By on March 6, 2008

00_mercedes-benz_brabus_1.jpgMy car has 224 hp. I'm suddenly mature enough to not bother racing people at stop lights (especially since that CTS-V humbled me). I only use all my car's strength when I'm getting on the freeway or when I'm at a red light in the left hand lane and need to quickly get over to the right. And you know what? It's more than enough. I was going to write up a whole post about Lightning taking pre-orders for their 700 hp GT EV, but… what's the point? (Sidenote: TTAC will be taking pre-orders for our new 1,200 hp vapor electric car soon) Unless you routinely drag race (and I'm talking, you know, all the friggin' time) what on earth do you need 700 hp for? I'm not in any way suggesting we cap output, I just want to know who's buying these beasts? And why? For the record, 420 hp feels just about right. You?

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100 Comments on “Question of the Day: How Much Horsepower Is Too Much?...”


  • avatar
    RedStapler

    I’d say 300-400hp as the upper limit on all but exotics. Heck a Minivan of today has more power than a Camaro of yesteryear.

    Don’t the Japanese OEMs have some sort of a gentlemens agreement not to exceed 300hp?

    For real fun try to merge a a semi with triple trailers onto the freeway. You can merge anything onto the freeway with patience, foresight and an air-horn.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    If the car is pulling itself along, about 250 hp. Otherwise I don’t understand the question.

  • avatar
    ScottMcG

    I agree Jonny – 420 HP is just about right…for a motorcycle.

    Seriously, for a normal-sized car 300 is probably all you’ll need off the track. I like to go fast and all, but you can do that without a ton of power. It just takes longer to get there.

  • avatar

    somewhere around 400-500. 400+hp cars seem to me pretty silly. I’d rather they added lightness than hp at this point.

  • avatar
    86er

    I care more about torque than HP.

    But more to the question, I suppose it depends on so-called “useable” horsepower. If the maximum HP is achieved at 9,000 rpm, as an extreme example, what good is it?

    Personally I’d like to see maximum HP at 3,000 rpm or less. But then I’m also old-fashioned.

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    I think the HP question depends on how much the car weighs. I’d prefer a light car with 250hp to a heavy car with 500hp.

  • avatar

    I reckon its down to weight, brakes, chassis, driven wheels and torque. I've got 295 horses in the Boxster S. I'm thinking another 100 horses ought to do it. (Having driven such a beast, the RUF version, oh baby!) The Ford GT's 550hp felt about right. The Enzo didn't seem underpowered. well, you get the idea.

  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    I can’t answer this question without asking “horsepower for what?” What is a car? Power to weight is more the point, isn’t it? Jonny has 224 hp. The pickup I use to pull a horse trailer has 295, and it’s adequate on the highway until the second horse, and a tire-burner when it’s empty.
    I think you need 5% of curb weight as a MINIMUM, and about 7% is more than almost anyone will use. I remember when I drove an old original VW beetle, laughing as I tried playing Barney Oldfield on the onramp, that someone in a Corvette was languishing in front of me and I couldn’t go. (That one was in Rhode Island, RF)
    More than that could be fun on occasion, but, as RF has pointed out a few times, it’s handling that is so much more important than power. I’ll always be happier with good handling and adequate hp than the other way around.

  • avatar

    the japanese gentlemen’s agreement is now defunct. thankfully.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    baabthesaab:

    Is everyone here an engineer? It’s a philosophical question.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    My father, who is not car-savvy in the least, always insisted that 250 (gross) horsepower was the maximum any car could use or needed. I’ve been proving him wrong for a long time.

  • avatar
    the_agent_e

    What beetlebug and 86 said. It’s more power:weight than it is pure hp.

    For instance, the 300-whatever hp in my 335i is a lot of horsepowers. Put that same mill in a Ford Excursion and it’s just enough to get you to cruising altitude. Put it in a sub-2500 lb car and it’s death on a stick.

    So give me enough to thrill me, to give me a surge of adrenaline, to snap necks from 3rd gear to 4th gear, to create as much accelerative force as my rear tires can sustain without being overpowered, and make 90% of that horsepower available at 30% of redline RPM.

    I think that would do.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Power corrupts, then it bores. I’m over it, from all the way back in the late ’70s. My mother offered me her V-8 Firebird 350 coupe, but I got more enjoyment out of a tiny NSU 1000 TT. The little four-cylinder, all 60 hp of it, motivated that 1,400-lb car quite well, and the steering and handling was a joy compared to the overboosted vagueness of the Pontiac. Today, two of my three family cars have less than 100 hp each, though fellow TDI owners will know that doesn’t matter, torque is the thing.

