/Turbo vs N/A – The engine debate

Turbo vs N/A – The engine debate

It’s an age old argument which has been banging on for many years now. Car designers, enthusiasts and men in pubs have spent many, many hours debating it, often without reaching a clear verdict. So just what is the difference between turbos and N/A (naturally aspirated) engines and which is the best?

Without getting too technical a turbo forces air into the engine, using exhaust fumes to spool up, forcing more in as you rev up. This means almost no limits on the possible power output of an engine. If you want more power, put on a bigger turbo (provided the engine can take the extra pressure). The drawback is that larger turbos take longer to spool up meaning you get a lag effect, which can completely spoil the car as a regular drive.

Twin Turbo engine at Turbo vs N/A   The engine debateIn recent years manufacturers such as Mitsubishi have been able to minimize this lag, producing incredible performance figures from very small engines, with the added benefit that the cars they produce are also very light due to their small engines. Top Gear demonstrated this a few years back showing a Mitsubishi Evolution sticking right on the tail of a Lamborghini around a track.

Naturally aspirated manufacturers have been fighting back though. Two of the great advocates are Toyota and Honda with their high revving VTEC and VVTi engine ranges. The S2000 and Honda NSX have both reached power outputs that have matches the turbo manufacturers, while saving weight and not having the problems with lag. The drawback is that N/A cars produce less torque.

Overall it’s impossible to settle this argument. For every great turbo car produced, an N/A engine beats it, then along comes a turbo that beats that. Both have their fans and ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

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