Hooniverse Asks- Turbocharged or Supercharged?

The old racing maxim goes Injection is nice, but I’d rather be blown. Of course, who wouldn’t? But which method of forced induction blows up your skirt?
The history of supercharging go back to the earliest days of the automobile, as engine designers attempted to maximize the amount of combustible air they could get into the cylinders, and increase horsepower.  In 1896 Rudolph Diesel patenting a supercharger device for his eponymous compression ignition engine. In comparison, turbocharging is a relative newcomer as the Swiss engineer Alfred Büchi developed the first successful  turbo engine, in 1925.
Each method of forced induction has the same goal- creating a denser charge of air, which in turn supplies more fuel to the fire with each ignition stroke and upping horsepower. But they also have their different methodologies in achieving this goal, and in special purpose applications – i.e. certain types of racing – one is preferred over the other.
Supercharging can be a more simple and compact installation- being unencumbered by exhaust plumbing, and only requiring a fat belt strapped between the blower and the crank. Because of that physical connection, the pressure increase is directly proportional to engine speed- the faster you go, the faster you go. The downside is that the blower is constantly on, sucking extra fuel even when sitting at idle, unless equipped with a Mad Max-esque clutch. That instant-on power application makes superchargers the preferred method of forced induction on the drag strip, where success or failure is determined in hundredths of a second.
Turbocharging, on the other hand, is sometimes considered “free power” as it utilizes the exhaust gas pressure to spin its compressor, and as engines can be adapted to the increase in back pressure that engenders, there’s little cost in efficiency over a naturally aspirated engine. However, lacking that direct, physical connection to engine speed increases means that the turbocharged motor may not be as responsive to throttle inputs as you might like. Due to that “turbo lag” has been added to the automotive lexicon as the devices have become more prominent in passenger cars. Turbos also require a great deal of plumbing under the hood, and as they use the gasses that only nano-seconds before were exploding inside the cylinders, they can become lava-hot, causing serious challenges to engine longevity if not properly engineered.
So, if you’re ride is to be blessed with some forced induction, which would you prefer, turbos or blowers?
Image sources: [turbobygarrett.com, retrothing.com, Chevrolet.com, Automobilemag.com]

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  1. Sivart_R1 Avatar

    Being a die-hard rotary guy, I've got to go with the Turbo. I'm used to dealing with a lack of torque below 2500 rpm, but I'm not going to add another source of drag at the low end. I'd like to say that if (when?) I end up with a larger displacement project to muck about with I'll go supercharged, but in reality I know and understand the potential problems with turbocharging, and will likely stick with the evil I know.

  2. Ambersand Avatar

    Having a Mazdaspeed3 and a supercharged Lotus Elise at my disposal, I'm more a fan of the turbo. I tend to want instant gratification and I get that from the MS3. The Elise gets exciting around 90mph, but that's just not feasible in every day driving situations. She's definitely more the track car.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I've had the exact opposite experience. The supercharged car that I had, a 92 T-Bird S/C 5-speed, had lots of power in most everyday driving situations, but the turbocharged car that I had, a 1981 Buick Regal Turbo, was a slug unless you were at WOT at higher RPM. I'll admit the Regal is probably a pretty bad example of a turbocharged car.
      For me, supercharged for a street car for the low end, off the line grunt and turbocharged for a race car for max power at higher RPM.

      1. Ambersand Avatar

        Honestly, I've never driven a turbo'd car older than a 2005. That said, I have a somewhat limited driving experience of today's turbo'd cars but in the one's I have driven it feels like they jump out of the gate and just keep pushing. In the 08 MS3 (and before her, the 05 STI) in 6th gear it still felt/feels effortless. It's a rush in any gear, at any speed.
        Oh, and I like to hear the blow-off valve go psssshhhhh, psssshhhh.

    1. scroggzilla Avatar

      We got both kinds of forced induction…turbo AND super chargin' !!!
      <img src="http://www.khrallyteam.com/articulos/articulos%20coches/lanciadelta/lanciadelta_clip_image012.jpg"&gt;

    2. muthalovin Avatar

      I calls it Doubleduction!

  3. Tyler D. Avatar

    We can't have both?

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Yes you can. See Lancia Delta S4.

      1. scroggzilla Avatar

        The new VW Polo has it too.

      2. M44Power Avatar

        Supercharged and turbocharged 550 hp 4-banger? They should have grabbed TwinPower for that before the Bavarian Marketers did.

