Do turbo-chargers add or detract from driving pleasure?

With us continually being reminded of our global footprint , greenhouse gasses, emissions and just general existence pillaging the world. We’re now reliant on turbocharging and smaller capacity power plants to deliver our frills. I’ve been very lucky with my warped perception of “priorities” in life means I’ve owned a lot of different cars, many of which have been turbocharged. Although many manage to be technically similar in their displacement and manner of turbocharging they’re all fundamentally different. We’ll start at the beginning (age wise). The B5 Audi RS4 harps back to a bygone era, take a fairly big engine, bolt some massive turbos to it, erm that’s about it really. Obviously much more from a technical standpoint but the way it behaves it may as well be the case. You had to play hide and seek with the boost , plenty of it there but you just had to be … what’s the word? Ah patient. I could probably write this article whilst waiting for a torrent of turbocharged torque to hurl me back into the base of my seat. Once you’d found boost you had to work the gearbox to keep hold of it , rev-matching your way down the cogs and then revving it out to squeeze every last Nm out before changing up. Thrilling don’t get me wrong, but imagine a mistimed downshift into a mighty surge of boost. Like you’re about to drift off into a deep sleep and someone punches you really hard in the middle of the face.

Now we go a little more modern with the Ford Focus ST/RS. The 2.5 litre Swedish 5 cylinder from Volvo was a torquey little bastard. Not so many revs about it but meaty useful torque down low and in the midrange. Boost from the single turbo came in fairly smoothly and was a thrill to squeeze every ounce from it. Minus the somewhat interfering torque-steer under-steer and any other sort of input you could do without. But that’s a chassis failing not the turbo charger, yes there were times like any boosted car you find yourself in the wrong gear or it goes into limp mode you realise how reliant your engine is on forced induction. The focus was a great laugh and a lot of fun for teenage me to narrowly avoid ditches with, but perhaps a better drive train would’ve increased the efficiency and therefore enjoyment.

Now onto the GT-R which is a tough one to describe. A lot of turbocharged vehicles lag a bit , give you some shove, run out of breath and then you change gear. The VR38DETT does it a little differently. If you’re farting around in auto you can find bits of lag here and there it does exist. However it will kick down proactively and give you mountains of torque whether you’ve asked for it or not. (I may have gone a bit sideways on a roundabout, when it decided to drop from 6th down to 3rd halfway round , you know for fun). The boost from the GT-R reminds me of a Cyclone, it comes in hard and aggressively, yet somehow gets harder and more aggressive as the revs build , you’re actually quite relieved to change gear. But then it happens allover again it’s a terrifying but thrilling and beautiful way to experience turbocharging. How these lunatics think “nah these are too small” and bin the stock turbos for hybrid upgrades I’ve no idea. Anyway now I’ve waffled for ages to my point, I’ve owned a few naturally aspirated engines which are revered for their high revving nature. They’re fantastic and I love them for it , very exciting in their own right. But for me torque is king it’s the force at which you accelerate and how unpleasant this force gets to be, determined by the number of foot-pounds or Newton-meters you have. A boosted car can always be easily tweaked as to where you’d like your boost and what sort of delivery you crave. This increases driving pleasure and engagement overall. As I’ve mentioned I’ve been fortunate enough to experience 3 different types of turbo-charging and how massively different the boost was introduced. I oddly liked the mammoth lag monster B5 because you knew it was going to hurt you it was just a matter of when. The Focus as a young lad was also great fun as it was minimal lag some boost occurred then I needed to change gear to get some more , like sticking coins in a vending machine. The GT-R is just a lunatic enhanced with strong amphetamines, it gives you more than you’d think was possible, especially in tuned guise the surge is prolonged and mighty. When you’re scaring yourself routinely you know you’re on to a winner. Let’s change the song lyric for the purpose of this exercise. “How do you like your boost in the morning?” Let me know in the comments below , or if you prefer naturally aspirated that’s great too.

Published by Sam Busby

a big nosed bearded idiot who likes to write about cars. Lucky enough to have owned a few quick ones too.

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