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Redusernab Asks: How do you feel about twincharged engines?

Jeff Glucker July 10, 2018 Redusernab Asks 27 Comments

I’m driving the Volvo V90 this week, and I’m falling in love with it. Even my three-year-old daughter referred to it as beautiful (seriously… she called it daddy’s beautiful car). The deep brown paint works wonders on the eyes while the sharp angles are smartly cut and lend this longroof a lovely look.

But the mechanical bits certainly give me pause. I’m driving a T6 version, which features the twincharged four-cylinder engine under the hood. You have a supercharger and a turbocharger working together to flatten out the torque curve, improve response, and deliver a blend of performance and economy as deemed necessary by your right foot.

Here this engine is good for 316 horsepower. That’s enough to get the V90 moving from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a 155 mph top speed. More than enough for most, certainly.

But this is a complex engine. While the rest of the V90 is a masterclass in simplified design, both inside and out, a truly complicated beast sits ahead of your legs. I like the idea of a twincharged engine, but I am truly curious what it would be like to live with one for the long haul.

What do you think?

  • 1slowvw

    The more supercharged and turbocharged cars that get sold the better. It will mean an abundance of inexpensive used boost creating devices in the junk yards for years to come.

  • Maymar

    I think if you have fears of long-term ownership, it’s been a long time since you were likely to consider any European luxury car.
    That said, they do drive fine (I got to spend a night with an XC60 T6 several months back), and at least Volvo has a history of small boosted engines with decent longevity.

  • max stein

    I Don’t like any Turbocharged engine be it single or twin Turbos! I had 2006 Porsche Cayenne Turbo It was blast to drive but I had some issues including oil consumption I traded after couple months for less powerful 2009 Cayenne GTS which has Normally spirited 4.8 V8 No issues at all.

  • Alff

    I expect less reliability long term and more heat-related component failure.

  • Fred

    Needs nitrous!

  • 0A5599

    I want to add two turbos to an S-Cargo.

    Yo, I heard you like snails…

    • Vairship

  • joshuman

    I lease an XC90 T6 with the same engine. It’s great to drive but incredibly complex. Ours doesn’t have the hybrid action of the T8 or the fancy ride-height adjusting suspension but the rest of the car is stuffed with electronics. Dynamic mode allows the engine to use all the boost and makes getting on the interstate a lot of fun. It also dumps so much heat into the engine that I worry about the long-term effects. The UI of the central screen could be better. The one thing I would change is to make the engine sound a lot better.

    • Jeff Glucker

      I love the idea of the T8 here in California, as it’s over 400hp AND qualifies for the carpool lane.

  • Sjalabais

    Funny, I often borrowed my ’77 242 to my divorced neighbour in 2004 when he had his kids for the weekend – they thought my “ladybug” Volvo was so beautiful. That is, orange with a decent scattering of rust converter spots that had turned black.

    Volvo is aware that reliability is a main selling point for them. The 400-series made in The Netherlands was perfectly average in most reliability statistics, but Volvo-buyers despised them as “unreliable”. For now, I have faith in them having tested this setup hard and well enough to return decent smiles for decades to come. Also, gorgeous car.

    • Thank goodness I avoided the 400 series in favor of the 66 GL, which is proving to be at least as reliable as any other vehicle I’ve owned.

      • 0A5599

        Really? I would have expected the Ford to be EXTREMELY reliable. For several decades, it has never quit running.

  • neight428

    Manufacturers will always test their customers’ reliability tolerance in exchange for other value, one can often quantify the expectations with the cost and marketing of warranties when step changes in complexity/technology pop up. The complexity of a twin charged setup seems like an opportunity to suffer a compounding effect of failure opportunities, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way once development progresses sufficiently. Can you imagine buying a turbocharged and fuel injected car in the 60’s?

    I concur that the V90 has one of the sharpest silhouettes to come along recently (no Dust Buster Oldsmobile jokes, please)

  • outback_ute

    I think it is telling that VW used to do twin-charged engines and don’t any more. With more than 6 gears in a transmission you don’t need as wide a power band (eg 1000-6000), you can sacrifice a bit and use the transmission to stay away from it.

    For example with the new Ranger Raptor with its 2L diesel, traditionally I would say “what about the torque before the turbo spools?”. But with a 10-speed auto what speed will that happen at, 4 mph? Maybe less? Still not completely ideal for an off-roader and the manual version will suffer, but I don’t think the extra complication is worth a fairly marginal gain.

