Published on February 15th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Has turbocharging stunted the development of driver skill?

Accessible performance. That’s the best way to describe the turbocharged engines of today, which develop maximum torque from near idle and produce some pretty high performance figures- at least on paper. These engines turn any car into a mildly lethal weapon as they get up to speed surprisingly quick. This tends to appeal to both ends of the spectrum: for the average driver, a turbocharged car can make overtaking effortless, while an enthusiast will enjoy the benefits of high torque and high performance.


In contrast, a naturally aspirated engine has a more linear power delivery. Torque isn’t really available until it reaches the higher end of the rpm range, and the torque band is quite small at that. Some may argue that a good naturally aspirated engine is more responsive than a turbocharged motor, but in the real world the differences are near negligible. Even though power outputs may be the same as a turbocharged engine, the lack of mid range torque is where the naturally aspirated engine suffers, forcing drivers to work the gearbox in order to achieve high speeds.


But perhaps that extra effort is all part of the fun. Modern turbocharged cars are easy to drive quickly, with fast engine response and such a broad power band that you hardly need to downshift. To an extent it removes the driver from the equation, requiring less involvement and less chance of an error. But ultimately it also stunts the development of skill as a driver. These are not like the turbocharged engines of old, which suffered from large amounts of lag and rather startling power delivery.


With a naturally aspirated car, not only does the driver have to work hard to stay in that narrow power band, they also need to carry as much speed as they can through a corner. Braking a little too early or a little too hard can have severe penalties for speed coming out of a corner- and so drivers learn how to get the most out of their cars as they push a little harder each time. A turbocharged car doesn’t quite suffer as much because it has such a large amount of torque on demand, allowing drivers to bring the car back up to speed quickly.



There is no incentive or struggle for the driver to force them to improve their driving style- and, assuming a driver even wishes to improve, this is what slows down progress or stunts it entirely.  Sadly it seems as though the majority of new car owners don’t see the joy in driving, which makes all of this quickly irrelevant. It will take a large paradigm shift before spirited driving is accepted on the whole again, but with companies making a performance car comeback, this may come sooner than we think.

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