    Yes, power= acceleration. But here in the real world, the faster your accelerate, the sooner you have to stop accelerating. It’s like going to a fine restaurant where the food is so tasty, they’ll only serve you one spoonful.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    My Porsche 944 has 170 HP and I can whip the ass of cars with twice that much. All I have to do is wait for the next sharp bend to out brake and then out corner them. Horsepower is an irrelevance unless it’s backed up by great brakes and great road holding. Of course, having a driver who actually knows how to drive, also helps!

  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    Jonny Lieberman :
    March 6th, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    baabthesaab:

    Is everyone here an engineer? It’s a philosophical question.

    Oh, okay then. In that case too much is almost enough. But, really, wheatridger said it just fine.

    And I’m not an engineer either.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Saying you have a car with over 400 horsepower makes it sound like you’re a major speed demon.

    Saying you have a car with 500 horsepower or more sounds nearly pornographic.

    So I’ll go with 400 as the limiting number.

  • avatar
    Von

    No such thing as too much HP, that’s what the throttle is for isn’t it?

  • avatar
    melllvar

    I’ve had 405hp and now have 300hp and hardly ever floor it. Though I love both those motors more for the torque/sounds than the peak hp.

    I’d say anything over 250 is excess and 500+ is ridiculous.

  • avatar
    allythom

    I, like Jonny, drive a WRX. Unlike Jonny though, I felt it needed just a little more umph to fulfill it’s potential. The ~280hp it makes now, thanks to some mild tweaking, feels about right for it.

    On the other hand, the V6 RAV4 AWD my wife drives has 269hp. That thing is just plain alarming given the chassis it was, ahem, blessed with. Seriously, 220hp would have been just fine for its mission as a family truckster. I hate to think what the FWD version is like – a torque-steering nightmare, I suspect.

    At same time, the Cooper S I also drive from time to time, with it’s “measly” 168 hp is perfect. Any more would be overkill and would alter the personality of the car, probably for the worse.

    So I guess my answer is a big cop out, it depends on the application. But I seriously question the sanity of anyone who claims to “need” 300+hp in a regular car. 250 is probably ample for most. Of course that raises the question of needs vs wants. People don’t need plasma TVs, Jetskis, Viking ranges or outdoor hot tubs either…

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    I had an 02 Hyundai Accent with 90hp. It was grossly underpowered. I now drive an 01 Impala with the 180hp 3.4L V6. I’d say it has adequate power, but certainly isn’t overpowered. My dad has a 97 Crown Vic with a 195hp V8, and while the low end torque isn’t bad, some more guts would be better.

    All that said, I think the 250hp V8 in a stripped down Crown Vic police car is just about right.

    Perfect would be a 6 cylinder diesel in said police car.

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    my 200hp MKV GTI is plenty fast for the street…no reason for more.

    its not about the power, its about balance.

    i think the law of diminishing returns has to come into play here some where…when do you have more then you can use and are just wasting money/gas

  • avatar

    I think which wheels are driven is quite important. FWD can do with less than RWD, and AWD needs a bit more. For RWD, weight in lbs/10 is my “ideal” amount of horsepower, for a car I drive on the streets. Roughly enough to both get into, and out of, trouble in any circumstance where the power is usable.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    Where’s a Bugatti engineer when you need one?

    “Our tests show that 1,000 hp is pedestrian, while 1,002 hp is just ostentatious. 1,001 hp it shall be. Harumph”

  • avatar
    cRaCk hEaD aLLeY

    Americans buy Horsepower and drive Torque

    Sweet spot is around 85HP, 1200lbs.

    Must have drums in the back.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    It’s more the power to weight ratio. Even the 230 hp that I belive is offered in the base Atom is ridiculous in a car weighing 1,000 lbs. As others have pointed out, torque at where peak torque occurs at are also big factors in how a vehicle accelerates, even more so than hp actually. For a car weighing in at 3,000 lbs, I feel that 220 hp and 220 ft-lbs of torque, occurring at 3,000 hp or lower, is adequate to motivate that car down the road in a spirited fashion. I also don’t see any need to artificially cap hp or top speed.

    As to who buys these high hp cars and why. I think they’re bought because they generally are status symbols with low availability. They are also bought just so the owner can brag about how much hp his car has. The fact that it is a complete brick with ancient suspension and steering seems to be overlooked (Mustang). My wife, for instance, wants a new Mustang and insists that it needs to be the GT, even though I pointed out to her that the V6 makes almost as much hp and torque as her current 95 Cobra. She just can’t stand the idea of not having the more powerful engine.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Fiddlesticks! There’s no such thing as too much horsepower. You just need wider tires.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Horsepower is all too often used as a substitute for driving talent. It doesn’t require any amount of genius or skill to mash your right foot to the floor and punch a bigger hole in the ozone layer.

    I like it, but I wish that we had less of it. It would force people to think more carefully about how they are going to make the vehicle perform, to anticipate what is going on around them, and to plan things more than a half-step ahead.

