• Superchargers were most commonly found on American muscle cars from the early 60s to the late 70s.
• Turbocharging is the preferred method of attaining power in modern performance vehicles.
• There are a number of performance cars that use supercharging. We take a look at some of them.
• For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24.
Turbocharging has become the most popular form of tuning in a bid to extract more power from an engine. Similarly, manufacturers have also managed to strike a balance between performance and low fuel consumption.
On the other hand, superchargers are much less spoken about or used for that matter, even though it offers a more instantaneous power delivery as it runs directly from the engine and eliminates any sort of lag a turbo would suffer from.
According to Driving Line, the origins of superchargers date back to the early 1950s where the Ford F-Code 312 V8 used a McCullough-Paxton supercharger.
When whining is better
A number of American manufacturers have opted to go the belt-driven route with their big-block V8 muscle cars. Does anyone remember Dominic Toretto’s Dodge Charger with the massive supercharger protruding from the bonnet in that somewhat iconic last drag race scene in the Fast and the Furious?
Whereas turbochargers emit a “hissing” sound as boost builds, the supercharger has a distinctive “whine” – one of the biggest and most noticeable differences between the two.
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One of the reasons why superchargers aren’t a common feature on most cars is the costs involved. Manufacturers don’t mass-produce them, for starters, so a unit of any sort would need to be custom-built. Brands like Whipple, Vortech and Magnuson are often the most sought-after aftermarket choices.
Unlike superchargers, turbos can bolt-on to a wider variety of engines without breaking the bank in the process.
Turbochargers are commonly used because they’re more practical around the engine bay, whereas a supercharger is much heavier and effectively sits atop the engine. Each has its pros and cons, but ultimately drives home the same message – to force in as much air as possible to create ridiculous amounts of power.
Even though superchargers ticks the performance box all day long, turbochargers offer not only performance, but engine efficiency as well. They are also cheaper to replace and obtain.
With all that said, here are a few cars that make use of superchargers that aren’t big V8s:
2013 Audi S5 Coupe
Audi is more renowned for using potent turbocharged engines mated to its famous Quattro system, but with the B8.5 face-lifted S5, they changed things up a bit.
The guys at Ingolstadt squeezed a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine under the bonnet that packed 245kW. They’ve since gone back to turbocharging.
Toyota Yaris GRMN
2018 Toyota Yaris GRMN
Toyota flexed its muscle with the action-packed GRMN Yaris and gave South African petrolheads a glimpse of what the Japanese brand’s performance arm could do.
Powered by a supercharged 1.8-litre engine, it produced 156kW and 250Nm. Unfortunately, it was never sold here, with 400 units sold worldwide. SA received three units for media purposes.
Lotus Evora GT
2020 Lotus Evora GT
Lotus are famous for using other manufacturers’ engines – namely Toyota. Under the bonnet of the Evora GT is an uprated version of the original supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine that makes 310kW and 430Nm.
It weighs 1 408kg thanks to a number of lightweight options and that translates into a 0-100km/h time of 3.8 seconds.
The MR2, or “Mister Two” as it is also known, received supercharged goodness in the form of a 4A-GZE, 1.6-litre engine. The “Z” in the name is the code for a supercharged version.
Besides making decent power with 108kW and 186Nm, its mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive arrangement lent itself to an even power to weight distribution. It was the only MR2 to make use of supercharging.
Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor
2004 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor
Mercedes-Benz was one of the earlier automakers to experiment with supercharging. It found its home in a number of C Class models like the C180, 200 and 230.
Instead of just using the word supercharger on a slew of its models during the 2000s, Mercedes-Benz made the marketing term “Kompressor” their own.
This particular C230 model made use of a supercharged 1.8-litre engine with 142kW. The Kompressor was also available in a number of AMG-derived models.