By on February 3, 2009

The Truth About Cars presents news and opinion in an informal, conversational manner. As the site’s freshly anointed copy editor, preserving this style without being too anal retentive is a real challenge. I keep telling myself not to adhere to the rules of formal writing (Strunk & White be damned). This is a new age. The old styles aren’t always appropriate for Web 2.x (and beyond). This internal struggle informs my desire to write the official TTAC style guide. I’m trying to reconcile our contributors’ literary voices with necessary structure and, this is the important bit, community consensus. I want to give TTAC a distinctive, consistent voice in the autoblogosphere, during a time of uncertainty and change. I need your help.

Let’s begin this journey with torque and horsepower; twist and ponies. While I don’t want to reduce TTAC writers’ freedom to describe a car’s thrust, something must be done about the use of engine-related statistics on this site.

Recently, TTAC contributor Jonny Lieberman co-opted Jeremy Clarkson’s use of the word “torques.” Our left coaster did it twice, clearly intending the term to replace “lb/ft” or “pound-feet of torque.” Not to mention, Farago’s recently abandoned, UK-centric “ft.-lbs.”

The newly christened nickname certainly sounds faddish. To some, it’s an overly familiar affectation. “The Porsche Carrera GT has 435 torques.” That said, plenty of pistonheads use “ponies” or “horses” in place of “horsepower.”

Be that as it may, Jonny’s assault on my anal retentive nature underscores the need to agree on a house style for the stat: a standard technical designation for an engine’s torque.  So, what should it be: lb/ft or pound-feet or foot pounds or ft-lbs. or something else?

If only it were that easy…

Next, should we list the rpm at which maximum torque arrives? “The Porsche Carrera’s V10 delivers 435 ft lbs @ 5750 rpm” as opposed to “The Porsche Carrera’s V10 develops 435 torques?” [NB: don’t get me started on “develops,” “stumps up,” “generates,” and so forth.]

Keep in mind that TTAC reviewers butt up against an 800-word limit. Every word—and number—counts.

Just to make matters that much more complicated, what about Newton meters?

TTAC has a global audience, many of whom use the metric system. Should we offer both lb/ft (or whatever) and Newton meters? If we do use Newton meters, should we use the formal “Newton meters” or “N-m” or (and I’m kidding here) just use “newts?”

Horsepower is not as straightforward as it sounds. We can choose between HP and hp and a space between the number and numerical statistic, or not. “The Carrera GT’s engine is good for 605 hp” or “The Carrera GT’s engine is good for 605hp” or “The Carrera GT’s engine is good for 605 HP.”

Again, metric issues arise: kilowatts! Should we go there? If we offer newts, why not kwatts?

And if we do do that voodoo that kilowatts do, should it be “KW” or “kw,” space or no space? And if we offer an rpm arrival point for maximum torque, why not horsepower? For example, “The lightweight Porsche Carrera GT has tremendous torque (589.78 nm / 435 ft lbs @ 5750 rpm) and prodigious power (451.2 kw / 605 bhp @ 8000 rpm).” I’ve got a headache…

The alternatives don’t stop there. We could prevent an international incident with a hover hack: readers could mouse over the U.S. ratings (or not) to discover the equivalent metric amount.  Or we could add a horsepower and torque box with the stars and stats and not worry about numbers in the actual review. And finally…

We could drop the whole thing. RF figures TTAC’s not Car and Driver. “We’re trying to convey the soul of a machine. We’re not under no obligation to provide ANY statistics.” Thanks for that, boss. But if we do offer engine output numbers—and you know we will—TTAC should do so with logic, clarity and complete consistency. Please, help me in this quest by taking this survey.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

65 Comments on “Editorial: Grammar Patrol: How Shall We Denote Engine Output?...”


  • avatar
    tom

    If you use the metric system, I guess you should stick to the official abbreviation:

    Newton meter = “Nm”
    Kilo watt = “kW”

    As a European reader, “Nm” would be helpful to me. I wouldn’t need “kW” though. While the official unit for power is kW over here, hp is more commonly used anyway.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Jeremy’s “torques” drives me bonkers. “Pound feet” is precise, not difficult to say, and actually describes the meaning much better than the word “torque”.