    Just remember — when someone cuts you off, horsepower was probably a contributing factor. Those taillights belong to someone who believed that his car had enough power to insert itself where it didn’t belong.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Just remember — when someone cuts you off, horsepower was probably a contributing factor. Those taillights belong to someone who believed that his car had enough power to insert itself where it didn’t belong.

    And my car didn’t have enough power to prevent that from happening.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Maybe the key ratio isn’t hp per mass, but rather hp per IQ. I would say that a 2:1 ratio would make a good law.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    For a car, I’ll say 400 hp is “too much horsepower”.

    I only even use the 160 hp in my car when I want to; I never actually need it. Since the smaller engine – 10% more efficient and 148 hp – is now available in a Mazda3 hatchback I’d probably get that instead if I were buying my car new.

    86er, I can tell you haven’t driven any cars with good high-revving engines and a manual transmission!

  • avatar
    rpn453

    It doesn’t require any amount of genius or skill to mash your right foot to the floor and punch a bigger hole in the ozone layer.

    Ozone layer? Please explain, Pch101!

  • avatar
    unsprung weight

    For me, an MX-5 delivers more driving enjoyment on public roads than a 911 Turbo. No, I don’t own an MX-5 and yes, I’ve driven a 911 Turbo. I’m a lifetime subscriber to the belief that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow — which is basically what you’re doing 99.9% of the time in any of today’s high-power cars. There are just as many laughs available at less than 200 hp as there are above 400.

  • avatar
    jolietjake

    “How much horsepower is too much?”

    I don’t know. I just know we haven’t gotten there yet.

  • avatar

    In all honest, one horsepower per 20 or so pounds of curb weight is usually plenty for livable, respectable performance. With a reasonably flat torque curve and appropriate gearing, that will get you 0-60 times in less than 9 seconds, which is plenty adequate for daily driving. More than that may be fun, but how often do you really get to use it?

  • avatar
    t-truck

    My first car had a 1.1L engine rated at massive 45hp!

    Even though I am not sure that all the horses were still under the hood, that littel VW got me comfortable from A to B, with plenty of time to enjoy the view. After this start I find most car since, way overpowered…

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    How much is enough? As someone who went from a 400hp M5 to a 158hp 190E: I still dream of that M5… with a twin supercharger setup.

  • avatar
    frontline

    It depends on the song on the radio.

  • avatar
    Netduke

    I have a 460 hp engine and probably spend only 30 seconds each day at wide open throttle, driving to and from work.
    Personally I think 500hp would be enough for most people living in a 65mph speed zone just driving around and not doing any racing.

    Of course if you liked going fast not even 1000 would be enough…

  • avatar
    Scott Baysinger

    While it may be true that “more is more”, always remember that it is MUCH more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow.

  • avatar

    Let’s see, my brother prefers one horse-power, two if you count his wife’s horse.

  • avatar
    John

    My car has 355HP in 3100 lbs, a notable chassis, and AWD. I run out of driving ability before it runs out of acceleration. Unlike many, I realize that. I was prepared to buy the next model up, but it was INSANE.

    John

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    My Diamante has 205 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque. I don’t have any problems at all. It’s got more power (and torque steer!) than it can actually put down. My traction control activates 3-4 times daily (twice that when on wet roads), and I don’t drive particularly aggressively.

    My 141 hp Galant had a perfectly fine amount without people and stuff aboard. It felt a bit underpowered with three people and a trunkload of luggage on a trip to North Carolina during Spring Break in 2006, but that was the only time I really wished for more power.

    I’ve done Washington, DC, traffic in Corollas and Cobalts and felt just fine.

    You guys are power freaks!

  • avatar

    Im OK with 262 HP. 261, and it feels like an eternity. 263, and it’s too nuts.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    Most SUVs feel rather underpowered, but of course, I’m talking TrailBlazers with 285 hp, Explorers with 240 hp, and Expeditions with 300 hp. The problem is obviously not weight, but then we get into the whole argument about how much weight/space/metal people really need around them. Nobody needs that much, except when towing with five or more people actually on board, and possibly luggage.

    When’s the last time you saw any SUV towing and carrying more than 1-2 people?

    Why does the Toyota Sienna need the ability to do a 50-foot burnout?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    For me, an MX-5 delivers more driving enjoyment on public roads than a 911 Turbo.

    Well, sure, but Jonny is starting from the premise that you appreciate muscle and what it can do for your soul, but you also understand that outside the drag racing context at some point additional horses don’t add anything to the muscle/exotic car experience.

    My serious answer is to reference (if possible) the amount of horsepower you actually use at your least conservative moments. Just because a car can develop 500 horses doesn’t mean it will ever develop that much power in your hands. Most posers would be surprised at how few horses their big displacement engines are putting out most of the time, and how far short of the maximum hp those engines reach even when the driver is being (what he considers) very, very bad. That’s the point where any extra money spent on horsepower is wasted.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    My vote for the most practical car ever goes to the Mazda5. 25+ highway MPG, six seats, huge cargo space with seats folded, available manual transmission, great visibility, and it actually fits in a regular parking spot!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    L47_V8:

    “Why does the Toyota Sienna need the ability to do a 50-foot burnout?”

