Horsepower vs Torque, what’s the Difference?


When it comes to horsepower and torque, you want as much as you can get, right? But what does each one refer to, really? And how are these terms related? In the most general terms, the more torque your car or truck has, the quicker you’ll make that impressive zero to 60 speed-up. It’s important in many situations, like entering the freeway and passing or changing lanes. Once you’ve quickly gotten up to speed, horsepower (hp) is what keeps you there for the long haul. Of course there’s more to it than that.

The Relationship between HP and Torque

  • Torque is a type of force, rotational force, and it’s a component of horsepower. To get a more complete picture, you need to understand the terms “work” and “force” as they are scientifically defined. All these concepts are intimately related. Here’s how the relationship works:
  • Force is pushing or pulling action, but it doesn’t become work until movement happens as a result. (Torque is a particular type of force–a rotational or twisting force.) If resistance matches the force being applied, there may be no movement at all. If you tried to push your car out of a ditch but can’t budge it, you have used force, but you have not done any work. You might be tired and sweaty—but the heavy car has more resistance than the amount of force you’re capable of producing on your own. If you can get a jack under it, you’ll make it easier to lift the car. You will finally do some work! One of the reasons this works is that you’ve increased the distance and given yourself greater leverage by using the jack handle, so you need less force to lift the car.
  • Work requires some movement—which is distance in the equations below:

Distance x Force (or torque, lb-ft) = Work (ft-lb)
Work / Time = Power (hp)?

  • Horsepower, then, is the rate that work is done by the engine, using torque, over a period of time.

Horsepower, Torque and your Car Engine

Engineers design cars to have a practical balance or ratio of hp, vehicle weight, torque and also consider many other factors, like the stroke length of the engine’s pistons. Your car is designed to deliver maximum torque (force) in low gear to get your car moving. Once you’re cruising along on the freeway, with wheels moving at a higher rpm, you’ll get more horsepower out of your engine to maintain high speeds, and less torque. If you’d like even more detail, see this Edmunds article.

Acura: Excellent Use of Horsepower and Torque

Acura is an example of a carmaker that knows how to work the relationship between hp and torque to give drives high performance. Take the RDX, for example. This compact luxury model has everything you could want in an SUV—and it fits in your parking space. This vehicle offers drivers the pure engine power of a 3.5 liter V-6, packing 273 hp at 251 ftlb of torque with a six-speed automatic. It goes from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds! You can choose front or all-wheel drive and enjoy fuel efficiency plus luxury features.

Visit us at Montgomeryville Acura to check out the new Acura RDX and our entire line-up. Whether you reside in Radnor, Tredyffrin, Upper Merion, Bethlehem or Philly—or even if you’re just visiting on vacation—check out our second-to-none selection of Acuras. We’re open 9-9 on Monday-Thursday and 9-6 on Friday and Saturday. We’re at 1009 Bethlehem Pike in Montgomeryville.

Leave A Reply