The reason why “Consumer Reports” magazine is attention-worthy is that they attempt to find whether the proof is indeed in the pudding. Recently, the magazine found gas mileage in cars with a small turbo is not living up to the hype.
Small turbo engines not always living up to claims
One thing automakers are doing to boost fuel economy these days is putting a small engine with a turbocharger in a vehicle, the idea being that adding more power to a smaller engine boosts fuel economy. Same power but less displacement means less gas burned to do the same amount of work. Sounds simple, right?
Except for that, according to AutoGuide, Consumer Reports is finding in testing that it doesn’t work, or at least not that well. So if one was about to get out an auto calculator to get a small turbo model for its efficiency, one might want to pause.
Sipped more gas, out of wind
CR pitted small turbo engines against naturally-aspirated counterparts in four-cylinder and six-cylinder sedan, four-cylinder and six-cylinder crossover, and several stand-alone vehicle classes. Rarely did they best their naturally-aspirated competitors in mileage or performance.
Among the smaller engines, the Ford Fusion 1.6-liter EcoBoost hit 60 from 0 in 8.9 seconds and was observed getting 25 miles per gallon. The Kia Optima, with a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter, had the same mileage, but was slightly quicker. The Toyota Camry buried the Fusion, reaching 60 in 1.2 fewer seconds, and the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima got better mileage, at 30 mpg and 31 mpg, respectively. Both hit 60 in 8.2 seconds.
The 2.0-liter EcoBoost Ford Fusion likewise fell short against V-6 sedans, though 2.0-liter turbo Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata were comparable. The V-6 Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry were more than 1 second quicker to 60 than the Ford, but less than half a second quicker than the Kia and the Hyundai. The Ford achieved 22 mpg, the rest got between 24 and 26 mpg. A turbo 2.0-liter, then, is comparable to a V-6 provided you don’t buy the Ford. The EcoBoost engines, according to USA Today, are a $795 option.
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In four-cylinder crossovers, the small turbo came good. The Ford Escape 1.6-liter EcoBoost was comparable to the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 in economy and performance. However, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost was spanked like a naughty toddler by the V-6 RAV4 to 60 by 1.5 seconds though observed mileage was the same.
Part of how forced induction works is that more air is introduced into the piston chamber for detonation, along with more fuel. There is a slight reduction in fuel economy, but ideally, the trade off is slightly less fuel is used to do the same work as a larger non-turbo engine. Sometimes it does work; CR found the 2.0-liter turbo in the BMW X3 was also only 0.1 slower to 60 mph and got 1 mpg more than the 3.0-liter inline-six.
One also has to bear in mind that EPA ratings can’t be entirely trusted either – the only thing less trustworthy than Big Business is Big Government. The EPA actually tests 15 percent of new cars, according to Car and Driver; they take automakers’ word for it the rest of the time. Wonder how they lie on ratings? Well, that’s how they do it.