    • Sjalabais

      You got to hand it go VW though to find trouble where other automakers breeze through. I remember seeing OEM stats on engine reliability for the Volvo 850 in Germany: Up to 40% of the cars sold in Germany had the Audi diesel in them. But over 90% of engine issues were related to that machine. Even accounting for diesels racking up more miles every year on average than gas engines, that is bad. And diesels used to be more reliable engines than gas engines due to their simplicity, something that, of course, changed with turbos and all sorts of extra ambitions.

  • wunno sev

    I’ve got a turbo car from the late 90s, running like 10-12 psi from the factory, and the turbocharger itself has been nothing but reliable over the last 40,000 miles. it is more complex, but not unmanageably so. these newer twin-charged engines are packaged more tightly, but the technology is better now. I could believe that the mechanicals will be pretty trouble-free for a long time and fixable when they do break.

  • Lokki

    I think these are a wonderful technological development to lease for absolutely no more than 36 months. The only way I would buy one used would be if my ex-wife asked for my help in choosing a car that she was paying for. Well, I might do the same for her mother…

  • ptschett

    I’m still in the V8 camp but maybe the next car will have forced induction of some sort. I’ll have to see what’s out there when that time comes. I know my uncle’s happy with the EcoBoost 4 in the current-series Mustang.

    My favorite odd turbo setup of recent history was the turbo compound setup on a version of the FPT Cursor 13 engine from some Case IH and New Holland 4WD tractors. The primary turbocharger was pretty normal, but the odd thing was its exhaust went through a 2nd turbine that sent power through a special coupling and massive gear reduction to take its 50,000-some RPM down to crankshaft speed. It was supposed to be worth a 2 or 3% fuel savings IIRC.

  • Zentropy

    I would echo others’ comments regarding complexity and longevity. My sister recently bought an Ecoboost Flex, and the easy accessibility of power is VERY nice, especially compared to my father’s NA Flex. However, the turbos are the weak link and replacing them– at least from my view under the hood– looks difficult and expensive.

  • crank_case

    I think one of the biggest things is the sort of cars they’re appearing in and who buys them. Turbo and even twincharged cars are nothing new, but the sort of cars you used to find turbos on in the 90s were either Japanese Turbo Nutter rally refugees like Scoobies and Evos or at the other extreme, Saabs (and the upper end of the Volvo range). Two different sorts of owners, but both pretty conscientious in their own way…

    The WRX/Evo/other turbo JDM with their turbo timer/boost/oil pressure gauges. Debateable as to whether turbo timers were the best thing, but at least it showed understanding that you had to treat a Turbo engine differently.

    The traditional Saab owner being more sober and sensible than their JDM counterparts, but generally the sort of person who had some appreciation for their vehicles engineering.

    Now, when they’re turning up in SUVs/Crossovers, are the bulk of owners going to be aware of how you treat a force inducted engine, or even care?

    • Zentropy

      They’ll neither know nor care. Fortunately boosted engines have developed to the point that they can tolerate dumb drivers.

      • crank_case

        They’re more forgiving than engines of old, but I’m not sure they can forgive forever. The average turbodiesel driver around here seems to hoof it everywhere, even from cold.

        • Sjalabais

          When I was struggling with the choke on my ’77 242 in -30°C, leaving huge clouds of white smoke everywhere, my then boss wanted to show me “how we do this here”. He flogged the cold car so hard, the heater blew warm air only after a few minutes of driving. Disrespect for machinery is nothing new, and a lot of these plagued turbodiesels seem to achieve pretty impressive numbers on their odometers nonetheless.

  • Zentropy

    The Volvo V90 could be offered with only a Briggs and Stratton under the hood, and I’d still be interested. It gets my vote for most attractive car on the road, inside or out. I wish it weren’t so pricey (or that it were old enough to find some pre-owned ones), else I’d be lobbying my wife to buy one to replace her XC90.

    • Grant Linderman

      Totally agree. And I’m currently the owner of an XC90 V8 with a host of problems.

  • caltemus

    I’m really just interested in the size of the engine bay, as this seems to be the perfect candidate for some crazy four cylinder swap. Maybe a racy mazda MZR just to go nuts with it

  • I’m not a fan of even singlecharged engines, let alone twincharged.

    Upsize and Atkinsonize, not downsize and turbocharge.