Over the course of the past few years there has been a significant push by many automobile manufacturers to abandon the use of larger displacement engines in favor of smaller, more fuel efficient turbocharged variants.
The biggest driver behind the recent displacement downsize has been an effort to raise average fuel economy. Sure, it’s easy to increase efficiency by sacrificing horsepower and torque, but in order to maintain the high levels of performance that we have all grown accustomed to the utilization of turbocharged power plants is being used to fill the gap.

Recently the brands making the most notable turbocharged push have been BMW, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz. Other manufacturers such as Acura, Audi, Nissan, Subaru, and Volkswagen have also been utilizing turbocharged technology for quite some time now, but for this blog we will focus primarily on brands making the biggest headway towards switching over their entire model lineup to turbocharged platforms.

BMW introduced their first modern era turbocharged engine for the ‘07 model year in the form of a newly developed 3.0 liter inline 6 cylinder twin turbo. This engine was available only in the 3 Series coupe, sedan, and convertible 335i and 335xi trims. It packed the punch of an eight cylinder but with the efficiency of a six cylinder and instantly received a loud chorus of industry acclaim. In ‘07 it was even voted as one of WardsAuto’s 10 Best Engines its first year out of the box.

Fast forward to the ‘13 model year and you will notice a lot has changed over at BMW in terms of engines. Every single model that BMW produces will have a version of their 4, 6, or 8 cylinder Twinpower Turbo engine in it. The only exception will be the M3 coupe and convertible, which are carryovers from the ’08 model year and offer only a naturally aspirated V8.

The next generation M3/4 is currently in development, but final details have not been released yet. Speculation has it that the new engine will be a Twinpower Turbo inline 6 cylinder, a perfect example of a manufacturer downsizing from a naturally aspirated V8 to a more efficient – but most likely more powerful – turbocharged inline 6 cylinder.

After the M3 redesign is confirmed, every single vehicle in the BMW lineup will be turbocharged, quite a difference compared to just six years ago. This will make BMW the only manufacturer to offer only turbocharged power plants.

In terms of fuel economy, we will use the monstrous BMW M5 as an example because it shows just how great modern turbocharged efficiency can be. The previous generation M5 was fitted with a 5.0 liter V10 engine producing 500 horsepower and 383 foot pounds of torque. Power was great for this V10, but average fuel economy was horrible, rated at 11 MPG in the city and 17 MPG on the highway.

We all know that fuel economy has never been at the top of the priority list for your typical M5 buyer, but for the 2013 model year the beast has evolved. Not only is it even more powerful with 560 horsepower and 500 foot pounds of torque coming from its newly developed 4.4 liter TwinPower Turbo V8 engine, but it also gets much better gas mileage.

Fuel efficiency of the new M5 is light years ahead of the previous generation. Early tests have suggested an average of 17 MPG for the city and 22 MPG on the highway which is a 6 and 5 MPG gain, respectively over its predecessor.  That’s an outstanding improvement of 29% on the highway and a massive 55% around town.

On the domestic side, Ford has also made great leaps in recent years with their EcoBoost turbo technology. Ford first introduced EcoBoost technology on the Lincoln MKS for the 2009 model year, which came in the form of a 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6. Much like BMW’s implementation of turbocharged engines, the turbo bug has quickly spread within both the Ford and Lincoln lineups. For the ‘13 model year, EcoBoost turbo technology is available on six different models where compared to the ‘10 model year it was only offer on the high level trim Taurus SHO.

In ’11 Ford broke the large pickup mold by offering the F-150 with an optional 3.5 liter EcoBoost twin turbo V6 engine, which in 4x4 form gets 15 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the highway. The same F-150 equipped with the standard 5.0 liter V8 gets 14 MPG in the city and 19 MPG on the highway, all while making five less horsepower and forty less foot pounds of torque.

Mercedes-Benz is also riding the turbocharged train for the ‘13 model year by offering eight different models with forced induction engines. If you go back to the ‘11 model year you’ll see that Mercedes-Benz didn’t offer a single turbocharged model.

According to Honeywell Transportation Systems, a leading manufacturer of turbochargers, the sale of turbocharged vehicles is expected to triple by ‘17 as aggressive new CAFE regulations laid out this past August continue to ramp up. By 2025 the average fuel economy goal will increase nearly double its current rate today, reaching an extremely lofty 54.5 MPG.

The cost of new technology is never cheap, but certain technologies can pay greater dividends sooner than others, particularly if they’re adopted on a wider scale and it can be argued that those OEMs who are more apt to adopt forced induction technologies will reap greater sale and margin benefits than those manufacturers relying more on lower displacement, hybrid, or EV technology.
Be sure to check back in the coming months as we plan to provide a full retention comparison between each of these propulsion types in order to find out just how well they are doing in the marketplace.