Looking for a Car With a Turbo Engine? Here's What to Consider

Is a car with a turbo engine right for you? They can boost your power, but they also have drawbacks.


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Wondering if you should buy a car with a turbo engine? You're not the only one. Turbocharged engines have their pluses and minuses, and it's a good idea to understand these before making a purchase. Here are some turbo engine basics along with potential pros and cons to consider.

What to Know About Turbo Engines

First and foremost, it's important to know how these engines work. Turbocharged engines feature a turbocharger designed to boost output. This device captures the engine's exhaust and uses it to drive a turbine wheel that converts the exhaust into kinetic energy. The turbine wheel eventually returns this energy to the engine. There, it's combined with fuel and ignited to provide power.

In the end, a turbocharger can help an engine provide more horsepower. And how does this affect you, the driver? Well, additional horsepower can enhance your driving experience by improving a car's acceleration.

Turbo engines come in varying forms, like these:

  • Single turbo: single-turbo engines have just one turbocharger. This type is very common and pretty much defines the class
  • Twin turbo: a twin-turbo engine uses two turbochargers, making it more complex than a single-turbo option and meaning that it may have higher repair costs
  • Electric turbo: some engines pair a normal turbocharger with an electric one. These engines typically add an electric motor that powers the electric turbocharger at lower revs. This addition can help give a turbo engine a smoother, more consistent performance

Pros: Reasons to Go Turbo

Among other advantages, a turbocharged engine provides these two main benefits:

More power than naturally aspirated engines of the same size — one of the most notable benefits of a turbocharger is its ability to boost an engine's horsepower and torque. This boost allows turbocharged engines to provide more power than an otherwise identical engine that's naturally aspirated. A turbocharger can give a four-cylinder engine the potency of a larger six- or eight-cylinder unit

Better fuel efficiency than a larger engine with the same output — turbocharged engine is typically more fuel-efficient than a larger engine with comparable power. That's because the turbocharger only kicks in when more power is needed, and the car's exhaust gases primarily fuel it. These factors combine to help a turbocharged engine deliver more power with less fuel consumption

Cons: What Could Hold You Back

While often sought after by drivers, turbocharged engines can come with these potential drawbacks:

Potentially higher repair costs — turbocharged engines are more complex than those that are naturally aspirated, making repairs more challenging and time-consuming. Ultimately, this can translate into steeper repair costs than you'd get with a naturally aspirated engine. This is true of all turbo engines, but it's especially true of twin-turbo engines, which require more labor-intensive repairs than the single-turbo variant

Possible turbo lag — turbocharged engine needs to produce enough excess exhaust gases to power the turbocharger. If the engine is operating at low RPMs, it may fall short of creating enough exhaust gas to support the turbocharger adequately. There may be a noticeable delay in power delivery while the engine builds up enough energy to motivate the turbocharger; it's known as turbo lag. Automakers can minimize turbo lag with careful tuning and turbo sizing

More sensitive to poor maintenance — a turbocharger creates added heat and stress throughout your car's powertrain, and this can affect everything from the transmission to the brake systems. Proper maintenance is always important with a car, but it's even more essential in a vehicle with a turbo engine than with naturally aspirated ones. Without regular maintenance, the strain created by the turbocharger could tax and harm the powertrain

A turbo engine can provide impressive power and fuel efficiency. But these engines sometimes have uneven power delivery, and they require diligent care if you want to avoid hefty repair bills. It's wise to keep these points in mind when deciding if a car with a turbocharged engine is the right vehicle for you.

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Warren Clarke
A car purchase is a big decision. And once you've made the purchase, you'll be faced with countless other choices that will affect your ownership experience one way or another. Throughout my career in the automotive industry, I've written everything from vehicle reviews to articles covering topics such as car insurance and leasing. My mission is to help you make the best decisions regarding your vehicle.