If a car had a turbocharger in the past, that usually indicated that the vehicle was a performance model. But that’s not necessarily true for cars today or in recent decades. Car manufacturers now use turbos to increase fuel efficiency alongside acceleration because they give larger engines more power while burning less gas.
Turbochargers are common in both high-horsepower applications and economy cars. Therefore, you may benefit from upgrading to a better model or making modifications to take advantage of new turbo technology. Here are a few classic factory stock turbocharged cars worth upgrading and how you can improve their power.
Porsche 944 Turbo (1985-1991)
If you’re willing to accept a water-cooled, inline-four engine in the front of your Porsche, then the 944 Turbo will give you a great experience on the road. The 944 Turbo was the top trim level for this Porsche model, boasting 217 horsepower initially in 1985, then increasing it to 250 in 1988.
Pontiac Trans Am Firebird (1989)
A few Firebirds come with a factory-installed turbo, but the 1989 models do it best. It’s easy to dismiss this as a Pontiac with a six-cylinder, but it has an impressive 250 horsepower to catch your attention. A Firebird T/A also released that year has a 5.7-liter V-8 but only delivers 235 horsepower.
Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 (1990-2000)
Even though the base level of the 3000GT provided only 160 horsepower, the VR-4 was light-years ahead with an impressive 296 horsepower. The turbocharged 3000GT can compete with cars well above its price range.
Ford Mustang SVO (1984-1986)
The Mustang SVO received a boost in horsepower thanks to the fuel injection and an intercooler. This bumped up the power despite a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. And even though the SVO has a cult following, the prices have stayed reasonable.
Dodge Neon SRT4 (2003-2005)
The Dodge Neon might not seem like it belongs on this list, but the SRT4 is an underrated vehicle with performance numbers that outmatch even the Mustang GT. This model of the Dodge Neon delivers an astonishing 215 horsepower.
Subaru Impreza WRX STI (2004-2007)
Car enthusiasts were and still are in love with the STI. The Japanese market had similar vehicles before introducing the US to the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. It delivers an AWD-baes chassis that’ll give you a whopping 300 horsepower. Even though the stock base level offers plenty of power, the aftermarket version has many options if you’re looking to upgrade.
Why You Should Upgrade an Existing Turbocharger
If your car already has a turbocharger, you might wonder why you need to upgrade. But upgrading to a new turbo, or even a new actuator, can give you a better performance. These stock factory turbocharged cars are decades old, and turbo technology has come a long way since then. In the same way that you would upgrade an older car’s suspension or brakes, upgrading the turbo will help you get the most out of your vehicle.
How To Upgrade a Stock Car Turbocharger
If you’re the lucky owner of a turbocharged vehicle, you already enjoy better performance and gas mileage than other drivers. But you can increase your performance more when you upgrade your stock car turbocharger:
Install a New Intercooler
When the air enters your turbo, it’s hot, which isn’t ideal for two reasons: the air is less dense, and if the air is hot enough, it can detonate your engine. An intercooler lowers the incoming air’s temperature to make it denser, giving it more power. Most factory intercoolers aren’t as powerful as aftermarket, and you could potentially get more power from a newer version.
Add Water Injection
For some stock cars, you can’t add an intercooler. Your next best option is to install a water injection to bring the air temperature down. This helps cool the inlet charge by spraying a mist onto the pipe, so the water absorbs the air’s heat as it evaporates.
Modify the Boost Pressure
The boost directly relates to your engine’s power, and the more boost you have, the better—if you don’t blow your engine. You can add appropriate boost levels to your car by updating the ECU chip. It’s in the injection system and regulates how much air and fuel enter your engine.
Add Nitrous Oxide
Even when used moderately, adding nitrous oxide to your engine adds tremendous power. However, you’ll have an even greater boost with an existing turbo in your vehicle. Why? Nitrous oxide is very cold, much denser than intercooler cooled air, and will give your car instant power.
Install a Screamer Pipe
A screamer pipe might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it can help you. A screamer pipe makes a lot of noise, much to the irk of your neighbors, but it allows exhaust gas only to escape once maximum boost occurs.
Use the Correct Fuel
The right fuel can give you better performance, too. A high-octane fuel makes your vehicle more resistant to knocking or detonation and gives your turbo the ability to run on a higher boost. But make sure the combustion rate matches your car, or you’ll have serious engine trouble.
Install a Wastegate
A wastegate is a valve that helps the turbocharger avoid pitfalls, like turbo lag. It separates the gas from the manifold to the exhaust before passing through the turbo, preventing it from spinning too fast. Vehicles typically have wastegates, but larger turbos sometimes need a separate wastegate to help with performance.
Replacing the Turbocharger
Since turbocharger technology has advanced significantly, you might want to swap out yours for a new one. Adding a turbocharger to a vehicle that doesn’t have one can be difficult, but the process is easier for a vehicle that already has an existing turbo. Doing so will allow the engine to handle more boost. Even modifying the system with a bigger compressor or housing is beneficial, too.
Find Turbocharger Parts From Turbo Turbo
These six factory stock turbocharged cars worth upgrading aren’t the only vehicles you can modify to improve performance. Browse our selection of MHI turbo parts and other brands to find the right modification you need to boost your car’s power. Contact us at Turbo Turbo for guidance on the right modification to your stock car.