Best of Both Worlds
Volkswagen has recently released a "Twincharger" engine on a Golf GT. The Twincharger comes with both a supercharger and a turbocharger. At low engine RPM, the supercharger blasts air into the cylinders to enhance low-end torque. At high RPM, when exhaust gases have been produced in sufficient quantity, the turbocharger kicks in to increase top-end performance. The GT, which is available only in Europe, hits 62 miles per hour in 7.9 seconds. It can also reach 136 miles per hour while still delivering 39 miles per gallon.
The biggest disadvantage of superchargers is also their defining characteristic: Because the crankshaft drives them, they must steal some of the engine's horsepower. A supercharger can consume as much as 20 percent of an engine's total power output. But because a supercharger can generate as much as 46 percent additional horsepower, most think the trade-off is worth it.
Supercharging puts an added strain on the engine, which needs to be strong to handle the extra boost and bigger explosions. Most manufacturers account for this by specifying heavy-duty components when they design an engine intended for supercharged use. This makes the vehicle more expensive. Superchargers also cost more to maintain, and most manufacturers suggest high-octane premium-grade gas.
Despite their disadvantages, superchargers are still the most cost-effective way to increase horsepower. Superchargers can result in power increases of 50 to 100 percent, making them great for racing, towing heavy loads or just adding excitement to the typical driving experience.
To learn more about superchargers and related topics, check out the links on the next page.