Installing a sports car engine in a sedan often results in an unhappy combination, but when Mercedes-Benz took the engine from the SLK230 and dropped it in the C-Class, it added wings to the heels of its entry-level sedan. Stir in the Sport option package, and the solid but stolid C230 becomes a sport compact with a 0-60 mph acceleration time only a tick slower than its V6-powered C280 sibling.
Mercedes renames the C230 in honor of the sports car's engine, appending "Kompressor" - German for supercharger - to the alphanumeric, adding a shiny badge to the trunklid to make sure everyone knows. Anyone driving last year's C230 would quickly find out, however, as the 1999 C230 Kompressor scampers from rest to 60 mph in a factory-claimed 8.1 seconds, a full two seconds faster than the older model. That may not be as quick as the limited-production V8-powered C43 performance sedan that tops the C-Class line-up, but it is quick and the C230 Kompressor is much more accessible with a base price not far over 30 grand.
Our car was equipped with the Sport Package, a remarkable bargain at only $890. It not only sharpens the handling of the C230 Kompressor but also gives the junior Mercedes four-door a slightly naughty track-ready look. The only reason to pass on this package is its slightly firmer ride, but we found the optional sport-tuned suspension pleasantly firm. It's a matter of priorities.