Home Mods & Performance What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean: Turbocharger, Supercharger

What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean: Turbocharger, Supercharger

by Kelvin Yates

A factory turbocharged car would have been difficult to find—or afford—about 30 or 40 years ago. That is not the case anymore, as is painfully obvious. The naturally aspirated breed is on the chopping block since almost all automakers worldwide now put focus on turbocharged engines. Nobody other than the auto industry executives is responsible for the turbo phenomenon.

But why is the naturally aspirated engine on the endangered species list, and what prevents N/A engines from regaining their former glory? Internal combustion engines that use atmospheric pressure to bring in air for burning are known as naturally aspirated engines.

Naturally aspirated engines only draw in the air during the intake stroke of the piston, as opposed to turbocharged or supercharged engines. Compared to engines with a supercharger vs turbocharger, a naturally aspirated engine is often simpler in construction and contains fewer components.

Even so, more and more automakers are eschewing naturally aspirated engines in favor of turbocharged and supercharged ones. But some of you might just be asking what the distinction is between them. We’ve got you covered and all of your questions are answered in detail below.

Naturally Aspirated

An internal combustion engine is classified as naturally aspirated if it draws air for burning exclusively through atmospheric pressure. This indicates that there isn’t any forced induction, like a turbocharger or supercharger, to boost the volume of air entering the engine. Instead, the engine draws air through the intake valves using the hoover produced by the piston’s downward stroke.

To generate power, fuel is combined with the air brought in and ignited in the combustion chamber. The displacement, valve size, and intake manifold layout of the engine all have an impact on how much air can enter it.  As a result, the power output of a naturally aspirated engine directly relates to its size and efficiency.

Normally, naturally aspirated engines have a linear power delivery. That includes some of the most powerful engine models in a car. This means that as the engine revs up, the power output rises gradually.  In contrast, turbocharged or supercharged engines may experience brief power spikes as a result of forced induction.

A naturally aspirated engine has the benefit of being simple and straightforward. Due to the lack of complicated turbochargers or supercharger systems, it may be less expensive to produce and maintain. Moreover, it doesn’t experience turbo lag, a problem with turbocharged engines (not to mention other issues such as the P0299 OBD error code) that delays the delivery of power.

The drawback of a naturally aspirated engine is that air pressure regulates how much power it can produce. Because of this, these engines often have lower power output than comparable-sized engines with turbochargers or superchargers.

Automobile manufacturers have moved to turbocharging and supercharging to increase performance while also adhering to fuel economy and emissions requirements. Nonetheless, naturally aspirated engines are still used in multiple instances, like in high-performance sports cars and race cars.

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars

There have been many excellent naturally aspirated cars produced over the years. Opinions on which are the “greatest” ones might change depending on individual requirements and tastes. However, here are a few celebrated cars with naturally aspirated engines that are frequently regarded as the best.

What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars #1: Porsche 911 GT3

The legendary Porsche 911 sports car has a high-performance version called the GT3. Its naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six engine is one of the most potent naturally aspirated engines in a production automobile right now. It generates up to 502 horsepower and revs up to 9,000 rpm. The 911 GT3 is often regarded as one of the most enjoyable sports cars.

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars #2: Mazda RX-7

Mazda produced the RX-7 sports car from 1978 to 2002. Its rotary engine, which uses a unique triangle rotor design instead of pistons, was naturally aspirated in various variants and produced up to 276 horsepower. The RX-7 also has balanced driving dynamics, thanks to its front-midship layout.

These combined with its lightweight design contribute to its nimble handling characteristics and engaging driving experience. If you want to learn more, check out our explainers on whether are rotary engines reliable, as well as the Mazda 20B engine, and an MX-5 Miata engine swap project.

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars #3: Ferrari 812 Superfast

The naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine in the Ferrari 812 Superfast generates 789 horsepower and 530 lb-ft of torque. Revving up to 8,900 rpm, the engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 812 Superfast’s engine is one of the last naturally aspirated V12s.

It offers performance and an exhaust note that are distinctive from those of turbocharged and supercharged engines.

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars #4: Lexus LFA

The Lexus LFA is a truly special sports car (and the fastest Lexus car), known for its exceptional engineering and stunning design.  Its 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V10 engine, which generates an astounding 552 horsepower, is one of its distinguishing factors. But it’s not just the power that makes this engine special. It’s also the sound (fun fact: go check out our guide on where is the catalytic converter located).

The engine of the LFA emits a distinctive, high-pitched howl that is unmatched by anything else on the road. The LFA flaunts a unique exhaust system, which uses several resonators to accentuate the engine’s characteristic note. The sound has been compared to that of a Formula 1 car. Many auto enthusiasts fall in love with the LFA simply because of its sound.

