What is the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger?

On May 1st, 2015 / By

What is the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger

Editor’s note: In the video below, Audi Brand Specialist Scott Wondrasch discusses the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger in the Audi engine lineup. Below that is a more in-depth article that Scott wrote up to accompany the video.



What is the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger? The answer is relatively simple –  but first lets highlight what these components do for the engine. In theory, an engine is an air pump – designed to suck in air, mix the air with fuel, combust, and push the air back out again. An engine does this hundreds of times per minute depending on how many cylinders it has and how fast it is running. Both the supercharger and the turbocharger compress air and force it into the engine. This is called “forced induction”. A forced induction engine retains the power typically lost at higher altitudes (like here in Colorado) because it is pressurizing the air before it passes into the engine. An engine without forced induction is limited to only the air pressure present in the atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure and density of the oxygen in the air goes down by about 3% per 1,000 ft above sea level. At 10,000 ft of elevation (like at the top of Vail Pass) that’s 30% of your engine power lost!

The Audi Turbocharger Explained

A turbo charger is considered the more efficient design because it uses exhaust gas that is already headed out the tailpipe to turn a compressor and pressurize air into the engine. Because of this design, turbochargers do not give instant pressure, they take a short time to get going, which is often referred to as “turbo-lag.” The trade off is a slightly slower throttle response and a little lag in the lower rpm range for a more efficient overall engine. The Audi turbo charged engine can be found on the following models: allroad, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q3, Q5, Q7, S3, S6, S7, and S8.

The Audi Supercharger Explained

A supercharger is a completely different design and is powered by a belt from your engine that turns a compressor to pressurize the air. Since the belt driven supercharger goes up in speed with the engine, its output is directly related to engine RPM and therefore is instantly able to make pressure when you step on the gas. This characteristic is the reason a supercharger has better throttle response than a turbo. However, because the supercharger uses the engines rotating power to turn the compressor, the efficiency isn’t as great as that of a turbocharger. The 3.0T supercharged V-6 has found its way under the hood of seven different models in the Audi line up: S4, S5, A6, A7, A8, Q5, and the Q7. Audi drivers aren’t the only ones who have been enjoying this engine, it is also used in the Porsche Cayenne and the Panamera, as well as the VW Touareg. It’s no surprise that this engine has been voted to Ward’s 10 Best for 5 years in-a-row.

Turbocharger or Supercharger, which is right for you?

As you can see, there is a choice of engines on the A6, A7, A8, Q5, and Q7 vehicles. So it is up to you… turbocharger for great performance and the very best efficiency or supercharger for great efficiency and the very best performance.

Stop in today to take a test drive to experience firsthand why these engines are disproving the old phrase “there’s no replacement for displacement!”.



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This article was written by Scott Wondrasch, Audi Brand Specialist at Prestige Imports.

Posted in Vehicle Technology
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