    And herein lies the paradox with my won question, as I can think of multiple reasons why a Sienna needs to do 50-foot burnouts.

    Multiple.

  • avatar
    Terry

    # L47_V8 :
    March 6th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    My vote for the most practical car ever goes to the Mazda5. 25+ highway MPG, six seats, huge cargo space with seats folded, available manual transmission, great visibility, and it actually fits in a regular parking spot!

    AGREED!!, Hence the ’07 Mazda5 the wife now has.
    My ’99 Miata NEVER feels underpowered with 140 HP, and my ’93 Probe GT (Mazda 2.5 V6, 164 HP) is one runnin’ sumbitch from idle to redline.
    My ’84 RX-7 GSL-SE had 135 HP, was FAST, felt faster than my ’86 RX-7 with 145 HP because it was heavier.

    I STRONGLY suggest that ALL TTAC readers make it a duty to road test a Miata and a Mazdaspeed3, then report back with HP:FUN ratio comments.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    irrelevant question; it’s entirely dependent on how much weight.

    I will base on my car, though. I’d say 300 wheel horsepower would be the upper limit of useful power: it’s wrong wheel drive with an open differential so any more would just become more tire smoke. 300bhp in ~3200lb car is pretty healthy.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    I’ve been wondering about that question ever since I saw Car and Driver’s test of the 07 V-6 Camry. I’ve referenced it here before. 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. As quick as a base Porsche Boxster. I thought to myself “this is a family car, right?”

    You want to talk about sloooooooow cars? Watch a clip of a small car on Fifth Gear or Top Gear. They measure the quarter-mile with sundials.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    For me, an MX-5 delivers more driving enjoyment on public roads than a 911 Turbo. No, I don’t own an MX-5 and yes, I’ve driven a 911 Turbo. I’m a lifetime subscriber to the belief that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow — which is basically what you’re doing 99.9% of the time in any of today’s high-power cars. There are just as many laughs available at less than 200 hp as there are above 400.

    Having gone from a highly modified Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 to an unmodified Toyota Corolla GT-S, I disagree. While flinging a lightweight car around corners is fun, there is nothing as intoxicating as the surge of power that arrives when the turbo spools up and the boost kicks in. It’s been mathematically proven that the amount of boost you can push through an engine is directly proportional to the width of the grin on your face.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    There can never be too much horsepower. The bigger problem is lack of judgment when using it.

  • avatar
    pnnyj

    quasimondo :

    It’s been mathematically proven that the amount of boost you can push through an engine is directly proportional to the width of the grin on your face.

    Miata’s love boost. I love my boosted Miata.

    And people think I drive a girly car. Mwwahahaha!

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    Terry :
    March 6th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    # L47_V8 :
    March 6th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    My vote for the most practical car ever goes to the Mazda5. 25+ highway MPG, six seats, huge cargo space with seats folded, available manual transmission, great visibility, and it actually fits in a regular parking spot!

    AGREED!!, Hence the ‘07 Mazda5 the wife now has.
    My ‘99 Miata NEVER feels underpowered with 140 HP, and my ‘93 Probe GT (Mazda 2.5 V6, 164 HP) is one runnin’ sumbitch from idle to redline.
    My ‘84 RX-7 GSL-SE had 135 HP, was FAST, felt faster than my ‘86 RX-7 with 145 HP because it was heavier.

    I STRONGLY suggest that ALL TTAC readers make it a duty to road test a Miata and a Mazdaspeed3, then report back with HP:FUN ratio comments.

    A close second is the four-cylinder Kia Rondo with the $385 third-row option. It’ll technically hold one more (seven seatbelts) compared to the Mazda, but the styling’s not nearly as neat and the third row is barely useable. I’m 6’4″ and weigh 220 lbs, and I can fit in the Mazda’s third row.

  • avatar
    i6

    When you waste more time at the pumps than you make up for on the road, you have too much horsepower.

    When showing off your muscle makes your date wet herself, you have too much horsepower.

    When your tire retailer offers to help you move house, you have too much horsepower.

    When you have to clean the bug splatter off the driver side window, you have too much horsepower.

    When your Aveo is repossessed, you had too much horsepower.

  • avatar

    My current daily driver has 90 HP. Take away the turbo and it is only 45 HP. Mind you it is also a Diesel, so it has mountains of torque while lacking in big HP numbers.

    I can drive it at triple digit speeds, breaking the law in everywhere except Germany and still get in excess of 40 MPG. If I drive it like a granny I can get in excess of 50 MPG. If I drive pretty much normally (which for me is a tad lead-footed) I get 45-50 MPG.