Best Naturally Aspirated Cars #5: Lamborghini Aventator SVJ

The Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is the apex of the Aventador range. It has a naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 engine that produces 759 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain allows it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

The SVJ also has improved aerodynamics and suspension components, as well as lightweight materials like carbon fiber. These components provide superb handling and track-ready performance. The Aventador SVJ is a true automotive masterpiece, with its striking look and amazing performance potential.

Most Powerful Naturally Aspirated V8

Here are some of the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 cars:

Most Powerful Naturally Aspirated V8: 2023 Corvette C8 Z06

Many auto aficionados are still baffled by the 2023 Corvette Z06. It has left us wondering how the American manufacturer managed to create the most potent naturally aspirated V8 engine ever to be found in a production vehicle. A new 670-hp 5.5-liter flat plane-crank naturally aspirated V8 engine powers the new Corvette Z06 DOHC.

The Split Intake Manifold on the LT6 uses Helmholtz resonance to raise the pressure inside the manifold. Helmholtz resonance essentially means that higher-pressured air inside a hollow will flow out when the external force forcing the air is removed. This cycle repeats, asymptomatically growing and reducing the pressure oscillation magnitudes.

It’s not a new idea in the automotive industry to optimize engine airflow at low revs, but Chevrolet’s engineers have carried it to the limit with the Z06 DOHC’s V8. To say the new LT6 engine is revolutionary would be an understatement. Just be mindful of some of the common Chevy C8 Corvette problems.

The idea of improving engine airflow at low revs is not new to the automotive industry. But Chevrolet’s engineers have taken it to the limit with the Z06 DOHC’s V8. It would be an understatement to call the new LT6 engine revolutionary. Further, Chevrolet’s brave decision to offer it as naturally-aspirated is appreciated by fans of the distinct sound.

General Motors asserts that the new LT6 engine is an entirely original creation with no elements from its predecessors. However, all of Chevy’s small-block V8s have a 4.4-inch bore center, even the LT5 of the C4 ZR1.

Turbocharged Engine

What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean

An internal combustion engine that uses a turbocharger to boost its power output is known as a turbocharged engine. By compressing the air that enters the engine, the turbocharger increases fuel combustion, which increases power. Essentially, a turbocharger is a kind of air pump that pumps more air into the engine to increase its output.

Due to their capacity to provide more power without the need for expanding the engine’s size or weight, turbocharged engines have grown in popularity in recent years. This is especially helpful in situations when greater power output is sought yet weight and size are limiting concerns.

As more air is forced inside by the turbocharger, less fuel is required to produce the same amount of power. This means that turbocharged engines can also offer higher fuel efficiency. Otherwise, if you want to consider installing one in your car, check out our previous discussion on whether can you put a turbo in any car.

The fact that turbocharged engines produce more heat than naturally aspirated engines is one of their key disadvantages. This may result in shorter engine life and more severe wear and tear on the engine’s parts. Also, because the turbocharger itself is susceptible to deterioration over time, turbocharged engines could need more frequent maintenance.

In summary, a turbocharged engine is an effective and potent variety of internal combustion engine that boosts its output via a turbocharger. Turbocharged engines are a popular option for many applications where high power output is desired without increasing the size or weight of the engine.

Despite some disadvantages, such as increased heat generation and maintenance requirements, turbocharged engines are the common choice now.

Different Types Of Turbo

Here are some of the different types of turbochargers:

Single Turbo

Single turbos are available in various configurations. Different compressor wheel sizes and turbines will produce torque with very distinct properties. Bigger turbos will produce a lot of top-end power, but smaller ones will have more low-end grunt.

There are also single turbos with ball bearings and journal bearings. The compressor and turbine spin more quickly on ball bearings because they reduce friction.

What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean


Just like when using a single turbocharger, there are several possibilities for employing two turbochargers. One turbocharger might be used for each cylinder bank. Alternatively, a smaller turbocharger can be employed for high RPM and a single larger turbocharger for low RPMs.

Even two identically sized turbos may be employed, one at low RPM and the other at higher RPM. This is the reason why so many enthusiasts are keen on installing a twin-turbo for a Camaro V6, or a Mazda RX-8 turbo kit for added performance.

Twin-Scroll Turbo

Single-scroll turbos are inferior to twin-scroll turbochargers in almost every respect. A twin-scroll; turbo splits exhaust pulses using two scrolls. For instance, cylinders 1 and 4 of a four-cylinder engine (firing order 1-3-4-2) might feed to one turbo scroll while cylinders 2 and 3 might feed to a different scroll.

