Advantages and disadvantages of turbocharging

January 15th, 2008 by NZPC

Advantages of turbocharging

  • More specific power over a naturally aspirated (NA) engine — it means an engine can produce more power for its size. Turbo 1.5-litre Formula 1 engines regularly produced in excess of 1000bhp.
  • Reuse of excess exhaust heat (it gets channelled into the turbocharger to increase boost to the engine) means the engine runs more efficiently than NA or supercharged engines.
  • A turbocharger is smaller, lighter and easier to fit than a supercharger, and it is more consistent than, for example, a nitrous oxide kit
  • Because a small engine can be made to produce the power of a huge NA engine, fuel economy is often better on a per kW basis.

Disadvantages of turbocharging

  • Turbo lag, especially on large turbos. A large turbo may give more peak power, but can take more time to spool up.
  • Driveability may be compromised, particularly when the boost threshold is approached and suddenly a surge of power is too much for the tyres to cope with, causing understeer/oversteer (depending on which wheels are driven). This reduces the useable power band of the engine, and leads to more wear and tear on the drivetrain.
  • Turbochargers are costly to add to NA engines, and add complexity. Adding a turbo can often cause a cascade of other engine modifications to cope with the increased power, such as exhaust manifold, intercooler, gauges, plumbing, lubrication, and possibly even the block and pistons.