Mustang Supercharger Vs. Turbocharger


The debate over whether to supercharge or turbocharge a car is about as old as the car itself. It's no different if the discussion happens to be about the Ford Mustang. Both of these methods are forced induction, which helps the engine produce more power by forcing more air into the motor. Both methods have their benefits and drawbacks. If you're looking for more power from your Mustang, either of these approaches will work.


  • A turbocharger works off of the exhaust. As air is evacuated from the motor, it enters the turbo housing through a special exhaust manifold. The turbo itself is a round unit that contains a turbine wheel that begins to spin as the exhaust enters the housing. This in turn forces more air into the motor and allows it produce more horsepower. Other components of a turbo kit include a wastegate, which controls the amount of boost that the turbo produces. Companies such as Hellion Power Systems produce complete turbo kits for Mustangs that start at about $4,000 in 2009.


  • One of the biggest benefits of turbocharging a Mustang is the high power potential. Turbos are very efficient and operate on air that would have simply gone out of the exhaust. It isn't unusual to see twin turbo Mustangs producing 800 or 900 brake horsepower. Unlike the supercharger, the turbo has less parasitic drag on the motor since it is not belt driven.


  • Because the turbocharger works off of the exhaust, all turbos suffer from some level of turbo lag because the air has to go through the motor before being compressed by the turbo. The amount of lag depends on the type of turbos that are being used. A smaller turbo spins up quicker, but it does not provide as much boost as a larger turbo, which has more lag. Due to the turbos' close proximity to the exhaust manifold, they produce a lot of heat. This in turn is harder on the motor and its components. Because the turbo can produce more boost, there is also the need for more complex engine-control units, which adds to the cost.


  • A supercharger works on the same concept as a turbo, but it works on incoming air. As the air enters the motor, it is forced through the supercharger and then into the motor. There are three main types of superchargers. The centrifugal unit is similar to a turbo. There is also a roots type and the twin-screw. The latter two look similar, but they rely on different internals to move the air through the housing. Vortech offers a kit for the 1986 to 1993 Mustang V8s that costs just more than $3,000 in September of 2009.


  • Since superchargers work off of the incoming air, there is less lag as the power builds, particularly in the roots and twin screw types. Superchargers produce less boost than a turbo and therefore less heat. In turn, that means that they are not as hard on the car as a turbo system. Superchargers also have fewer components. It is far easier for someone to install a supercharger themselves than a turbo.


  • Unlike a turbo, which is simply driven by exhaust gasses as they leave the motor, a supercharger relies on a belt driven off of the engine to spin the blades (or screws) that force the air into the motor. This creates parasitic drag on the motor, so that potential horsepower is not as great.


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