  4. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    Supercharger with a clutched CVT belt drive would be the shit. Off when you need to be, and continuously varying pully sizes for maximum boost across all ranges with minimal amounts of parasitic loss. The two-pully CVT belt drive is shit simple too, just would need to be beefed up.
    A V8 with a tarbo is a nice exception though. Plenty of off-boost power and torque for tooling around at low speeds, but when that boost hits, WATCH OUT!
    Though, I can't stand a heavily boosted small motor. Lag is no bueno.

    1. bill Avatar

      ooo, an application for a cvt… not bad.

    2. smokyburnout Avatar

      When the clutch is disengaged, wouldn't the stationary vanes/screws/rotors of the supercharger become an air restrictor? Or would you need some sort of supercharger bypass tube?

      1. Gearhead Avatar

        Go look at the late-80's supercharged MR2: clutched blower and simple bypass valve.

      2. engineerd Avatar

        I would set the CVT up so the supercharger never fully shuts off (you're right), but would spin at a very minimal rate to prevent restriction. Plus it simplifies the system by getting rid of a clutch and bypass.

  5. jims63valvert Avatar

    or this one:
    Driving an 07 Mini Cooper S, and a Mitsubishi Evo VIII before that, it's fairly obvious I'm biased toward turbochargers. Today's twin scroll and VTG turbos are basically lag-free and don't have the extra drag that a supercharger makes, so if you drive them lightly (yah, right) you can get decent fuel mileage.

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      Agreed, sir! Prior to the MS3, we had an STI and got decent gas mileage (over 21) when driving lightly. Unfortunately I had a very difficult time keeping my foot out of her so the average mpg was 12 ish.

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      I'll be in my bunk.

  6. CaptRice Avatar

    Holy crap, I choked on my coffee when I saw that … I have a Jackson Racing supercharger just like that one in my RSX.
    A few points about it though. There's a bypass valve that only actuates near WOT, so when at idle or just cruising the only extra fuel consumption is the mechanical friction of the supercharger itself. Also, higher boost levels (>9 psi) will require an aftercooler, meaning extra plumbing.
    If you crave big power, you need a turbo. Or two. Or four.

  7. Goingincirclez Avatar

    Gotta go with a turbo… there's just something more elegant and understated about them, to me anyway, and there are few supplicant notes more pleasing than the whine of a well-tuned snail. Although I certainly wouldn't mind a supercharger either.
    You want to hear a beautiful turbo whine, head on over to a railroad drag and wait for some second-gen EMD Dash-2 series locomotives to throttle up.

  8. NefariouKunk Avatar

    I am afflicted with a love of all things DSM and their descendants. That feeling of exponential acceleration is exquisite. But it all depends on your platform and goal. I am thinking a SC would be preferable on a road track with short straights.
    Something that has always messed with me though… shouldn't high revving, low displacement engines do better with SC's since they don't produce as much exhaust and have high engine speeds? I guess it is more about compression of the gasses turning the turbine than it is about volume though. Can anyone clarify?

    1. skitter Avatar

      Superchargers are less typical on smaller engines because smaller engines are usually more sensitive about fuel efficiency. Superchargers are notoriously inefficient. A famous example was the 400hp 4.2L Jaguar AJV8, where the supercharger took the motor from 300 to 400hp, but took 100hp to run, meaning the engine drank fuel like a 500hp motor. Alpina has been using a nautilus type supercharger for a couple of years that is much more efficient, but they are still highly proprietary and uncommon. Furthermore, the focus on eliminating lag has led to many technologies that make it possible to tune a turbo throughout the powerband, whereas superchargers are largely set it and forget it.

      1. Deartháir Avatar

        A perfect jumping-off point for my personal bias: The Volkswagen G-lader.
        It's a very efficient supercharger, requiring very little power to run, only slightly more than, say, an upgraded alternator. It's small, compact, and amazingly good at doing its job. Requiring less engine space than a comparable turbo, it produces similar, if not better results. I had mine generating roughly 17 psi of boost using only an upgraded pulley kit.
        The downside, of course, is that they are notoriously fragile. While they work fantastically well during their short lifespan, they need to be rebuilt or replaced about every 50,000 miles. A new G-Lader is $4,000, and a rebuild — assuming nothing else needs to be done — is still $800.
        As the saying says, "Affordable, powerful, reliable; pick any two, 'cuz you can't have all three."

