Question of the Day: How Much Power Do You Need?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I was a little taken aback by the new Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series' 661hp. I remember when my M5's 400hp was considered excessive. These days, German uber-brutes' horsepower and torque figures are higher than Jeff Spicoli. Obviously, the numbers have no relevance to anything whatsoever. But the whole "how much power does anyone really need anyway" has never been more important– what with CAFE regulations demanding 35mpg fleet averages by 2020. Tom and Ray addressed the question today, when an F-150 refugee obsessed about the power of a Ford Focus vs. a Nissan Sentra. Ray reckons "If you're like most people, and usually drive alone or with one other passenger, and death-defying highway stunts aren't a regular part of your routine, almost any four-cylinder car will provide adequate power." True?

Robert Farago
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  • Highrpm Highrpm on Jul 14, 2008

    I'm also from the school that 90hp is enough for a small car. The old VW Rabbit GTI was peppy enough and usable. Now powerwise, I would really recommend that you folks try out a modern sportbike like the CBR1000 (after you practice up your riding skills on a 250cc bike first, of course). The first three gears are absolutely terrifying. Spend a week on a bike like this, and no car will ever feel fast again.

  • Geeber Geeber on Jul 14, 2008
    nudave: On a recent vacation in the Caribbean, I had the opportunity to rent a Chevrolet Spark/Matiz (3 cyl, 796 cc, 52 hp). Whether they’d like it or not, this car would satisfy 95% of the needs of 95% of North America’s drivers. The same could be said of an outhouse versus a modern bathroom with indoor plumbing. Fortunately, most of us have moved beyond outhouses...
  • Ckb Ckb on Jul 14, 2008

    How much do I NEED? Well, 1 horsepower is enough to get a horse an a rider up to 40 mph in a few seconds which is much faster than I can run. 50 hp should be more than enough to cruise in a carbon fiber box at 70 mph. That being said my M3 has 333 hp and I don't think I'd turn down just a little more. But I can always walk to the grocery store and get a closer job so I guess I don't actually NEED any.

  • Doctorv8 Doctorv8 on Jul 14, 2008

    As a bonafide HP junkie, I'll take as much as I can get....but that doesn't mean I have to slurp fuel in Hummeresque fashion all the time. A late model 6 speed Corvette (especially a 1997-04 C5) will easily achieve 30 mpg at 75-80 mph thanks to its tall gearing, low drag, and high torque engine. The fact that you have 350+ HP and a V8 soundtrack at your disposal is just icing on the cake.