Horsepower and Torque Overview

While researching for your next used vehicle purchase, we recommend you look out for two specifications that relate directly to the performance of a vehicle – horsepower and torque. While it is true that higher horsepower and torque can equate to better acceleration or improved towing capacity, how they relate to each other and what makes them both useful metrics are good things to understand when shopping for your next used car, truck, van, or SUV.

What is Horsepower?

Horsepower (abbreviated “hp”) measures the amount of power an engine or electric motor can produce in a specified amount of time (such as one second or one minute). The horsepower listed for a vehicle represents the maximum power the engine or motor can produce at a particular engine speed, measured in revolutions per minute or “rpm” (for example, 250 hp at 4000 rpm). As engine speed increases from an idle state, the horsepower will increase until it reaches a peak, and then it will start to fall. Transmissions help keep an engine in a particular speed range for better acceleration.

Since max horsepower is typically not reached unless the engine or motor is at a higher rpm, horsepower doesn’t help as much with gaining speed from a stop. Instead, horsepower assists with achieving and maintaining higher top speeds. The fastest cars in the world, such as high-performance supercars and sport sedans, often have very high horsepower figures and can reach impressive top speeds.

What is Torque?

Torque measures the power or twisting force an engine or motor can produce — it gets the wheels turning and your vehicle moving down the road. Vehicles with higher torque engines, often measured in pound-feet (abbreviated lb.-ft.), typically have better “off-the-line” acceleration.

Some vehicles with high-torque engines, such as certain trucks, can typically haul or tow heavier loads when properly equipped. A vehicle with more torque than a comparably sized vehicle with less torque will often feel faster and more powerful when accelerating from a stop. Horsepower and torque can have very similar numbers for some vehicles, while for others, one may be much higher or lower. Understanding what these two metrics represent and which type of power you need or want can help you decide which vehicle or engine to choose.

Diesel Engines and Electric Motors

If you are looking for a vehicle with excellent torque, diesel engines and electric motors are a great choice. Typically found only in pickup trucks and some SUVs, diesel engines often have lower horsepower but higher torque, allowing them to efficiently tow heavy trailers or other cargo when compared to a conventional gasoline engine truck. While a diesel truck may not be the fastest accelerating vehicle, they more than make it up with their impressive hauling and towing capabilities.

Electric vehicles also have higher torque than most similar gasoline-powered vehicles thanks to their electric motors. Their instant-on power means you have torque available immediately without needing to “rev up” an engine. This gives electric vehicles excellent acceleration and responsiveness, especially at lower speeds. Hybrid vehicles with electric motors also often benefit from this instant-on torque, giving them good acceleration while conserving fuel.

You can find a selection of vehicles with varying horsepower and torque at your local Enterprise Car Sales dealership and by searching Enterprise Car Sales’ inventory online. If you have any questions, one of Enterprise Car Sales’ friendly team members would be happy to assist you with finding the right vehicle for you.

Find Your Next Used Vehicle at Enterprise Car Sales

Check out our cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans for sale at Enterprise Car Sales.


JD Power, KBB