For quite a long time, turbochargers were synonymous with high performance and big horsepower. They were a sacred piece of technology reserved for the high revving sports cars of the day. Skip ahead to the vehicles of today and it seems like the almighty turbocharger has become almost a common piece of hardware to look for when buying a new car. Even more fascinating is that this shift in thinking was not driven by the demand for more power but the demand for better fuel economy.
The idea behind turbo-charging is simple, compress incoming air using exhaust gas and feed it back into the engine. The increased pressure will create a more efficient burn and therefore more power. This will in turn lead to smaller engines being needed and less fuel being consumed on a national and worldwide scale.
Ford, for example, is planning on offering a smaller turbocharged engine, either petroleum or diesel, in over 90% of its fleet by as early as 2013. Many other auto manufacturers are also beginning to look to smaller engines and turbochargers in order to meet the requirements being imposed by NHTSA. BMW, who has relied on naturally aspirated engines for nearly all its lineup, is slowly making the shift toward turbocharged powerplants.
Sport Utility Vehicles, what seemed the like number one choice for many people a few short years ago, are also beginning to see a shift to smaller more efficient turbocharged engines. The Acura RDX is now powered by a 2.3 liter i-VTEC Turbocharged Inline-4 making 230 horsepower. The front-wheel drive version can see upwards of 24 miles per gallon the highway, while the all wheel drive variant returns 22mpg. Both are able to seat 5 adults comfortably and still have enough room for some light cargo.
If this trend continues, it won't be long until pretty much every vehicle we see on the road is either turbocharged, supercharged or some combination of the two. The good news is, this transition will not be accompanied with a decrease in horsepower or overall performance. Even though the driving experience of a small turbo-engine will be vastly different, they will still offer enough thrust to keep the average drive happy.