Ever since the first petrol cars were invented, the main thing that manufacturers tend to brag about is how much horsepower and torque the engines make. While in the early days, the numbers were ridiculously low for today’s standards, modern performance cars have started to break the four-digit numbers.
The definitions for horsepower and torque require some physics knowledge to understand them completely. Torque is the rotational force that goes to the wheels from the engine and through the gearbox, while horsepower is the work that the rotational force can do. In much simpler terms, the torque is mostly responsible for how fast your car will accelerate, while the horsepower is what determines the top speed – the torque will get your car moving, but the horsepower will keep the speed.
The most common error people make is to determine if a car will accelerate fast if it has a lot of power. Having a million-horsepower engine with less than 100-pound feet of torque will mean that the car will be fast, but it will take ages to reach that speed.
As the era of the naturally aspirated engines begins to die, turbocharged engines are getting more and more popular, and one of the main reasons is the torque output.
Almost all turbocharged engines will produce more torque than horsepower. In addition to that, you will also gain a slightly more flat torque curve with more of it in the lower rev range.
In order to understand this, you need to understand how an engine works. A combination of air and fuel mixture is pushed into the cylinders, it gets ignited, and that moves the pistons, producing power and torque. With each cycle, the gases are exhausted, and everything repeats itself several thousand times a minute. When you start to reach the upper end of the rev range, the engine starts to reach the limitation of how much air it can pull in. There are some aftermarket options to increase the air intake and exhaust, but there are limitations to that. Once you start reaching them, you reach a point when the engine “breathing” cycles cannot keep up with the RPMs, and you start to see a decline in the torque.
It depends on the cars you have in mind. Heavily modified cars, especially ones designed to hit the drag strip, reach mind-bending numbers like over 10000 horsepower and almost 8000-pound feet of torque.
If you are thinking about production cars, then you are looking at a different type of variance. On the electric side of things, you have cars like the Lotus Evija, Aspark Owl, Rimac C_Two, and Pininfarina Battista, which make over 1900 horsepower. The petrol-engined cars are close behind with the Hennessey Venom F5, SSC Tuatara, Koenigsegg Gemera, and Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+, making anywhere from 1600 to 1800 horsepower.