What Matters More, Torque or Horsepower?
— Car and Driver (@CARandDRIVER) April 15, 2016
Torque and horsepower are two prominent vehicle stats that most people don’t reallyunderstand. Horsepower means your car can go faster, and torque means…?
Torque, simply, is the ability of a vehicle to perform work — specifically, the twisting force applied by the crankshaft.
Horsepower is how rapidly the vehicle can perform that work.
For instance, a lightweight sports car that operates at high rpm may have high horsepower, but low torque. That would be a small amount of force applied at a fast rate.
Conversely, most trucks, buses, and tractors have very high torque, and lower horsepower. They need to be able to do a lot of work, but they don’t need to do it very fast.
Of course, horsepower is tied to torque mathematically. Horsepower equals torque multiplied by rpm, divided by a constant. Because there is generally a limit on how fast you can spin an engine, having higher torque allows for greater horsepower at lower rpms. This is also why people talk about “low-end torque” being important for better power at slower speeds.
It gets much more complicated than that, as both torque and horsepower change based on rpms, but now you know why you should look for a pre-owned truck with high torque, if you plan on hauling trailers, and focus on horsepower if you’re looking for speed.