As emissions and fuel-economy standards become more stringent, many of the world’s automakers have been busy adding turbochargers to their engine packages. And while the majority of American and European makers are already quite turbo-heavy, the big three Japanese brands (Nissan, Honda and Toyota) don’t offer many boosted vehicles. The reason? It simply hasn’t been necessary until now.

Speaking to Automotive News, Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific, said that Japanese carmakers didn’t need to adopt widespread turbocharging because they had “less to prove to the buying public,” offering high efficiency without the technology.

“The Japanese were able to afford to not be at the absolute cutting edge of powertrain technology for a few years,” Kim said.

However, as older internal-combustion technology begins to reach its limits, Nissan, Honda and Toyota will seek the integration of turbochargers on a broader scale over the next five years or so. 

Honda seems to be the most eager in this regard, bringing in a boosted 1.5-liter four-cylinder for the new Civic and later versions of the Accord and CR-V. These three models accounted for 1 million sales and 68 percent of Honda’s volume last year, and consequently contributed heavily towards the automaker’s emissions and fuel-economy regulations compliance levels.

Toyota will offer a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as a replacement for the V-6 used in models like the Camry and Lexus IS. However, its existing naturally aspirated four-cylinders will remain, instead gaining other efficiency-increasing internal combustion technologies and the use of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).

Finally, Nissan will also utilize more CVTs, and while more turbos are slated to arrive sometime in the future, they are expected to appear more slowly than those coming from Honda and Toyota. Current forced-induction Nissan products include the Juke and GT-R.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

Despite limited use of such industry standards as direct injection, CVTs and turbos, the three major Japanese brands still managed to return excellent average fuel mileage and low emissions.

The big news is not that Nissan, Honda and Toyota are turning to turbos, but that it has taken them so long to do so.

This appealed to both car buyers and regulators, but also saved a lot of money in development costs. That money was instead put toward other long-term technologies, such as hybrids, all-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells cars as an investment for the future. This, in turn, gives them an edge as these types of vehicles gain in popularity. 

The big news, therefore, is not that Nissan, Honda and Toyota are turning to turbos, but that it has taken them so long to do so.

This technology offers huge potential benefits to vehicles equipped with an internal combustion engine. Originally used to offset the power losses of high-altitude flying in early WWI aircraft, turbos eventually made it into passenger vehicles in the early ‘60s, starting with the Oldsmobile Cutlass and Chevrolet Corvair. 

Turbos use exhaust gases to spin a turbine that compresses the intake charge, stuffing more air and fuel into the cylinder. Turbos are said to offer “free” power, increasing overall efficiency as they work their magic. Smaller turbocharged engines typically deliver a good balance of power, emissions and fuel economy, all in a lightweight package.

The technology is so good, the drawbacks are minimal compared to the benefits.


Drawbacks include increased engine complexity, higher costs over naturally aspirated equivalents, and the presence of turbo “lag,” whereby power delivery is delayed as the turbine reaches its optimal spin velocity.

Turbos can also muffle an engine’s exhaust note, which is a reason many sports-car manufacturers have been reluctant to integrate them into popular performance vehicles. Ferrari in particular has been criticized for its use of turbos, especially with the 2016 Ferrari 488 GTB. As a replacement for the 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia, the 488 uses a twin-turbo, 3.9-liter V-8 engine, compared to the 458’s all-motor 4.5-liter V-8, leading many purists to declare the newer car’s inferiority, despite it offering more power, more torque, and higher efficiency and specific output.

And while I’d have to agree that the 458 does indeed sound better, turbocharging is a must these days. The technology is so good, the drawbacks are minimal compared to the benefits.

Frankly, it’s incredible the Japanese have managed to delay the use of turbos for so long. This tech is effectively prolonging the death of the internal-combustion engine for some time into the future, and that’s a very good thing, even if they do make the engines a wee bit quieter. 

2015 Toyota Camry Driven

2015 Toyota Camry - Driven High Resolution Exterior
- image 581184
Mark McNabb had yet another crack at the 2015 Camry, this time in its loaded-up XLE trim level.

You can read our full driven review here.

Source: Automotive News

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