This could easily be the most highly debated automotive question of all time. Ask any car guy, or gal, which is more important, torque or horsepower, and they will probably have a very definitive opinion. Ask a few people and you’ll probably get quite a few answers with some people claiming torque is more important while others defend horsepower. Yet, the question of which is more important remains. As the old saying goes, “Horsepower sells cars, but its torque that moves them.” Even the comedian Jerry Seinfeld once weighed in on the argument, saying, “What’s the deal with torque? It’s kind of like horsepower. Sounds like horsepower. Has something to do with power. They should call it torquepower.” Watch any car commercial and you are likely to see all types of boasting about the amount of horsepower that the vehicle has. Without a doubt, horsepower is important. But, it goes hand in hand with torque. Basically, torque is what helps you to reach the speeds you want, while horsepower is responsible for helping you to maintain those speeds. Therefore when it comes to a good tractor pull, both are going to be very important.
Torque And Horsepower Explained:
Before we delve too deeply into that, let’s take a quick walk back in time. The concept of horsepower originated in the 1800s as a measurement of work by James Watt, a steam engine pioneer. Watt coined the term after observing horses at work in a mill. Obviously, vehicles are no longer powered by ponies, and the concept is somewhat arcane, but we still have term today.
By comparison, torque refers to the rotational, twisting forced an engine generates. This is the force that is transferred into the wheels by the drive system. If you step on the accelerator hard and you get thrown back in the seat, that’s torque. In scientific terms, torque is defined as a force’s tendency for an object to rotate around a pivot, fulcrum, or axis. This could be peddling a bicycle or turning the steering wheel of your vehicle. In both activities, there is rotational or circular movement. A pair of forces similar in magnitude but opposite in direction and parallel to one another generate torque. Horsepower is an actual unit of measurement, denoted by the acronym hp. While horsepower is measured over a specified period, torque is simply a measurement of the force that the engine produces during each revolution. Due to this, horsepower is reliant on time, while time is not relevant to torque.
According to Enzo Ferrari, “Horsepower sells cars, torque wins races.” Clearly, when it came to the tug of war between whether torque or horsepower was more important, Ferrari came down on the side of torque, and if anyone should know, it should be him. When it comes to significant amounts of braking, acceleration, and turns, you must have torque, but only if you also have a sufficient amount of horsepower. The opposite is also true.
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Basically, torque and horsepower are two sides of the same thing. You can have one, but without the other, you likely won’t accomplish much. So, when it really comes down to the question of which is more important, torque does seem to have a slight edge over horsepower, but unless you have both working in tandem with one another, your vehicle is still likely going to be sitting idle.
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So, the next time you see a vehicle advertised in terms of HP or you and one of your buddies are sitting around discussing which is more important, and everyone seems to have an opinion, consider where one would be without the other. Both horsepower and torque are important and have their place, but when it is all said and done, if you do not have a sufficient amount of both, you’re not likely to produce much success. If you still have doubts, take a look at the whippin’ this Dodge gave on this Chevy.