        1. skitter Avatar

          Which reminded me of this, which I was probably exposed to on this site: Comprex Pressure Wave Supercharger
          I stared at it for a good while; it's deceptively simple. The exhaust gas pressure wave is routed back towards an intake, forcing more fresh air in. When the intake valve closes, that pressure wave drives the exhaust back out and re-fills the spinning passages with fresh air. The small size and rotation seem to be what keep the charges from mixing. As you can imagine, it is incredibly hard to tune. One was tested but never raced by Ferrari F1 in the crazy '80s turbo days, and one was briefly produced for a diesel Mazda 626.

  9. joshuman Avatar

    I'm on my third turbocharged car and have never even driven anything supercharged. Sure, there is some initial lag but once you get the revs up you can stay in the boost for the rest of the gears. These are normal cars not 917s so it's not like the stock 1.8T will make the Audi step sideways.

  10. muthalovin Avatar

    It depends on application. I had a 1990 Dodge Daytona Shelby that was turbo. It had a VNT, and lag was not bad at all. My dad has a 2004 Lighting, and the PAH! was amazing. My buddy had a Evo XIII that I got to drive frequently, and it made loads of power, and was very strong when on boost.
    If I had the money, I would do a twin-turbo setup on my '97 F-150. The sound of the blow-off valve gets me all hot and bothered. Actually, so does the whine of a supercharger.
    I will just take the Lancia Delta, thereby having cake and eating it as well.

    1. jims63valvert Avatar

      Evo XIII? That must be one unlucky car. Hopefully it wasn’t built on a Friday ;o)

    2. jims63valvert Avatar

      Evo XIII? That must be one unlucky car. I hope it wasn't built on Friday ;o)

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        Totally. Just seeing who is paying attention and who is not. Thanks for playing!
        Nice cover, if I do say so myself.

  11. dustin_driver Avatar

    New turbo tech is a million times better than old turbo tech. Lag? Nope, not anymore. New overboost features actually deliver peak torque way down low. In the case of the current turbo Cooper S, I believe it's 177 torques at 1700 rpm. And the Saab 9-3 Turbo, with a manual transmission, has had crazy low-end torque for about 10 years now.
    BTW, I HATE MINI's Flash site.

    1. engineerd Avatar

      New turbo technology is insane. Variable geometry turbos can be tuned to reduce turbo lag to the point it's not noticable. All while spinning at 150,000 rpm. Just wild.

  12. ssurfer321 Avatar

    I prefer the always-on supercharger, but nothing is funnier than hiding a duck call on the blow off valve of a friends car!

  13. Alff Avatar

    My daily is a Legacy GT and I love it but, even with the relatively low boost, find the lag to be a bit off-putting. The only supercharged car I've spent any serious time with is my buddy's CLS 55 AMG, which I drove from NYC to KC. If those were my only two choices, and I wanted to spend four times what I did, I'd take the Mercedes.

  14. Goingincirclez Avatar

    How about 9.6v TURBO POWER?
    [youtube wdMWeu4DKTM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdMWeu4DKTM youtube]

    1. P161911 Avatar

      The big upgrade from 8.4V power. I remember as part of a design class project in school we used an early Makita cordless drill as a power source, it was originally 3.6V but ran just fine for a little while on an RC car 9.6V pack.

      1. Goingincirclez Avatar

        The amount of overcurrent that small electic motors can handle is frequently amazing. I've used pithy little motors from computer CD-Rom drives to repower HO-scale train locomotives, up to 18VDC. They just take the abuse, under a significant load at that – and beg for more.

  15. discontinuuity Avatar


  16. Tomsk Avatar

    Having never driven a supercharged car (IIRC), I'd have to say turbo. Yes, early examples like my diesel Benz are lag-o-rama, but modern technology has closed the gap to superchargers, all while still requiring hardly any additional engine power to spin (you do have to step on the go pedal a little harder initially to build up enough exhaust pressure).
    Also, "Supercharger Lover" wouldn't have quite the same ring, would it?
    [youtube HfDVY9pK2Oc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfDVY9pK2Oc youtube]

  17. cdog Avatar

    I meant "so" a supercharger would work

  18. Alff Avatar

    They're both great but, of course, the turbo encapsulator has 'em both beat by a logarithmic parsecian scale.[youtube pbVY5teBzlg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbVY5teBzlg youtube]

  19. Alff Avatar

    I'll take the turbo … turbo encabulator that is.
    [youtube pbVY5teBzlg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbVY5teBzlg youtube]

  20. Alff Avatar

    I'll take the turbo … turbo encabulator that is.
    [youtube pbVY5teBzlg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbVY5teBzlg youtube]

  21. B-Real Avatar

    um… v-tech???
    Haha Just kidding I know I know.. it's a cam and not forced induction. But someone had to say it for all the honda freaks out there.
    I think supercharging makes more sense. Why boil your bay with something you need to set a timer to cool down????

