The humble turbocharger is one of the greatest automotive inventions of all time.
Turbocharging has allowed for engines that are more powerful, more affordable, and yet also more efficient.
In recent years – with a greater emphasis on reducing emissions and increasingly the environmental-friendliness of cars – many manufacturers have moved towards smaller turbocharged engines to achieve the same (or even higher) levels of power as were previously possible only with larger naturally-aspirated engines.
If you’d like to learn more, read our article here on how turbocharging works.
A great example of this is Mercedes-Benz with their AMG line of performance cars.
Take the C63 AMG, which boasts a superb blend of luxury and performance in a compact sedan.
The W204 generation C63 AMG featured the now legendary 6.3 litre (which is actually 6.2) NA V8. This is perhaps one of the best sounding engines of all time.
The W205 generation C63 AMG has a 4 litre twin turbo V8 instead (Mercedes-Benz call it a ‘biturbo’, which sounds a bit more premium than twin turbo)
Purists were horrified when MB/AMG moved to a smaller turbocharged unit, but apart from the loss of sound and mechanical “purity” the numbers don’t lie.
The 6.3L C63 AMG boasted around 450hp (depending on exact model) versus 503hp in the new turbocharged model. The biturbo V8 is also more than half a second faster at the 0-60mph dash, at 3.7 seconds versus 4.4.
But wait, there’s more! The biturbo V8 is also more fuel efficient, and emits less in the way of pollution.
Long story short, turbocharging has made the Mercedes-Benz AMG V8 a better daily driver AND a better track/race performer.
But can you daily drive a turbo car?
In the minds of many motoring enthusiasts, turbochargers are still seen as a way of squeezing max power out of an engine at the expense of reliability and daily driveability.
Your mind might wander to cars like the Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Evo – turbocharged, fire-breathing “rally reps” from the 1990s that were incredible performance monsters, but hardly the last word in refined and reliable daily driveability.
Cars like this conjure up mental images of massive turbo lag (great fun, but not the best for driving around town) poor fuel economy and melted turbos.
This old Top Gear clip showing Jeremy Clarkson in a Mitsubishi Evo captures what we mean:
It is also why companies like Subaru played around with twin turbocharging on some contemporaneous models – such as the GT Legacies of the late 1990s/early 2000s – to provide smoother acceleration that was easier to live with on a daily basis.
But technology has come along way – and you don’t have to be much of a motoring enthusiast to know that turbocharging has become far more common on cars of all different types and sizes.
Even companies like Ford are trying to move away from big V8s to smaller four and six cylinder turbocharged units.
So, with that in mind:
Can You Daily Drive A Turbo Car?
Yes, it is totally fine to daily drive a turbo car.
In fact, turbocharging – at least from the perspective of many manufacturers – is more about making daily driving easier for the driver by making cars more powerful, more fuel efficient and easier to drive.
Take a car like the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The whole point of the Golf GTI is to basically be the best possible blend of daily drivability, practicality, and economy, with ample performance and potential for enjoyment.
This car comes – from factory – with a turbocharged engine.
If VW didn’t think that turbocharging was a suitable option for a car that they market as the poster child for daily drivable performance, would they be likely to use that as the induction method in the engine of choice for their car?
The truth is that turbos are generally very reliable, and offer great benefits from the perspective of daily driving.
Modified Turbos Are A Different Story
Depending on the type of turbo your car has (and how it is set up) it may be that your turbo setup isn’t so great as a daily driver.
This is generally the case with heavily modified cars that are trying to run as much power as possible through the turbocharger setup.
For example, if you wind the boost up on a turbo car you will be more likely to encounter issues with reliability, reduced fuel economy, and even the ability to drive smoothly and effortlessly around town and on the highway.
However, modified cars like this are often not great daily drivers for other reasons as well.
If you are looking at buying a car that is turbocharged in factory form, then you are unlikely to have any issues from a daily driving perspective.
Maintenance & Driving Habits Matter
If you want to daily drive a turbocharged car and have a good time of it, in our view there are two key things that you need to do:
- Ensure that you are diligent in keeping up with maintenance requirements. All cars need (and deserve) proper maintenance, but turbocharged engines do tend to be fussier when it comes to maintenance. Complete all servicing as per the manufacturer requirements, and ensure you use the right oil rather than trying to save a buck or two on something of an inferior grade. Your turbo(s) will thank you for it!
- Make sure your car is warmed up properly before driving it hard. Driving any car hard before it is properly warmed up has the potential to cause premature wear and damage, but this problem can be particularly bad on turbo cars. Before you open the taps, make sure your car has had time to get up to optimal operating temperature!
Do these two things and you are far more likely to get consistent and reliable service from your turbo engine.
Of course reliability is ultimately more complex than this, and ‘your mileage may vary’ depending on exactly what car you have purchased, its previous maintenance and ownership history, and how complex it is (for example a complex European twin turbo setup that is built for performance is perhaps more likely to go wrong than a small single turbo on an economy-focused city car … or at least in theory)
You can daily drive a turbo car with no problems – beyond routine maintenance and care for your car.
Millions of people all over the world drive turbocharged cars every day (we suspect a lot of them wouldn’t even know they have a turbo in their car if they aren’t car enthusiasts).
While ‘old school’ turbo cars like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evo perhaps aren’t quite so great in terms of daily drivability (they were more about power and speed at the expense of all other considerations) more modern turbo setups offer a compelling blend of performance, superior economy and reliability.
Just ensue that you take good care of your car by driving it hard only when warmed up, and also sticking to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Do you daily drive a turbo car? Or perhaps you think that it isn’t a good idea? Whatever your opinion, we would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below to get the discussion started!