Horsepower vs Torque: The Definitions and Differences

The engine performance is one of the most significant aspects to consider when you shop for a car. The two variables that most people look for are horsepower and torque. The noob assumption is that the bigger the numbers, the better, which is correct, to a degree. But, knowing the differences between horsepower vs torque along with the meaning of the terms is important to understand the full potential of the engine.

Horsepower vs Torque: The Definitions

Horsepower is a measurement of the amount of work an engine is capable of doing within a specific time. It denotes the power of an engine, which, in physics, is the rate of doing work. One horsepower is equivalent to the amount of work required to move 33,000 pounds one foot in a minute.

In simple automotive terms, torque is the measurement of the rotating force generated by an engine. That force then goes to the transmission gears before being split between the wheels.

torque vs horsepower
Horsepower elicits sport performance from a car. (Photo Source: desktopbackground)

Horsepower vs Torque: The Differences

It’s difficult for an average person to understand the differences between torque vs horsepower. Plenty of people spend money for horsepower when what they were looking for is torque.

horsepower vs torque
Want your car to tow heavy stuff? Go for torque. (Photo Source: hiconsumption)

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The torque value of an engine regulates its acceleration. It is what that makes a vehicle jump off after cranking the engine. When you read an exciting feature like ‘speeds up from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds’, it’s not the credit of the horsepower. Rapid acceleration is the sole credit of torque.

The horsepower is what that helps the car to run with a stable power. After the torque helps a vehicle to kick off and speed up, the horsepower keeps the speed at that point. It helps with a smooth ride and the engine to perform at high speeds without any hiccup.

It will be easier to understand if you consider the difference between a race car and a tractor. Both these vehicles have a high horsepower and torque but one is known for the speed and the other is used for towing heavy loads. Why does this happen?

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In a race car, the torque is applied for speeding through gearing. But, it does not require much work because a race car is not that much heavy that will need an enormous power to be pushed forward. So, there is enough spare horsepower for speeding up.

A tractor is likely to have the same-size engine capable of producing the same amount of horsepower. The vehicle needs that power for accomplishing work through gearing. For this reason, it cannot race because the horsepower is used up for towing and pushing a great amount of weight.

Horsepower vs Torque: Watch a simple explanation in the video below:

Horsepower vs Torque: Which One Should You Prefer While Shopping for a Car?

The horsepower makes a car go fast while torque helps with getting the car off the ground. If you want more pulling power from your car, choose one that achieves a high torque at low RPM. But, a high amount of horsepower is the key if you are a fan of sporty performance on the road.