Supercharged Engine

An internal combustion engine that uses a mechanical compressor to boost the amount of air it receives is known as a supercharged engine. Typically, a belt that is attached to the engine’s crankshaft drives the compressor, allowing it to spin at the same rate as the engine.

In comparison to a naturally aspirated engine of the same size, a supercharged engine can produce more power by compressing the air that enters the engine. This is because the compressor can push more air into the engine, allowing more fuel to be burned.

High-performance vehicles like sports cars and racing cars frequently use supercharged engines because they can produce significantly more power. Supercharged engines can also produce more power at lower RPMs, which is also advantageous in situations like drag racing.

However, since supercharged engines produce a lot of heat, they could also harm the engine components. This is one of their main disadvantages. Hence, most supercharged engines have intercoolers installed. These are used to cool compressed air before it enters the engine.

Supercharger Vs Turbo

Giving an engine a boost in the literal sense is a terrific method to improve its performance. Both turbochargers and superchargers function by introducing more air into an engine than it would normally get. Both of these technologies have been around for more than a century, and they were first used in early airplane engines.

A turbocharger uses the engine’s exhaust gases to spin the turbine and push air into the engine. On the other hand, a supercharger draws power from the engine it is connected to. This is the primary distinction between the two.

Both turbochargers and superchargers have benefits and drawbacks and can be utilized to boost power, fuel efficiency, or both. The “free” energy that would otherwise be fully wasted in the exhaust is partially utilized by turbochargers.

Running the turbine does result in a rise in exhaust backpressure, which places some strain on the engine. But the overall loss is typically less than operating a supercharger, which places a direct mechanical strain on the engine.

Yet whereas turbochargers normally experience some response lag as the exhaust pressure needed to spin the turbine develops, superchargers can deliver their boost nearly immediately. This means that they can deliver their boost nearly quickly, in contrast to turbochargers. Turbos normally experience some response lag as the exhaust pressure needed to spin the turbine develops.

Difference Between Turbo And Supercharger In Terms Of Efficiency

Since a supercharger draws its power from the engine, its design reduces efficiency by increasing the strain on the engine. Usually, this manifests itself in lower average fuel economy. In addition, already inefficient, larger, more powerful engines perform best when using superchargers.

On the other hand, a turbocharger uses exhaust, a byproduct of internal combustion, before it leaves the vehicle through the tailpipe. The engine’s power has no bearing on those gases. Smaller engines that, might not produce much horsepower can churn out more power when equipped with turbochargers.

Although a turbocharger won’t increase an engine’s fuel efficiency, it will enable it to produce more horsepower from a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine. When comparing turbochargers vs. superchargers, a turbocharger is more likely to be found in a fuel-efficient car than a supercharger.

The capacity to generate higher power even from smaller engines is one of the key benefits of turbocharged engines. This implies that cars with turbocharged engines frequently offer higher performance and acceleration than those with naturally aspirated engines of the same size.

However, they might need routine maintenance and may be more expensive to fix. Further, they could be more difficult and expensive to operate than naturally aspirated engines. The possibility of turbo lag is yet another disadvantage of turbocharged engines.

This can cause a longer response time and less consistent power delivery, which can be especially obvious while accelerating from a stop or at low speeds. The decision between a naturally aspirated and a turbocharged engine ultimately comes down to the individual requirements and preferences of the driver.

Those who prioritize performance and sheer power may favor turbocharged engines. However, those who value simplicity and reliability may favor naturally aspirated engines. The ideal option will rely on a variety of factors, including money, driving style, and personal preferences. In any event, both types of engines have their benefits and drawbacks.

To get air and fuel into the engine’s cylinders, both naturally aspirated and supercharged engines rely on manifold pressure. The unit used to measure ambient pressure as well as manifold pressure is inches of mercury (inHg).

A normally aspirated engine’s manifold pressure cannot exceed the barometric pressure, which is the atmospheric pressure. As a result, at wide open throttle, the pressure in the intake manifold pushing air into the cylinders is exactly equal to the atmospheric pressure, neither higher nor lower.

On the other hand, a supercharged engine can increase the manifold pressure by compressing the air entering the manifold. This additional pressured air is known as “boost” in automotive applications. Instead of being stated in inches of mercury, the pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (psi).

An extra five inches of Mercury is equivalent to 2.45 pounds per square inch (psi) of boost.

Using a supercharger on your engine has numerous apparent benefits. But the biggest benefit is unquestionably the power potential. Being able to pump pressured air into an engine significantly enhances its performance. The larger the supercharger, the more power an engine can produce.

