To turbo, or not to turbo

I’m looking to replace the wife’s 1995 Merc Tracer Wagon with a new compact, 4-cylinder somethingorother and have noticed that a lot of these cars either come with a turbo standard or require the turbo engine when getting upper-end packages like leather. Both of us drive like little old ladies and don’t need the power, and obviously I keep cars for a long time. Do turbos beat the heck out of these tiny engines and shorten their lives, or generally add to mechanical problems down the road? And don’t turbos usually require premium gas? For instance, the wife likes the Buick Encore, but it only comes with a turbo.

Ah, buying new turbo car. Thought for a minute you might be trying to install a turbo on the old minivan.

The OP should consider his approach/attitude toward maintenance and maintenance expenses.
I say that because many (perhaps most) turbo-charged engines require more-frequent oil changes, using very expensive synthetic oil. Thus, maintenance tends to cost more.
And, most turbo-charged engines require premium gas.

While the new turbo engines will probably be pretty reliable, I plan to avoid them if I can, just for simplicity. The Mazdas combine non-turbo engines with pretty good mpgs. They’ll be at the top of my shopping list the next time around.

I also avoid turbo engines. Would never buy one. I drive conservatively, so I would be hauling around a 50-100 pound turbo I don’t use.

Plus initial cost, maintenance, etc all are expenses I get nothing out of.

I agree that limits your choices, but that is the manufacturer putting themselves off you list of possibilities. There are plenty of other choices.

(ditto with low profile tires, wings and spoilers)


The turbos on those new ecomobiles are tiny. They’re actually almost cute they’re so small. :wink: They would have to be made out of something absurdly heavy like, say, plutonium in order to weigh 100 pounds.

On the Fords anyway, premium is not required - it’s recommended for better power and mpg, but you won’t damage the engine if you use regular.

I’m not a fan of the new turbo motors, but for opposite reasons than most; they don’t show a significant, if any, mileage improvement over the engines they replaced, and if they’re gonna go to all the trouble of plumbing out a turbo system they could at least slap a nice big one on there so I can have some fun. :wink:

That car is tiny. Don’t know engine lineup.

I believe the Chevy version of the Encore is the Sonic, which if you opt for the LTZ version as we would, you’re stuck with the turbo. No Caddy version that I’m aware of. We’re also looking at Mazdas and a Honda, which don’t have turbos. Smaller Fords rate way too low in Consumer Reports tests to even consider. I just wondered what common experience on turbos was nowadays, especially on tiny engines.

Don’t forget to look at Toyota Corolla or, if you want a midsize, Toyota Camry. Both come with non-turbo conventional 4 cylinder engines and the Camry has available 6 cylinder on sport and upper level trims. The Ford Fusion is also available in base trim with conventional non-turbo 4 cylinder.

Turbocharged cars do require more frequent oil changes and in most cases may require premium fuel. Low octane fuel used in a turbocharged engine can destroy the engine if detonation occurs while the turbo is providing boost.

Keep in mind that in normal, easy driving the turbocharger is not even providing boost to the engine. Boost will occur when you nail the accelerator pedal.
Based on your description of your driving habits, odds are your engine would seldom be in the boost anyway so why bother with engine oil worries, premium fuel costs, and added complexity.

It’s pretty amazing what modern technology has accomplished with engines. A year or so back I attended an auto show in OK City and at the Ford display they had a table set up with a disassembled Eco Boost 1.3 Liter turbocharged engine.
The entire engine was about the size of a large dressed turkey and the turbocharger was about the size of my balled up fist. That little motor puts out 123 Horsepower. Amazing for about 80 or so cubic inches.

If the spousal unit wants to KEEP the old working fridge in the garage instead of hauling it away as I wanted, then her new car can only be a certain length, which can’t be much more than her Tracer, which is 170". Believe it or not, a Corolla is now considerably longer than that! Most “compacts” are too long now, let alone midsize. Based on these responses I’m X’ing off any car with a turbo from the list. Thanks!

These turbos are pretty recent, so there’s not a long track record. But Subaru turbos are typically fairly reliable, and they’ve been around for years. Another new technology that can be problematic is direct injection, but avoiding both tubos and DI may prove impossible.

I think it is going to be increasingly hard to find a car without a 4 cyl turbo in the future. Those CAFE standards again driving it. I rented a Jeep a few weeks ago and it had a four in it. I really didn’t think it was under powered at all but I have always preferred a V6 without the added complexity of a turbo.

The Chevrolet Trax is the only other GM vehicle similar to the Encore. They are both based on the Sonic platform, but are not just different versions of it. The Sonic is much smaller, and these are unibody vehicles. Because of this, they can’t use the same chassis even though the Encore/Trax chassis is similar to the sonic unibody.

I’m going to go against the grain here.

I’ve got a Chevy Cruze Eco. 1.4L with turbo, and it runs great. It’s given me zero problems, gets 41-43 mpg on the highway, and does NOT require premium gas. Plus, once you learn how to put the engine on the “sweet spot” of the turbo, it will scoot right along. It’s getting ready to hit 120,000 on the odo, and it starts and runs like the day I took delivery.

Most of the guys here are a bunch of old fuddy duddies who prefer three-on-the-trees and AM radios in their cars.


Turbo’s definitely add extra moving parts and complexity to the engine. And they place add’l stresses on the engine itself. It would be reasonable to presume they will require add’l repair and maintenance compared to a non-turbo engine. That said, I wouldn’t dismiss a turbo equipped car just b/c it might need some add’l maintenance and repair. If you follow the posts here, you’ll have to admit cars break all the time for all sorts of reasons.

P.S. My car radio is AM/FM, if that makes a difference … lol

Nah, I got one of them FM converters!

How ironic. While digging through some of my attic stash a year or so ago I found my old Automatic Radio underdash 8-track tape player that I used to have in a '68 Roadrunner.
The player still had a Creedence Cosmos Factory tape sticking in it.

I’ve actually gotten that relic sitting out now thinking about resurrecting it although I have no idea what I would put it in or more critically; where would I put it Still powers up and runs but the drive belt has disentegrated to rubble.

That refrigerator might have done you a great favor Mistertudball. The turbo boost squeezes more power out of an engine at high RPMs and in the right configuration they are great but for most adults in suburban driving they are as much a waste as a spoiler on the trunk and a fart can on the exhaust.

I am stealing some other posters line here. Wife likes the Buick Encore end of discussion!!!