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What Does Kompressor Mean in Mercedes-Benz Cars?

Manufacturers  ·  January 3, 2023

What Does Kompressor Mean in Mercedes-Benz Cars?

If you’re from the 1990s and 2000s, you probably remember those "Kompressor" nameplates on various Mercedes-Benz models. 

There’s no doubt that Mercedes-Benz is one of the biggest names in automotive history, not only because of its iconic marques but also for its innovations and solutions. It is responsible for many firsts in the industry—first electric car, supercharged engine, multi-link suspension, ABS and many other innovations that radically changed the automotive industry.

So, what about the Kompressor? Is this another exclusive technology or just a marketing name for a familiar technology? 

Let's find out in the following paragraphs.

What Is the Meaning of the Kompressor Badge on Mercedes-Benz Cars?

The “Kompressor" name is exclusive to Mercedes-Benz. However, while no other carmaker has ever used such a designation, it wasn't exactly a unique technology. 

To Mercedes-Benz, Kompressor was a designation referring to a supercharger, one of the two most common methods of forced induction. In other words, every time you see this badge on a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, you can be sure that it uses a supercharger.

The history of the Mercedes-Benz Kompressor started way back in 1923 when the company introduced their first supercharged engines—a 1.6-litre Mercedes 6/25 hp and a 2.6-litre Mercedes 10/40 hp units. Those were the first-ever supercharged car engines, but soon after, other manufacturers caught up and started using superchargers as well. 

While other companies called it a supercharger, the German manufacturer continued calling it Kompressor for almost a century. During those years, Mercedes-Benz Kompressor engines and other manufacturers’ superchargers became a relatively common thing. 

The use of this technology peaked in the last decade of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century when we saw some pretty iconic configurations especially among car enthusiasts.

How Does a Kompressor or Supercharger Work?

As already mentioned, Kompressor is nothing more than a marketing name for a supercharger, a type of forced induction. There are no significant differences between the technologies used in the Kompressor and other superchargers.

The whole point of a supercharger is to drive more air into the engine's combustion chamber. More air puts more pressure in the chamber, resulting in more power produced from the same displacement. A supercharger uses a gas compressor or specialised rotors to draw more air, while normally-aspirated engines absorb air without mechanical assistance.

Of course, a supercharger needs to be run by something to absorb air, and that would be the engine. It connects to a crankshaft with a belt or gear, and in the most recent Kompressor units, Mercedes used a classic timing belt.

Why Didn’t Mercedes-Benz Use Turbochargers?

When the German manufacturer was using this technology (in the 1990s and 2000s), turbochargers were already a pretty common thing in the automotive industry. So, many wonder why the company didn’t use them instead, as turbochargers are theoretically more efficient. 

Unlike superchargers that need to be mechanically powered by the engine, turbochargers use airflow from the exhaust system to create additional boost. In practice, this means that turbocharged engines can produce way more power and torque than supercharged units.

However, turbocharging technology wasn't all that advanced back in the day. There were some practical issues, as they needed more time to create a boost. The most typical problem was a so-called turbo lag—a turbocharger would activate at a particular engine speed but not before. 

Prior to the activation of the turbocharger, the engine would be characterised by a significant lack of power. For this reason, turbochargers were predominantly used by sports cars with high-revving engines.

That lack of power consistency was why Mercedes-Benz engineers went for supercharging technology. This company is about luxury and refinement, so things like turbo lags were unacceptable. 

Meanwhile, the turbocharging technology was advancing in big steps, so the turbo lag and other issues were solved. As a result, today's lineup of petrol engines is dominated by turbocharged units.

What Mercedes-Benz Marques Are Offered with a Kompressor Option?

Mercedes-Benz used this technology in the 1990s and 2000s, mostly for their compact sedans like the C-Class and various sports and high-performance vehicles, including those with the AMG badge.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class utilised this powertrain setup more than any other model. The W202 generation, produced between 1993 and 2000, was the first to come with the Kompressor badge. 

Of course, we are talking about the well-known Mercedes-Benz C200 Kompressor, which used a 2.0-litre inline-four supercharged engine with a max output of 132kW and 260Nm of torque. The engine was later upgraded to 141kW and 270Nm of torque.

The company also offered the C230 Kompressor. That unit used a slightly larger 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine, with a max output of 142kW and 280Nm of torque.

The next-generation W203 offered even more Kompressor engines. The most basic variant, C180 Kompressor, was equipped with a 1.8-litre supercharged engine (max output: 105kW and 220Nm torque), while the C200 Kompressor came with a 2.0-litre unit (max output: 120kW and 230Nm torque). 

They later upgraded the engine with direct fuel injection and increased output. Finally, there was the C230 Kompressor, equipped with a 143-kW 2.3-litre engine.

The W204 was the last generation of C-Class with Kompressor engines. Base C180 models used a 1.6-litre supercharged engine with a max output of 115kW and 230Nm of torque. The C200 Kompressor was powered by a 1.8-litre engine (max output: 135kW and 250Nm torque). Although this generation was produced until 2014, Kompressor units were discontinued in 2010.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class, S-Class, CLS-Class

The E-Class was also offered in Kompressor variants, mainly in the E200 variant. The W210 was offered in several variants, with output ranging between 120kW and 141kW. The next-generation W211 was also available in an E200 Kompressor variant, with 120kW (later upgraded to 135kW).

Besides four-cylinder engines, the German carmaker also used Kompressor technology in the high-performance AMG 55 model, with a 5.4-litre V8 engine that was good for about 350kW and 700Nm of torque. The same engine was used for the AMG variant of the W220 S-Class full-size sedan and the CLS AMG 55 fastback.

Mercedes-Benz CLK and SLK

This sports coupe and convertible was another model to feature Kompressor engines. The first generation was produced between 1998 and 2003. It was offered in a CLK 200 Kompressor variant, with either 120kW or 143kW. The CLK 230 Kompressor was also offered, with 145kW and 280Nm of torque. The SLK 2-door roadster came with the same engines.

The second-generation model came in 2002, and CLK 200 Kompressor was its base variant, with a 1.8-litre supercharged engine with 120kW. The engine was later upgraded to 135kW. Once again, the second-generation SLK used the same engines as CLK.

Mercedes-Benz SL

This 2-door grand tourer also had a 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine in the AMG iteration. However, it featured slightly more power than the E-Class, S-Class and CLS-Class models, with 368kW. After the 2006 facelift, the max output went up to 380kW and 720Nm of torque. That version continued in 2008.

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By Nebojsa Grmusa

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