    So, speaking from the truly Goldilocks “just right” position why do I need more?

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Because more is never enough.

  • avatar
    autoacct628

    My audi A6 Avant with the 2.8 v6 weighs in at 3500 lbs. I never really looked at the spec sheet, but I’m guessing 240 hp. I can haul enough ass with that.

    My 92 Accord Wagon with the 2.2 spec’e 140 hp, and weighed 3100 lbs. It got me there.

    To paraphrase Nicholson, from “the departed”, “in this country, it don’t add inches to your d#ck”

    When I was a kid, a similar discussion was frequently had about a woman’s optimal breast size. It was generally agreed that anything above a C cup was wasteful, or words to that effect.

    I think 280 horses for an a large or midsize vehicle is the automotive equivalent of a woman’s breasts….

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    It all depends on how much the car weighs, what it’s designed to do, and how many wheels are putting power to the ground. The 250ish HP in the LGT feels perfect for a car its weight… not too fast, not too slow, and the AWD ensures all that power goes straight to the ground (that that it couldn’t use a STI-style blower, but it doesn’t *need* it). But add a few hundred pounds to the equation and FWD, a la the new Accord coupe, and it’s simultaneously too much and not enough. I personally don’t see why any car (note I said car, that does not include SUVs) needs more than 300hp, and most smaller ones (the Civics of the world) don’t even need half that. So I’ll say anything over 300 is too much. You don’t need it, and few members of the general population would even know how to handle it.

  • avatar
    casper00

    I went from a 450hp toyota supra (in the shop for modifications) to a 160hp honda prelude. Huge different in power, but driving styles are totally different. The supra is more of cruising and the prelude is more of getting from point a to point b, which is enough. But back to the question I believe 200hp is enough for a four cylinder, 280-300hp for a V6 and about 350-400hp for a V8.

  • avatar
    Eric_Stepans

    A famous engineer is alleged to have once said “Simplicate and add lightness”.

    Nothing about more horsepower there.

    The 3 most fun vehicles I have ever owned were/are

    1) My ’89 Honda CRX Si (110 hp)

    2) My ex-wife’s ’91 Miata (115 hp)

    3) My ’95 Honda Nighthawk 750 motorcycle (65 hp and I never use more than 40)

    Quit cranking up the engines. Crank down the weight.
    Low mass is a virtuous circle.

  • avatar
    Acd

    For a typical 4000 lb. vehicle 300-350 is good; anything over 400 is excessive. My wife’s Town and Country with 190 hp is grossly underpowered now that I have a 340 hp 300C.

    Somewhere between the late 80’s and today car makers decided that reducung weight no longer mattered which requires more horsepower. Of course when gas is around $1.50/gallon they’re right but with gas headed towards $4.00 those 4800 lb. Buick Enclaves have way too much in common with pre-1977 full size cars. A 1976 Buick Electra and a 2008 Buick Enclave weigh about the same; the only difference is that today’s land barges are shorter.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I don’t care what anyone says, you can never have to many women, to much money, or to much horsepower.

    I’d like my vette to have a 408 spoolin twin GT35Rs to the tune of 1000rwhp with some chemical intercooling safety sake, ya know?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Anything more than sufficient to hit sub 10 second 0-60 times is simply wasteful.

    Most of the world of automotive engineering seems to have gotten things ridiculously upside down during these past two decades of horsepower wars and Super Size Me design. A Toyota Camry has put on almost 20% more weight from 1991-2008 and dropped from a 2000 lb. rated towing capacity to 1000 lbs. The base 4 cylinder engine has also grown 20% in size to keep up with the porky body and horsepower is up 37%. Oddly enough, even though the outside dimensions all grew, the interior volume barely budged from 112 to 116 cubic feet. Trunk volume also barely increased from 14.9 to 15.0 cu. ft. The 1991 Camry was a model of functional design with a decidedly Volvo 240 like boxy profile. The 2008 Camry has stupid bumps and bulges everywhere which do little to improve function and look bad at the same time.

    Yes, I’m an engineer!

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    The point isn’t wether or not you can ever use the power or if you “need” it, its pushing the limits of what a car can do. My 240 hp 227 ft/lb torque I6 in my 3200lb car feels great and can spin the rear wheels in 1st and chirp them shifting into 2nd but I still want more. I haven’t even bought the supercharger I’ve been planning to get and I’m already starting to think maybe I should save up for the turbo instead. Just because I have that much power doesn’t mean I would smoke the tires all the way through 4th gear but it would be nice being able to do so from time to time.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Here is what bothers me about the article. They claim that the vehicle has 4 120kW motors. At maximum output, assuming that the things run on 120 Volt current like our house does, each of them would be sucking 1,000 Amps. Oops the fuse just blew. How they going to get that much juice into the thing and how are they going to store it with current battery technology, and how are they going to handle it without using cables as thick as your arm?

