Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Make turbocharged engines great again

As a car enthusiasts I am predisposed to prefer naturally-aspirated engines over the equivalent turbocharged units. Having owned cars with both atmospheric and force induction, I greatly prefer the crisp response and melodic sounds of natural-aspiration, and I want that linear power push all the way towards the rev-limiter. Turbocharged engines with their huge torque plateaus and agonizing lag isn’t nearly as rewarding.

There’s an obvious headwind against our love of engines unencumbered with turbos: the entire automotive industry is heading the opposite direction. Due to ever stringent emission standards, automakers are gravitating heavily towards turbocharging to achieve the best of both worlds: sheer power when needed, but small-engine fuel economy it isn’t. It seems most manufacturers these days have got a two-liter turbocharged four-cylinder serving duty in their respective portfolio, replacing venerable naturally-aspirated V6s. In turn, turbocharged six-cylinders are occupying spots previously held by lumbering V8s.

Not even the revered and beloved sports car segment, massively low-volume it may be, is immune to the encroachment of turbochargers. The latest range of the iconic Porsche 911 is entirely motivated by turbocharged engines, save for the exclusive GT3. Similarly over at Ferrari, there’s but one model left that’s naturally-aspirated (812 Superfast). The legendary BMW M3 have lost its traditional atmospheric song for one whole generation already.

Perhaps instead of the #savethemanual campaign, petrol-heads should instead focus on saving the NA motor.

I’m not strictly against turbocharging; I think their power-per-liter possibilities are tremendous, and the mountainous shove once turbos are properly lit is rivaled only by electric cars. The crux of my issue with turbo engines is the utter lack of aural sensation: the typical mill in modern cars is muffled and sounds like a vacuum cleaner. Sound is an integral ingredient to the driving experience, otherwise we’d all be driving Tesla cars.

It isn’t like turbocharged engines can’t be made to sound exciting; we all grew up with WRC and those monster turbo machines masquerading as rally cars. The whooshes and hisses, the pops and bangs, and the ethereal whine of the turbo as it builds pressure: where have all this gone? Why have auto manufacturers engineered out these innate aural qualities of turbocharging? It doesn’t have to sound so sterile and benign; let me hear that it’s indeed got a turbo hanging off the exhaust manifold!

A turbo 911 Carrera that sounds like a group stage rally car is a delicious prospect indeed, one I’d readily hand my money over to.

And to think some people just go bowling.

And to think some people just go bowling.