An engine’s performance is directly correlated to the amount of air and fuel it takes into its cylinders (in other words, the air-to-fuel ratio, as well as the best air-fuel ratio). As there is no supercharger, ductwork, intercooler, or drive system to fit into the engine compartment, simplicity is perhaps the main benefit of a normally aspirated (non-supercharged) performance engine.

Opting for a normally aspirated engine has the additional benefit of being less expensive. In conclusion, a sweet-sounding, high-revving normally aspirated engine might be more appropriate for most. Others may prefer the whining of a supercharger, and the wide power band of a boosted engine can surely be worth the cost.

Cars With Turbo And Supercharger

Both superchargers and turbochargers have specific advantages and drawbacks that are exclusive to them. Although superchargers are more parasitic on the engine, turbochargers take longer to spool up. The best of both worlds would be nice if only it were possible.

The good news is that a few engines feature both turbocharging and supercharging. These are known as twin-charged engines, and they are quite uncommon. The most popular twin-charged vehicles in the US are the latest Volvo models. Maybe this unusual engine design will start to be used by more brands.

However, twin-charged engines have been more popular in Europe. Beginning in 2005, the VW Group installed a 1.4-liter twin-charged engine in many of their vehicles. Together with the Audi A1, this engine was also offered in VW, Skoda, and Seat models. The Scirocco and Polo GTI were two of our favorite models, but neither was ever sold in the US.

What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean: Conclusion

The most basic and popular kind of engine is the naturally aspirated engine. Instead of using forced induction, they rely on the internal combustion process of the engine to produce power. They are perfect for motorists who value smooth and linear power delivery and enjoy the soundtrack of the motor.

For drivers who prefer sporty driving and need a lot of power, turbocharged engines are a good choice because they tend to produce power more aggressively. Superchargers, on the other hand, deliver power differently than turbochargers do, with power available at low RPMs. They are thus perfect for drivers who demand instantaneous power delivery and quicker acceleration.

In conclusion, the decision between a naturally aspirated engine, a turbocharged engine, or a supercharged engine is influenced by several elements. These include personal preference, driving behavior, and the intended purpose of the vehicle.

FAQs On What Does Naturally Aspirated Mean

Here are some popular FAQs on what does naturally aspirated mean:

What’s Better Supercharger Or Turbo

Turbochargers produce high levels of power without significantly increasing the weight or size of the engine. On the other hand, superchargers deliver power instantly and accelerate quickly. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste as well as the precise specifications of the vehicle and its intended purpose.

How Does A Supercharger Work

A supercharger forces more air into the engine by a belt-driven compressor. This increases the quantity of fuel that can be burned, generating more power. Unlike a turbocharger, which operates intermittently, the compressor runs continuously and boosts power more quickly. Instead of being built into the intake manifold, superchargers can be installed on top of the engine.

What Is A Naturally Aspirated Engine

A naturally aspirated engine draws air for burning using ambient pressure. To boost the amount of air entering the engine, these engines do not utilize forced induction, like a supercharger or turbocharger. They are less complicated and more dependable than forced induction engines since they rely on the engine’s own suction to draw in air.

What Is A Turbocharger

Turbocharger is a forced induction system that uses a compressor that is powered by a turbine to boost the quantity of air going into the engine. A compressor is spun by the engine’s exhaust gases, which are then directed through a turbine, into the engine. In comparison to naturally aspirated engines, this enhances power output and can offer higher levels of performance.

Can You Turbo And Supercharge A Car

Theoretically speaking, a car can have both a turbocharger and a supercharger installed simultaneously to create a twin-charged engine. However, the engine and auxiliary parts must be significantly modified for this complicated and pricey alteration. Maintaining reliability might be challenging while balancing the boost levels from both systems. Twin-charged engines are uncommon and usually exclusively used in high-performance racing vehicles.

What Is The Difference Between A Turbocharger And A Supercharger

The primary distinction between a turbocharger and a supercharger is how compressed air is produced and delivered into the engine. A supercharger is driven by a belt attached to the engine crankshaft, while a turbocharger is powered by exhaust gases. As they take time to spool up, turbochargers normally offer a more progressive rise in power, whereas superchargers offer a more rapid power delivery.

Do All Diesels Have Turbos

Even though not all diesel engines have turbochargers, many modern ones do. By boosting the volume of air entering the engine, turbochargers assist diesel engines in gaining more power and efficiency. Due to financial or design limitations, a turbocharger may not be present in older or some smaller diesel engines.

Do Superchargers Need Intercoolers

Intercoolers can improve superchargers by lowering the temperature of the compressed air before it enters the engine. Because cooler air is denser, it can help boost power and avert detonation. Yet not all supercharged engines need intercoolers. Depending on the particular engine, the amount of boost being produced, and the operating circumstances, an intercooler may or may not be necessary.

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