    As for how much hp does a car need. the answer is it depends. How much does the car weigh, how is it driven (fwd, rwd, 4wd), what tires. My 3200 lbs Honda Accord with a 3L V6 and 200 hp is just fine. A lot more power would make the fwd car unpleasant to drive. A Vette is built to handle a lot more power and would not be fun with a 200 hp motor. OTOH, I am listening to the weather and we are due for snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures. I would rather be driving the Honda in that weather.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    When showing off your muscle makes your date wet herself, you have too much horsepower.

    Interpretation #1 (probably what you intended): agree.

    Interpretation #2: disagree.

    Interpretation #3: no comment.

    Interpretation #4: no comment.

  • avatar

    I don’t know exactly how much is too much, but I do know that there are a lot of overpowered cars out there, and a lot of cars that weigh too much. If I ran the world, no car would weigh more than about 3,000 lbs.

    I also know that I prefer my ’99 Accord with 135 hp, I believe, to the 2004 Impala I rented for a month that year which had a v6 and 211 hp, because the engine on the Accord is far more refined. I also preferred my late father’s ’95 Volvo 940, underpowered with a slushbox, again because the 4cyl was incredibly refined. You could flog the hell out of that thing and it wouldn’t complain. But the Impala was all NVH.

    I also prefer handling to HP and torque.

    Nonetheless, I’d happily take maybe 25% more HP in the Accord. More than that? Meh.

  • avatar
    CarShark

    @Eric_Stepans

    Yeah, but Colin Chapman was a sportscar man. I wouldn’t want him designing a family car, unless it was for people that wanted to punish their children with a rough ride and no creature comforts whatsoever. One of the most overused phrases in all autodom. You have to offer the stuff people want. The stuff people want adds weight, which means to maintain the same performance you need more power. That simple enough?

  • avatar
    dastanley

    Picking an arbitrary limit on HP is like asking 100 people what the best oil for your vehicle is. You’ll get 100 answers.

    Theoretically, you can never really have too much HP – depends on how much you’re willing to pay. There does come a point though where you reach diminishing returns on money spent for power. And in the real world, the price of fuel and insurance will limit that amount.

    And of course the power to weight ratio, the skill and maturity level of the driver, where the vehicle is to be driven, weather and road conditions, etc. all play a part in what the maximum HP can safely be.

    As TTAC readers know, every vehicle is a series of compromises in design and function. Sure we could buy a 0-60 mph in 3 second car, but at what price? Where could you actually drive it at those power outputs and speeds? Where could you actually park it and not have it stolen in 3 seconds?

  • avatar
    mastermik

    haha… @ the 4 interpretations. anyways, my 91 corolla with 110hp or so (according to wikipedia) never ever feels underpowered. The chasis starts to shake around 70 mph though. But the acceleration is amazing to me… it must be b/c its light or maybe its the gearing… I dont know what it is, but it feels like it goes. I know it doesn’t actually go tha tfast, but it gives you the feeling of going fast.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    It doesn`t matter how much horsepower you have, All that matters is that it is at least 1Hp more than your neighbour has. human nature.

  • avatar
    carguy1964

    220 hp was just fine in my 97 turbo eclispe, it was a blast getting to highway speed and them some! but I do like the linear curve to my 175 hp 02 altima 2.5 5sp…would of love to try the 3.5 6cyl though I do enjoy getting almost 30 mpg on a long trip because the worst I get is 28 on a 5 day work week, 500 miles to the 18 gallon tank!

  • avatar
    shaker

    One horsepower per pound of driver weight.

  • avatar

    I’d say that around 250bhp is probably enough for most peoples driving ability.
    It’s controversial but I think people driving over 300bhp in the UK should have to pass an advanced driving test. I say UK because, on the whole, our roads are more challenging than those in the US.
    Before people howl of state intervention think of it like this; people pass a driving test in a car that probably has less than 85bhp and yet they then become fully qualified to drive something 10 times more powerful…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Hp to weight ratio matters most. My bike is around 8 lbs per horse. My car is around 20 to 1. I think that is a better way to compare cars and the lower the number the more the joy factor, but realistically it is still a customer decision for the time being. I’m sure regulation is being drafted to change that.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Two hundred horsepower per ton, is both useful, practical, and fun.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    Even the hairest Lotus Elise pumps out less than 200hp, but that is plenty.

    Likewise 90hp is great fun in a Mini.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I think the optimum for a street car would be somewhere between 160 hp for 1800 lbs and 350 hp for 3000 lbs. You need a higher power-to-weight ratio in a heavier car to make up for the loss of agility. This is for a pretty aero-slick car, if you’re pushing a brick through the air you probably want some more so it won’t feel slow on the highway.

