Supercharger vs. Turbo: Which One is Better for You?
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Whether via a car commercial on TV or one of your motorhead friends, you've likely already heard the terms "supercharger" and "turbo."
Perhaps, like jargon, they only seem like words that wouldn't have much weight to a non-enthusiast. Or you pictured race cars. Whatever the case, these days, both supercharger and turbo are pretty typical in many makes and models, and you may want one in your next vehicle.
What are superchargers and turbos?
Collectively referred to as "forced induction," superchargers and turbos give your vehicle's engine more power. There are three main types of superchargers — centrifugal, twin screw, and roots — and six types of turbo: single, twin, twin-scroll, variable twin-scroll, electric, and variable geometry.
Here we'll give a general overview of supercharger and turbo so you can learn about both, compare them, and see which one is best suited for you.
A gust for the gusto
Your car's engine needs to burn fuel. Simply put, the more air it gets, the more fuel it burns, the more powerful it is. Both superchargers and turbos supply more air to your car's engine, but they go about it in different ways.
A turbocharger uses the speed and heat of the exhaust gases coming from the engine's cylinders to spin a turbine. The turbine runs a small compressor that sends more air back to the engine.
A supercharger is similar, but it doesn't rely on exhaust gas to work. It runs mechanically off of the crankshaft of an electric motor. So, in other words, it's powered directly by the engine.
Why such a rush?
There's more to forced induction than the thrill of being behind the wheel of a muscular, monstrous powerhouse on wheels. Even the compact and practical Volkswagen Golf GTI has a turbocharged engine, as do certain trims of the Mini Cooper.
Both a supercharger and a turbo are solutions for replacing the monster engines used in the muscle cars of yesteryear while still giving drivers that powerful boost they love. They essentially provide a small engine more power. While both have the same benefit, they get there differently, which gives them a different set of advantages and disadvantages.
What are the pros and cons of supercharger and turbo engines?
The supercharger increases maximum torque and horsepower. It's reliable, easy to maintain, and offers instant gratification, a feeling of powerful acceleration as soon as you put the pedal to the metal. But it's not as fuel-efficient as the turbocharger since it runs off the engine. It's also a little louder, which might not be a con for some, with a whining or whistling sound as air escapes the discharge outlet.
While the turbocharger is more fuel-efficient, it takes a moment to ramp up. Gearheads have given this slight delay the term "turbo lag." However, there's a surge in power when it does kick in, and it creates a fluttering sound you can't help but smile about — you'll know it when you hear it. With that said, it's the quieter option of the two if you like to be more subtle.
What are some examples of supercharged vehicles?
Land Rover Range Rover Sport
If there were such a thing as a muscle SUV, the Range Rover Sport would make the list. With a supercharged three-liter V6 engine and four-wheel drive, this powerful vehicle is impressive both on and off the road. The Range Rover Sport can go anywhere without feeling like a utility vehicle. It has a luxury interior that's comfortable for everyone and extremely driver-focused.
It has a fuel efficiency of 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, seats up to five people, and has room for all your gear. With that said, the lesser-loaded base model of the Ranger Rover Sport has a starting price of $69,500. You can get a used Range Rover Sport with more features for much less, with prices starting at $48,100.
The Jaguar F-PACE is the perfect combo of sport and luxury. A supercharged three-liter V6 engine brings you from 0-60 mph in five seconds, while this multi-terrain, all-wheel-drive SUV gets you where you want to go, even if the roads are less than ideal. It's equipped to handle any weather in the forecast with various safety and assistive technologies to help you stay alert.
The F-PACE seats five and has a fuel efficiency of 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Known as a luxury vehicle, with new models being quite the investment, Jaguars might seem unattainable, but that might not be so. You can get a used F-PACE with models listed at $38,300. No one will know the difference — quite possibly even you.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE (from $59,700)
What are some examples of turbocharged vehicles?
The Honda Accord has come a long way since its debut as a compact car in 1976. As of 2018, it's classified as a large, mid-sized sedan, and it runs on a turbocharged 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. Safety and efficiency are the focus of this car, yet it still has a sporty and sophisticated feel.
The Accord is a powerful way to get where you're going. It has an excellent fuel efficiency of 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Not only will you save on fuel, but you can also save by buying a used Accord with many turbocharged options available, starting at $22,500.
Remember, if a turbocharged engine is essential, look for a 2018 or newer model, but don't overlook some of the other used models that start at $9,700.
Almost all Volkswagens manufactured after 2014 sport turbocharged engines as a standard feature, including the Passat. Powered by a lean 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, this mid-size car has a fuel efficiency of up to 25 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. Whether it's a day out with the family or a night out with friends, the Passat seats five comfortably and gives you the power to get there quickly and safely.
Practical with a sporty look, you won't regret getting yourself a Passat. You also won't be car poor if you pick up a used model, with turbocharged Passats available for as low as $12,400.
Like the Honda Accord, if a turbocharged engine is essential, look for Passats that are 2014 or newer, but don't miss out on other used models that start at $10,500.
Volkswagen Passat 2.0T S (from $20,150)
Which is better, supercharger or turbo?
Asking whether a supercharger or turbo is better is like asking someone to pick a superior fruit between apples and oranges. Everyone will have a different answer based on personal preference, but you can figure out which works best for you by comparing the benefits of both.
It's really up to you to decide if you want the extra boost of the supercharger or the efficiency of the turbo. Either way, one thing's for sure: You're going to get a better bang for your buck going with a used model versus buying new.
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April 15, 2022
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