Question of the Day: Should the Horsepower Wars End?

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
question of the day should the horsepower wars end

Gas is more expensive than ever and because everything else costs two arms and/or legs, much more painful to purchase. Many consumers are switching to fuel-sippers or looking for something completely different (EV and Hydrogen, not hooning sheiks). Regardless, cars are more powerful than ever. Even cars that aren't here yet are going to be more powerful than ever. Examples? The new 911 Turbo is up 20 hp. The M5 is growing in displacement and probably leaping in power. MB's upcoming Gullwing will be in the 750 horse ballpark. Audi's S4 will be dropping two cylinders, but gaining 10 hp and gobs of torque. And that's just the Germans. The 2009 Maxima is up to 290 horses. The 2010 Mustang, despite losing its big-block 6.2-liter Boss V8, should grow to 5.0-liters and make much more than 300 horses. Then there's that Camaro SS which very well might have over 500 horsepower, the 550 hp CTS-V and the 638 pony ZR1. These are just off the top of my OCD head. Is "more POWA!" the future, or has the entire industry been caught without pants and excuses?

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  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on Jun 25, 2008
    Where you YOU live??? New York, if this gives you a better frame of reference. My 300ZX reaches 60 in somewhere around 8.5 seconds. That’s slower than most V6 “family sedans” (and some I4’s, actually) on the market, yet around here it feels like a jet. Our xA does the sprint in somewhere between 12 and 16 seconds, depending on cargo/passengers. Even with over 800lbs of passengers and cargo, our little 1.5L STILL takes off from a stand-still, passes on the highway, and traverses city traffic much faster than at least 90% of the traffic. I live in a place where most drivers know two speeds: Go and Stop. This is a maddening place where the on-ramps are too short, and even when they are of adequate length, drivers have a bad habit of trying to merge when they're at the end of the on ramp, forcing the drivers behind them to scramble to get up to speed or risk getting rear-ended by drivers who have an untimely brain fart and forget what a brake pedal is. It's a place that my boss once called a jungle where you're either predator or prey. The underpowered are not favored here, lest you appreciate being cut off all the time. Personally, I don't. Power has NOTHING to do with it - it’s all in the right foot. Tell me, how many people take off from a stand-still and actually USE their 0-60 “bragging rights” on ANY car? The gap between speed-freaks/piston-heads and everyday drivers is huge. Around here, EVERYBODY. Of course, it's just a guess, I can't tell if they're going full throttle, or half throttle, but if they're willing to lay on the horn two milliseconds after the light turns green, they're probably not feathering the gas pedal, methinks. It doesn’t matter what the numbers say, people don’t/can’t drive that fast. The ONLY time my 1.5L gave me trouble was going up a steep grade that merged onto the highway while I had 5 of us in there. Sure, it took forever to get up that hill and hit 60. The sad part? The V8 sedan in front of me wasn’t going any faster. Believe it or not, it was limiting me - but then again, I’ve never been afraid to redline. It sure as hell doesn't stop them from trying. My 1.6 Corolla (God bless it's single-barrel carburetor) was painfully slow, and I had to thrash the daylights out of it to keep up with traffic. It got up to speed....eventually, but trying to overtake vehicles when the cars around me were flying by was an exercise in futility. I had to time my lane changes to jump in between cars, sorta like a game of double-dutch. Never had this problem when I had an AWD Talon. It doesn’t matter what these cars specs say. If they FEEL fast, most drivers won’t care. Plus, remember that most city driving is 0/5-45, not 0-60. Low-curved power bands matter, not peaky ones - people want to feel that pull up front, right before they ease the throttle when they hit the speed limit. Again, it doesn’t matter the actual speed!! As long as the driver THINKS the car is fast and THINKS it has gobs of power. Is it logical? No. Does that matter? Not really, considering who the majority of car buyers are. Give me a small hatch with >1.0L and a 5sp (or a decent slushbox) and I’ll be fine, still passing traffic, while getting 30MPG in-city. Except city driving isn't just from light to light, and highway driving in the city isn't a three-lane parking lot glacier. If I never touched a major highway, I would see your point. Unfortunately, the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle of this place leaves little room for the leisurely style of driving you encounter every day.
  • GS650G GS650G on Jun 25, 2008

    yes. Or at least have 1/2 power versions of small cars that get great mileage without resorting to batteries.

  • Thoots Thoots on Jun 25, 2008
    geeber : Please compare apples to apples. No doubt, the cars are different. However, that's not really my point. Toyota has developed new Camry and Corolla models, which combined will probably sell around one million vehicles in the US this year, while the 2.8 domestics will struggle to sell darn near anything. Honda will rack up similar numbers with Civic/Accord. My point is more about "What does the manufacturer spend its development dollars upon?" Toyota, Honda, and others spend it on high-volume, high-quality cars. The 2.8 are spending it on the next generation of V8 muscle cars. All of which probably won't even sell enough to justify their relative existences. The bottom line here is, "Is there any wonder why the 2.8 are driving themselves into bankruptcy?" I'm talking about "selling cars" and "making money." It doesn't matter what they are -- just make enough money to keep the business afloat. geeber : Most Mustangs sold are the V-6 model.... Essentially my point, as well. The bulk of Mustang sales aren't the "horsepower war" models. Here's the point: While the 2.8 flush themselves down the toilet, along with their new V8 muscle cars, Toyota and Honda and others are making TONS OF PROFIT on their cars. When it comes to "making money," the 2.8 virtually couldn't possibly be more incompetent.
  • Offroadinfrontier Offroadinfrontier on Jun 25, 2008

    Save from the idiot drivers, we live in polar opposites. Our highways are all 2 lanes (both of them), and it's once a day you get boxed in by fools going 5 under the speed limit. I swear I'm the only person that pays attention to the lights - I've counted an average of 4-5 seconds for Green Light Response in the majority of the town (by that, I mean the places I'm not. I've never been horn-shy!!). I'd say that, for the most part, traffic around here NEVER reaches the posted limit (unless you're in one of my rides). That is, until you try to pass someone on the highway; the second you change lanes, they're instantly at 75MPH vs the 58 they were doing while you were stuck behind them. Example; today I took off from a light in my xA to hit highway speeds (one of those new, ANNOYING highway stoplights that aren't necessary at ALL). I hit 60, look behind me, and my jaw drops to see that the guy beside me JUST crosses the intersection, while the guy behind me is only 1.5 car lengths in front of him. Around here, the only spec that matters is stopping distance - NOBODY waits that 2-3 seconds for you to pass their intersection, even if traffic is nonexistent behind you. They are in such a GOGOGO mood they rip in front of you (I've lightly squeaked tires for this reason on a bi-weekly basis), yet as stated above, they never hit the posted speed limits... It's very interesting to hear such a bizarre change, even though the things like people waiting till the last minute to merge over (or going into an empty lane that's cut off for whatever reason in attempts to cut in front) still happen here all of the time. Minus the speed, of course. Maybe I was made for a crazy-town where people actually GO, but around here the traffic is about as slow as it gets.