    I also think that 50-100 through the gears or in the lowest gear that will do 100 is a much better test of a car’s accelerative ability than any measure involving a standing start. For one, it’s more repeatable – no major differences between surfaces, no clutch and tire slip to master. For another, the 100-MPH finish is fast enough that a sticky-tired, low-geared Miata isn’t gonna test better than cars that will burn it on the highway.

  • avatar
    AKM

    I have 115hp in my golf, and it’s certainly enough for all the situations I can think of, unless we have 3-4 people in the car.
    Sure, I lust after a GTI or equivalent, but would I use 200+hp? Probably not.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Robert Schwartz
    Here is what bothers me about the article. They claim that the vehicle has 4 120kW motors. At maximum output, assuming that the things run on 120 Volt current like our house does, each of them would be sucking 1,000 Amps. Oops the fuse just blew. How they going to get that much juice into the thing and how are they going to store it with current battery technology, and how are they going to handle it without using cables as thick as your arm?

    The 120 kW in-wheel motors have been demonstrated by the manufacturer (PML) since 2006, and apparently Volvo intends to use them in future production models.
    They are rated at 350 V (DC), peak power comes up at 400V.

    http://pmlflightlink.com/motors/hipa_drive.html

    Batteries with sufficient power density exist. Add capacitors for short acceleration surges with demand for high amps.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I’ve always thought the formula for ideal horsepower is much like the formula for ideal income. The ideal amount is usually 20% more than you currently have.

    Currently at about 430HP and that’s not enough, so I think my formula is still accurate.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I think 250hp is the upper limit of a fwd car. Any more and the torque steer is crazy. Add a lsd to fight that and you’ve got a major heavy front end and unbalanced car. But you shouldn’t ever have a fwd car that is so heavy that you would ever want more than 250hp. Other than that, the more the merrier. As long as your not planning on driving in the snow, sure send 1000hp to the rear wheels. My car is rwd, 3300lbs, 230hp, no traction control, and while I can spin the wheels in 4th in the rain, I still would like a bit more hp. 400 seems like a good number for that weight. Obviously the power to weight ratio is the real question.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    It may not matter how much we all think is too much, because the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) is about to start sabre-rattling to limit or curtail the current HP escalation, from what I’ve read.

    And, as if on cue, Audi unleashes the 572-HP RS 6 Avant, which will plaster your kids to the rear window faster than just about anything else that can carry 5 people and all their stuff!

    Johnny – I’m guessing that your “420HP seems about right” comment stems from your now-legendary review of the RS4?

  • avatar
    jaje

    As a racer – maximum power means nothing b/c traction and balance is all that matters. That means low mass, great suspension and brakes, and a linear powerband. Peaky engines can get you caught out of powerband and left behind, too much power causes loss of traction and a 20 lap race becomes much harder (white knuckles), too big an engine upsets the balance of the car and leads to incurable under/over steer at the limits – especially where a concrete wall is 2-3 feet away at your turn in from a bumpy braking zone.

    This understanding has lead me to the opinion that I really don’t care too much about how much total power a car makes…I care about the balance of the chassis, brakes, engine.

    The only time I’ve ever “needed” a v8 is in my tow vehicle – a 2500HD Silverdo. All other cars I’ve ever owned only have 4 cylinders – just with properly built ones. These include mainly Honda 4 cylinders (for inline 4 cylinders with normal aspiration…they are simply the class (with our without VTEC) of the field with proper technology, a decent flat torque curve that provides power all the way to redline. Compare that to an ecotec engine that tapers off long before it shakes itself to death or a appliance Camry 2.4 engine. Some of my favorites still today are Porsche’s 2.5 8v and even better the 3.0 16v in the S2 that revs to redline properly (you’d not believe the difficulty many a stock Mustang or Camaro has in trying to pull away from me), or the 16v 2.3 Cosworth or M3 engines – legends in their own time. In fact the only engine I’ve had that was woefully inadequate was the 2.5 iron duke olds omega, 2.2 liter Dodge 600, Mazda Protege5 (wound up putting a turbo kit on it b/c n/a it was pretty weak).

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    115-160hp usually does it, as long as it weighs way under a ton ;)

  • avatar
    carguy

    Back in the 60s and 70s, horsepower was somewhat exotic as it was hard to come by and only a few car companies dedicated themselves to it. Today it seems that 250hp+ can be had in just about any car from hot hatches to minivans but I would say that it hasn’t improved the driving experience. If anything modern cars are less involving to drive than ever. I don’t care if Toyota makes a 400hp Camry – it’s still dull. No matter how many horses you stuff under the hood of a Mustang, it’s still a dangerously underdone college car. Horespower has become the cheap substitue for good engineering – just look at the SRT-4 Dodge Caliber. More copmanies should follow the lead of the Mazda Miata team and concentrate more on chassis dynamics and everyday driving enjoyment rather than stuff a big engine in an underdone car and call it a performance vehicle.

