Turbocharger vs. naturally aspirated engine. Which one is better?

Jaguar diesel engine shot at the 2006 London Motor Show
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Every car driver knows turbocharged and non-supercharged engines. Car enthusiasts sometimes disagree and debate which of these engines is better.

This article is a continuation of the series about engines. In it, we will briefly examine the function, advantages, and disadvantages of turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines.


Naturally aspirated engine

Mustang on a drag racing

A naturally aspirated engine works by opening the intake valves as the piston moves downwards, allowing the piston to draw the required amount of air into its combustion chamber.

A naturally aspirated engine operates at the same atmospheric pressure as where it is currently located, which means it sucks in as much air as its capacity in cc when sucked into the cylinder. In other words, a cylinder with a volume of 500 cm3 sucks in only such a volume of air, which it subsequently mixes with fuel, as big as its volume.

In reality, however, exactly 500 cm3 of air will never get into the cylinder, but a little less because part of the space will be filled with fuel and exhaust gases from the previous cycle, and we cannot forget pumping losses either.


  • Technical simplicity - this engine consists of smaller parts that could fail.
  • Cheaper maintenance - cheaper spare parts such as candles, oil, and filters.


  • Higher consumption
  • Lower power - while maintaining the same displacement, the atmospheric engine achieves lower power than the turbocharged engine.

Turbocharged engine


A turbocharged engine can increase the pressure of the intake air that goes into the engine and thereby increase its volumetric efficiency. A larger amount of air allows more fuel to be ignited. Thus, the engine performance is higher. The engine can be turbocharged in two ways, either by turbo or supercharger.

Superchargers are used in a much smaller amount because they are driven by the engine, which means that a certain amount of power is used only for its drive, which also results in higher fuel consumption.

The turbocharger is driven by energy from exhaust gases, so it does not load the engine unnecessarily and does not increase fuel consumption. However, a turbocharged engine has a more complex intake and exhaust system, which also means its higher price.


  • Lower fuel consumption
  • Higher performance - while maintaining the same displacement, a supercharged engine achieves higher performance than an atmospheric one.


  • Higher price - As a turbocharged engine is structurally more complex and contains a much larger number of parts than a non-supercharged engine, this is also reflected in its price.
  • More expensive maintenance


It is up to you what type of engine you choose, but you should especially consider how and where you will drive your car.