  22. B-Real Avatar

    V-Tec… dammit…

  23. joshuman Avatar

    I'm on my third turbocharged car and have never even driven anything supercharged. Sure, there is some initial lag but once you get the revs up you can stay in the boost for the rest of the gears. These are normal cars not 917s so it's not like the stock 1.8T will make the Audi step sideways.

  24. engineerd Avatar

    I prefer superchargers, but will not kick a turbo out of bed for eating crackers, either.
    The coolest superchargers are the two-stage, two-speed Wright supercharger on the Packard V-1650 (the US-built version of the venerable Rolls Royce Merlin). Packard improved on the single stage, fixed speed supercharger of the Merlin by adapting the Wright supercharger. It had two impellers on the same shaft that were normally at a 6.4:1 ratio. A viscous clutch could change the ratio to 8:1 for high speed operation, which increased the critical altitude of the engine. This allowed the engine to develop over 1200 hp at over 25,000 ft. Impressive.
    This is the engine used in the P-51D, some P-40s, and the Mark XVI Spitfire.

    1. joshuman Avatar

      We may as well look at such a great power plant:
      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Packard_Merlin_V1650_7_3.jpg&quot; style="width: 400px; " alt="imgTag" />

      1. engineerd Avatar

        Now I'm all hot and bothered.

  25. M44Power Avatar

    Blower all the way. What would the Road Warrior do?

  26. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
    Slow Joe Crow

    "The blower Max, the blower"
    seriously it depends on the application, diesels should always have turbos, gas engines depends on application, supercharger or light boost for family haulers, turbos fo rhoon mobiles.

  27. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

    Having not had the pleasure to drive either a turbo or supercharged car, I'm going to vote for both, and for natural aspiration. They all have their benefits.

  28. VelvetJones Avatar

    Ive got an 04 Grand Prix GTP CompG and the engine and supercharger are wonderful. The rest of the car not so Much. Tie rod ends were dead by 25k miles and ball joints. It has the “wide track” but if you actually use it to carve corners you will break things very quickly on those cars. The system on the supercharger has a bypass or something where you get 0 boost until you get over a certain RPM or throttle opening. I wouldnt mind getting rid of that.
    Dual turbos like on a diesel (small turbo feeding a large) is the best approach for turbo systems or variable size intake/exhaust ports on a turbo (think i saw this a few years ago) that open or close depending on engine speed in order to keep the air moving quickly through the turbo.
    I’ve got a 2008 Suzuki B-King that will make the world blurry when you twist the fun handle. I wouldnt mind having another or a Hayabusa (same engine) to put a turbo or supercharger on. The B-King stood for “Boost King” the bike was shown in 2002 with a factory supercharger and ~240 BHP.
    Superchargers for me. Always wanted to put a 383 with a supercharger in my T/A and be able to tell everyone it was “Stroked & Blown”. I’m a huge dork.

  29. Juliet C. Avatar
    Juliet C.

    Turbo, because it is just cooler to say. "TURRRRBOOOOOO!" That's full of win right there.

  30. cdog Avatar

    I have an MX-5 with no grunt until it hits 4 grand to a supercharger would work. But I,ve decided to buy a Suzuki M109R and retire the MX-5.

  31. busted_ford Avatar

    A turbocharged car running the same 0-60 as a NA car will FEEL like it's the faster, due to that kick in the ass you get when boost starts to kick in – have to go with the turbo for that reason alone. plus the 'choo' of an unnecessarily loud blowoff valve never gets old.

  32. tools for sale Avatar

    There’s no doubt that the most superior power tool I have in my tool box is the battery powered cordless drill, I just demolished my bedroom and did a whole redecoration and the tool I used the most and was truly useful was my battery charged cordless drill. I believe for each project in the home I had the cordless drill in my hand. There’s no doubt that the restoration project could have taken triple the time if I didnt have my preferred hand tool.