What is torque?

I know horsepower relates to how powerful a car is versus another, but what is torque? Why is it different than horsepower? Should I consider torque numbers when researching new cars? Is it more important for different types of vehicles?

Paul, Boca Raton, Fla.

As you know, an engine’s output is rated in horsepower and torque. Torque is pulling power, and it’s best demonstrated as the grunt that gets you moving, while horsepower is what keeps you going.

Without sounding like your high-school physics teacher, torque is the twisting force created in an engine by rotating parts; horsepower is the measurement of how fast torque is being used. Horsepower and torque work hand-in-hand, as horsepower is calculated from torque.

For the average buyer, torque shouldn’t be a deciding factor unless you know you’ll be towing or hauling heavy loads. And that’s where high-torque vehicles will thrive, driving while towing a trailer or maxing out cargo capacity. It will be easier to accelerate and sustain speed with a high-torque car in any situation, but especially with heavy loads.

High-performance cars can also produce gobs of torque that greatly aid in acceleration. That feeling of your eyeballs being sucked into the back of your head in a fast car during heavy right-foot pounding is an example of excessive torque.

Answered by Joe Bruzek on April 30, 2007 in What Does This Mean? | Permalink

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