If You'Re A Muscle Car Enthusiast Looking For A Replacement For Displacement, Try A Turbocharged Car

Every muscle car enthusiast knows the classic formula for speed: big displacement equals big horsepower. For decades that has been true of American muscle cars, which are known for their huge V8 engines. However, with advances in automotive technology, small turbocharged engines are becoming much more prevalent. Even iconic muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro have optional four-cylinder turbo engines in modern generations.

If you grew up with old school American cars, you may be tempted to scoff at the thought of purchasing a muscle car with a measly four-cylinder motor. However, there are several reasons why turbocharged four-cylinders are better than big V8s. The next time you're shopping for a used car, don't base your decision on the displacement of the engine until you've test driven a modern turbo four-cylinder.

Turbocharging Is Like Adding Cylinders

The reason that large-displacement engines tend to make more power is because a combustion engine is essentially a giant air pump. The more cylinders you have, the more air and fuel you can pump through the system, which translates into more horsepower.

Turbochargers accomplish the same thing as adding more cylinders to a naturally-aspirated engine. The turbo compresses air and force it into the cylinders. Pressurizing the intake system means more air and fuel are crammed into the cylinders for each combustion cycle. That allows modern turbo four-cylinders to churn out as much power as many of the high-output V8 engines found in older top-of-the-line muscle cars.

Power When You Need It

Turbochargers use your engine's exhaust gasses to spool up and generate boost pressure. When you're cruising on the highway or accelerating slowly, the turbocharger won't generate any boost. That means your engine will behave like an ordinary economic four-cylinder with good gas mileage and low emissions.

However, as soon as you feel the need for speed, you can punch the throttle and spool up the turbo. Your engine will instantly throw you back into your seat with a surge of torque. Essentially, you get the best of both worlds: great fuel economy for commuting and V8 power for having fun.

Ease of Tuning

If you like modifying your car, modern turbocharged engines offer another perk. With an old-school V8, you have to replace the entire intake and exhaust system to get moderate power gains. If you want more substantial gains, you have to dig into the engine and upgrade the cylinder heads, camshafts, and valve train.

With a modern turbocharged four-cylinder, all you have to do is retune the ECU to get huge increases in horsepower. A tuning shop can plug in a computer to increase the turbo's boost pressure and modify the engine's fuel maps. Within minutes you'll gain as much power as you would by tearing down and building up an old-school V8 engine.