Will All Gasoline Engines Soon Have Turbo Power?

2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T

Remember the days when getting a turbo engine meant saving up for a Porsche or BMW?

That delightful boost of extra juice was a premium luxury option not available on the average commuter car.

But my oh my, how things change! As carmakers struggle for ways to increase fuel economy, turbos are becoming a viable option in nearly every class of car. And that is a very, very good thing.

Keep reading for a surprising look into what’s being turbocharged these days.

While turbo engines are known for having an extra dose of power, they are also pretty dang efficient as far as fuel economy goes. That’s why Ford, GM, Hyundai, and Nissan are among the automakers bringing turbo engines downmarket from Volvo, BMW, and Porsche.

GM offers a great example of how to properly use turbo in an economical way: the Chevy Cruze Eco. It uses a standard Ecotec 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which gets an estimated hybrid-like 40 mpg on the highway and makes 138 horsepower. It won’t win any races, but it’s a nice alternative to hybrid technology!

The horribly unfortunate-looking Nissan Juke may be lacking in the looks department, but underneath its contorted sheet metal lies some cool technology: a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine. The direct-injection process actually serves to help fight turbo-related heat and keeps the temperature down in the engine. For around $20K, it could be a heck of a good deal.

Perhaps most surprising is the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, which uses an impressive twin-scroll turbocharger to capture more exhaust and nearly eliminate turbo lag. The four-cylinder turbo replaces the Sonata’s V6 option and belts out 274 hp while achieving 34 mpg on the highway.

Then, of course, there’s Ford, which has been using turbo engines under the guise of Ecoboost technology. Right now, Ecoboost engines power versions of the Ford Flex, the Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKT, and Lincoln MKS. An Ecoboosted Ford Edge is coming this summer.

I fully expect turbo engines to keep filtering down and eventually become as standard on gas engines as spark plugs. The technology is just too good and provides a relatively cheap way to increase gas mileage without going hybrid. Plus… turbo engines should keep cars fun to drive well into the future!

Do you think there is a viable market for a turbo takeover in the near future? Would you rather buy a turbo or a hybrid, assuming each got somewhere close to 40 mpg on the highway? Turbo for me, thanks!


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  1. I’ve been driving turbos for years and wouldn’t have anything else: six years in a GTI and three in a turbo-New Beetle before that. VW seems to have mastered the technology, both for daily and performance driving. No real turbo lag anymore, particularly in the GTI, and no maintenance problems. Yes, they generate more heat, but with Mobil 1 I had no problems.

  2. What a turbocharger does is effectively increase the displacement size of the engine, but only “on demand” when more power is wanted. That’s a great way to get larger engine performance when you want it but small engine economy in normal driving. Of course, there’s no free lunch, and you have a device that adds complexity and cost to the engine, and has precision parts that are very sensitive to oil quality, thereby requiring more maintenance. Turbos also change the drivability of the car and can take some finesse when trying to accelerate on slippery surfaces. All in all, I agree that we’ll see a huge increase in turbo-equipped engines (including Diesels) as the new fuel economy standards kick in, proving once again that the automakers could have done this right along.

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