How often have you thought a car was bad ass because it had a lot of horsepower? 500HP, 100HP, 250HP! But then people start talking about torque and you’re like… huh?
Is there a difference between HP and torque; and if a car has more than the other… does that mean it is more powerful? Trust me, I’ve been asking myself these questions too so let’s dive in and get to the bottom of this!
Know The Difference Between Horsepower (HP) & Torque
The idea is very simple. According to Randy Pobst, the driver for Motor Trend, “torque is the initial punch you feel when you hammer on the accelerator right off the line. Horsepower is how long you are pushed back in your seat.” See the idea is pretty simple!
Torque is what gets your car going and keeps it going. The amount of power at lower RPMs (rate per minute). When you accelerate, torque is what you feel initially as your head thrusts back and continues as your RPMs increase. A.K.A how much oomph your car has. Large engines like a V12 produce more torque since they need to pump more air, and torque is proportional to air flow.
OK, so if torque is what gets your car going & keeps it going, then why do we distinguish a good engine based on its HP? Well, good point. People look at HP because it helps to determine how fast a car can go in 0-60 seconds and how well it handles at high RPMs. It’s the true acceleration point, so with higher HP, you should be able to accelerate much quicker and with more power. Horsepower is actually a mixture of torque and RPM. In fact, we find how much horsepower a car has by using the calculation below:
To truly determine how fast and powerful a car is, you need to look at both HP and torque; Plus braking, transmission type, tires, track condition, etc. You can’t just look at a car a say “hey mine has 350HP and you only have 100HP, so I’m going to beat you”. That might be true on a drag strip, however, you need horsepower plus torque, weight, tire type, traction, braking, fuel, and aerodynamics to tell you which car will win.
So, a car with higher HP might not be the fastest? Correct! It helps, but there are tons of other factors you need to take into consideration to truly determine speed and power. Therefore, the next time you show up in a little lightweight Mini and your friend has a huge suped-up Mustang, don’t think you can’t win;) Just make sure you race on the back roads and don’t expect to be out front first!