbo engines replacing the rock-solid 1.6L units we've become used to in typical hatchbacks these days, you may be slightly surprised to hear they don't bring much more in terms of fuel consumption. Yes, the new dinky engines perform well in official tests, but that's because they're driven in such a way that the turbo barely ever spools - by that I mean they're driven so slowly. In real life, you don't spend half a minute getting to 30mph, so you spool that turbo. The forced amounts of air (and therefore fuel too to keep the ratio tidy) means you pretty much perform no better than your big old engine lump you had before.

2) They ruin exotic sounds

This one applies most heavily to performance cars that have been diluted by the new turbo era. The best example I can think of for this is the old V8 M3 to the new straight six turbo M3. The V8 M3 sounded juicy, menacing, and pretty damn orgasmic. The new M3 has a meaningful noise to it, but that's all it is: a noise. Engine sound can be subjective at the best of times, but I think most of you will be able to see my point of view here.

V8 E92.
Straight Six F80. Note a lot of sound is artificially produced through the car speakers...

3) They are nowhere near as linear

To be completely honest, this isn't nearly as much of a problem as it used to be. But it's still there, and comparisons can still be made. If we go back 10 to 20 years ago, turbo cars were a lot cruder. We had cars that famously had the 'nothing, nothing, nothing, BAM!' kind of power delivery, and for some people that was a huge amount of fun. That has more or less gone now thanks to twin turbos and whatnot, but it still isn't perfect. Turbo engines have a tendency to seriously trail off in power and torque towards the upper limits of the rev range, whereas a lot of naturally aspirated engines will keep pushing until only a few dozen RPMs are left over. It's a lot more convenient to have all the power and torque at the low end à la turbos, but there is so much more fun to be had when you have to work for your power.

The pin up of turbo lag. Via

So there you go, they are my three reasons as to why I shall try and be sticking to naturally aspirated cars for as long as possible. Want to add more to the list, or do you disagree? Comment down below, or send a tweet to @threepedals__.

Why Turbos Don't Spin Me Up With Excitement Why Turbos Don't Spin Me Up With Excitement Reviewed by Jack Cooper on January 17, 2016 Rating: 5

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