If you pay attention to cars anywhere near as much as I do, you're aware of the current trend of engine downsizing and straying away from natural aspiration. With governments across the world becoming increasingly insistent on decreasing automobile emissions, carmakers worldwide have no choice but to conform. The solution to this, according to many manufacturers in the industry, is lower displacement engines aided by forced induction. This is not a horrible thing, as modern turbocharging technology is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was years ago. However, despite all the benefits, there are still drawbacks present that prevent me from being 100% okay with the whole thing.
It has become increasingly common for makers of small, city cars (as well as family cars and cars used for nothing other than a to b transport) to power their cars with very small, turbocharged engines. This makes sense. The technology is there, and the turbocharger forcing air into the tiny engine gives the car enough power to get moving. This is perfectly fine, as I am sure that the majority of owners of those cars either don't care that their cars are turbocharged, or they don't even know. For the section of the market focused on nothing but efficiency, fuel economy and enough performance to complete their daily routine, turbocharging is perfectly acceptable.
Even when looking up farther into the market towards some high-performance cars, I have absolutely no problem with turbocharging. The Nissan GT-R is turbocharged, so is pretty much everything AMG has ever made, so is the entire current lineup of BMW M cars. I have no problem with any of these cars, but maybe that's because they weren't turbocharged for the sake of efficiency. Look at the newest E63 AMG. It's twin turbocharged, but those turbos are still attached to a 5.5 liter V8, which isn't exactly small. Furthermore, the car still gets pretty terrible fuel mileage (as far as I know), reinforcing the fact that the turbochargers are only there to help the sedan sprint from 0-60 in 3.4 seconds.
Another reason why I still like the cars I mentioned above is that they still make a good noise. Despite turbochargers' tendency to reduce noise, the AMG still growls like a monster, while the GT-R still roars as the odometer needle flies upwards. Even though the current M5 lacks the wonderful-sounding V10 of its predecessor, it still manages to produce a great exhaust note.
My problem with turbocharging has nothing to do with these cars. These cars were turbocharged because their manufacturers decided to do so. With more air being forced into their engines, the cars were able to perform in ways that they wouldn't have been able to otherwise. They are fast, sound great, and really show no concern for the environment. And I'm pretty much okay with that.
I have recently developed a problem with turbocharging because it seems that naturally aspirated engines are becoming a rarity. This is not because automakers have collectively made that decision, either. This is being caused by government regulations forcing the manufacturers to consistently reduce emissions. Consequently, almost everyone has adopted the idea of downsizing. There are, of course, exceptions to what I'm about to say, but just stick with me. This downsizing is leading to cars that either don't sound very good, or sound incredibly artificial. It's also getting in the way of a variety of automotive traditions, as I will elaborate on later.
The new Ford GT is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine. The performance will undoubtedly be staggering, but there's no way in hell it'll ever sound better than the 5.4 liter V8 it's replacing. The new M3 and M4 play a part in the same story. Their new engines provide more performance and efficiency than the old V8, but is it a more lovable powerplant? I'll let you decide. The new AMG GT features a 4 liter, twin-turbo V8 that replaces the majestic 6.2 liter monster found in the SLS AMG. That engine's going to sound incredible like every other AMG engine, so for now there's no problem there. But even the Pagani Huayra, which I love with every single fiber of my being, will never be able to match the incredible soundtrack coming from the 7.3 liter V12 of the Zonda that came before it. With Formula 1 racing being quieter than it has ever been, I REALLY do not want the world of road cars to follow suit. The idea of everything on the road either being quietly turbocharged or electric scares me.
Now let's discuss how emission regulations are forcing automakers to change lineups of cars that have thrived through generations. The successor to the Ferrari 458 is going to be turbocharged, which will put an end to the incredible era of mid-engined, naturally-aspirated V8 Ferraris. Sure, the new California T is a fantastic car that performs well and still sounds good, which proves that Ferrari knows what they're doing with a turbo. But it won't really be quite the same, will it? Another bit of information I learned recently that bothered me was the fact that the next generation of Porsche 911 will feature turbochargers in the lower end models. Now tell me, how can an individual take pride in owning a 911 Turbo if every model in the lineup is turbocharged? The idea of that just gives the top-of-the-line 911 Turbo a lesser meaning.
There are only a few manufacturers out there that still make naturally-aspirated high-performance cars, especially without the aid of electric motors. The Audi RS lineup still sports a solid selection of naturally-aspirated V8s. Those cars are ridiculously fast and capable too, what's not to like? Aston Martin still loves powering its cars with its massive 6 liter V12. I still love that too, as the engine provides the performance you'd expect from an Aston, along with the soundtrack. Lastly, and most importantly (to me), Lamborghini's lineup is still completely naturally-aspirated. What many consider to be the most insane and mental carmaker out there is still relying on massive engines to provide the going power for their incredible cars. The smallest engine located in any of their cars is a 5.2 liter V10, and I just absolutely love the thought of that. Their 6.5 liter V12 is one of the reasons why the Aventador is one of my dream cars. It's incredibly powerful, dramatic, it sounds godly, and it's just so different from anything else on the market. In a time when everyone decided to downsize, Lamborghini stuck with its roots and developed a brand-new V12, which is incredible to say the least. I guess in some cases there really is no replacement for displacement.
I do not hate turbocharging (or supercharging, which seems to have not been invited to this conversation) by any means, I just have an appreciation for naturally-aspirated cars. As the number of naturally aspirated cars today slowly dwindles, it makes me sad to think that, before my time on this earth is done, they'll be a thing of the past. Yes, McLaren, Porsche and Ferrari (among others) have proven that turbocharged engines can still sound good, perform well and be efficient, but what happened to the good old days when a car with a massive engine didn't attract any unnecessary attention from people who wanted to get rid of it? In the future, the entire Ferrari lineup will be turbocharged, and even Lamborghini will have to go with the times and downsize. It will be a sad day when those things come true. So I'm going to do my best to cherish the incredible automotive age we currently live in. Where the roads are filled with an unbelievably wide variety of types of cars. From tiny engines waiting until their turbos spool up to massive engines with enough torque to reverse Earth's rotational direction, we're at a unique time in automotive history. I fear the day when that insane variety will be a thing of the past. When naturally-aspirated Lamborghinis will be shown in museums, and kids will look at them like they're dinosaurs because everything they're used to seeing on the road makes this thing look like a giant middle finger to the environment and the community. But you know what? I hope to be the guy that pulls up next to your future Prius shitbox in a V12 Lamborghini, laughing as I pull away surrounded by the noise and drama I want from a supercar.