Monday, April 1, 2013

Exhausted With Turbos

Here's the thing.

Turbos are becoming an epidemic. And I don't mean the ubiquitous 2.0T out of the Volkswagen GTI or the Twin-Turbo 3.0 liter inline-6 from the BMW 335i. Both of these are examples of turbos being used to create more race-worthy engines.

No, I mean the current crop of small-displacement, turbocharged powerplants that we find running rampant in the markets compact and mid-size segments. There's no good reason that a car as heavy as a Cruze or a Dart (both around 3200lbs.) should have an engine smaller than a Liter and a half. And yet, somehow, both do.

The linchpin, seemingly, is that it's all somehow alright if a turbo is added to the equation. And the numbers seem to back that up, but only if you're looking at the right set of numbers. The EPA says this let's these cars hit the magic 40mpg highway rating. However, in many documented test, both have struggled to break 30 overall. And what's worse, both do 0-60 in or around 8 seconds. To put that in perspective, the Civic does a similar 0-60 while constantly scoring over 30 in real-world numbers. Same with the current Focus. Even the Golf, with its bigger and supposedly more thirsty inline-5, has been known to do similar fuel numbers while performing much more admirably.

So what's the take-away from this? Well, there is one that I can readily see: EPA testing and factory performance ratings are done on a best case scenario. They are built on the foundation of perfect conditions and unlikely likelihoods. And companies are now using this to game the system to fluff their fuel economy numbers with cars that can't replicate them in normal driving conditions.

But last I checked, we all live in the real world, where fuel economy numbers are determined by the actual thirst of the engine, and not what the attached sticker says. And for the many people brainwashed by a high number on the window sticker, that may be a problem.

And that, that's the thing.

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