  • avatar
    JJ

    The current HP craze or as it is also called “German HP war” is just a nice last hooray for fast cars and hoonage before the ecoterrorists take over completely and make everyone drive a Golf (Rabbit) TDI Hybrid with less than 100HP or worse yet, a Prius.

    Better buy that RS6 quickly…

  • avatar
    meocuchad

    For me, 300-400hp is plenty. Anything above that, I don’t trust myself with.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    If you have traction, then you still don’t have enough. I had seat time on a 1400whp Supra once. On mickey thompson street slicks, I punched it around 80…

    I didn’t get serious traction till about 130ish. That almost has enough power for me.

  • avatar
    altdude

    I really think it’s more about torque than anything else. My car has 190hp, and while it has a fairly high top speed (electronically limited 155mph), I find acceleration from a stop is… a bit slow, until you get up past 3k RPMs (and that’s about where I usually shift- 2500-3k) where the torque is at it’s highest around 4k- not real useful in the real world if you ask me!

    My previous BMW 325e had only about 120hp, yet acceleration from 0-50 was excellent because of the high torque at low RPM’s (170lb-ft @ 3250rpm)… just like my sister’s Mercedes diesel, which is pretty similar- low hp, but high torque.

  • avatar
    TaurusGT500

    …. Horsepower to IQ ratio!

    Awesome. That was brilliant. LOLTFOFWL (Laugh-out-loud-then-fall-on-floor-whilst-laughing)

    Give sherbornsean a chromed supercharger desk set.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    In reading through all the responses, I noticed a number of mentions to Mazdas. This makes me smile.

    Regarding the Speed3 comment on HP:FUN… Stock, she is fun to drive. With an intake and a catback, she was a bit more fun to drive, sorta like a good, easy going party. When I did the three inch turbo back and upped it to 18pounds of boost, it was fun like St. Paddy’s day when I was pulling on a C6 last night up to around 115.

    It should be super fun like a week long bender when I’m done with the motor build/gt35r combo I got going right no. You know, way too damn much fun, and you know you’ll regret it in the morning, but you don’t care?

    The RX7 I’m building…lets just not even talk about Power to weight. I was thinking about a three rotor, but I’ve decided to see if I could shove a 2JZ-GTE in an FC, Fuel+big single (not GT4488 big). Should be good for around 750-800 wheel in a gutted FC (no power windows, no AC, no radio, no passenger seat, no sound deadening). I think it should be pretty quick.

    The thing is, I fully understand the fun of being able to be nimble and quick, and rev out and all that of a light car with a high revving, low power motor. But for me…its that second when you come right into the power band, and you bend the laws of space and time around you when it gets fun.

    I still don’t think I will ever have as much fun in a car (that doesn’t involve the more tender gender) as I did in that Poopra. When that thing came into full boost, the whole world seemed to just melt and fall apart.

  • avatar
    86er

    86er, I can tell you haven’t driven any cars with good high-revving engines and a manual transmission!

    That’s isn’t how I “roll”, as the kids say.

    Heaven for me is a slow-revving powerhouse with minimum NVH. A car I would like to drive at some point is an old Ford with the 429.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Oh, and Jonny…

    Call up the boys at Cobb or TurboXS. They will handle that loss to a CTS-V nonsense in short order.

  • avatar

    FWD – 300 hp
    RWD – 450 hp
    AWD – sky’s the limit really, drivetrain willing (you have no idea the shock that an AWD launch can do to a transmission)

    I’ve personally owned a 517 hp, 2800 lb 1993 RX-7 single turbo (Garrett GT3540R)conversion – that was too much power.

    I had a 360 hp turbocharged RX-8, that was about right but it could have handled more.

    I’d say my 400 hp Eclipse GSX (AWD, 4G63 EVO engine) felt just right.

    To be honest, I’m delighed by a 115 hp 1.6L early 90s Miata.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    0-60 mph in 8 seconds is just fine.
    Much faster and it starts getting insane.
    Much slower and it starts getting dangerous.

    By the way, I get that performance from my 195 HP Camry V6.

    If you really want to snap your neck: take a motorcycle.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    EJ_San_Fran;

    My Speed3, stock, did 0-60 in the five second range, and I’d hardly call it “insane”. Well, back then at least.

  • avatar
    michoan1011

    I think this “horsepower” dilemna is all about what the person wants his or her car to do. My sister thinks her 2003 Camaro is just a beast with 7lbs of boost and 380hp. Me on the other hand I drive daily a 638hp mustang gt! I know it may seem like a lot to some people but to me its just fine . Like some one else said earlier its all about balance! thats why i have crossed drilled 12″ rotors on all four tires to provide the stop power!!!

  • avatar
    DCClark

    You have to remember all cars have a BHP that is the horsepower as advertised but in actually the horsepower at the wheels WHP is about 15% less. So a 250 HP car has about 213 at the wheels since the drivetrain eats up 15%, 4 wheel car even more closer to 20%

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