  • avatar
    Jason

    “We’re trying to convey the soul of a machine. We’re not under no obligation to provide ANY statistics.”

    I entirely agree…if anyone wants to know the cold, hard numbers, the article can simply link them to an outside source and preserve the word limitation that way.

  • avatar
    AKM

    ? If we do use Newton meters, should we use the formal “Newton meters” or “N-m” or (and I’m kidding here) just use “newts?”

    Most euro magazines I read actually abbreviate Newton Metres (yes, metres!) as “Nm”.

  • avatar

    Anything but ‘torques’!! Sheesh, that’s so gross.

    A little technology might solve this problem. How about running articles through some software that turns whatever the author uses into the house style?

    Rob

  • avatar
    tom

    Another thing: Why put those stats in the review at all. As you say, the review is about the heart and soul of the cars and those numbers just take up valuable space.

    Just add a little box at the bottom with the stats of the tested vehicle.

  • avatar
    wmba

    This should be straightforward.

    Torque is the product of force times distance (from the axis of rotation).

    Therefore in the US system, torque is lb.ft, where the dot means multiply in math. in the rest of the world, torque is n.m as mentioned above.

    ft.lb is a measure of energy. 778 ft.lb is one btu in the old system.

    lb/ft or ft/lb means essentially spring stiff stiffness or its converse.

    Horsepower is hp.

  • avatar
    findude

    The RPMs are astelling as the maximum outputs. Very little of my driving is done at high RPMs (a few seconds here and there). I am biased toward cars that offer lots of torque early on and have a very wide band.

    A chart would make a lot of sense. Develop a standardized TTAC power/torque dyno-sheet style chart and use it all the time. Save the text for the “soul” part.

  • avatar
    menno

    Put the specs in a box below, and in it, have the US standards with the metric equivalents coming up when the computer arrow is pointed in that spot.

    HP and torque are relevant, anyway.

    Having 200 Lb Ft of torque may seem like one thing when it is at 1800 rpm in a lightweight car with a turbo-diesel and quite something else in a heavy weight high-revving Italian V12 sports tourer weighing twice as much and having maximum torque at 5800 rpm.

    The current Prius has a combined 110hp and 335 Lb Ft of torque, and everyone always ignores the accelerative power of the torque and whines about the lack of “power” when in fact, what other 1500cc mid-sized car with an automatic could get 0-60 in 10 seconds? Just for one example.

    Don’t put any more than HP in the text of the article, that’s all anyone ever considers for the most part, even as erroneous as that situation is. This even goes for piston-heads, at least a lot of us.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I say have a box to the left of the review with any numbers of interest. For instance: for the 930 you may want ponies, torques, and braking distance; for the Sebring, how many times you threw up; for the Camry, how many times you fell asleep while driving.

  • avatar
    TaurusGT500

    I would like to see a HP/IQ rating …(horsepower per driver IQ point).

    (This desire may just be regional based on recent observations of SUV drivers on snowy Michigan freeways.)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If WordPress supports it, you could dynamically change units of measure depending on ARIN/RIPE IP address data. We do this in our ecommerce store for Canadian (litres) and American (gallons) customers, as well as allowing users to set a preference. It doesn’t help with “torques”, though.

    If you could start giving fuel figures in L/100km, I’d be happy. Miles per gallon is a problematic, if not outright disingenuous statistic: if I hear someone dismiss economy by saying “Well, it’s only 1mpg between 15 and 16.” I’ll be forced to spit-roast them.

    … and don’t get me started on “Emm Pee Gees”. It’s not “miles per gallons”, it’s “miles per gallon”. And then there’s Autoblog people who quote European highway numbers and compare it to US EPA city figures of the Prius.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    Style issues shouldn’t trump technical accuracy.

    Torque is measured (Imperially) in pounds-feet.

    “Foot-pounds” is a measure of work, not torque.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3726/is_200409/ai_n9458018

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    Basically any car can be broken down as such; enough, more than enough, too much, and newk-you-lur.

  • avatar

    Jeff, welcome aboard. But with all due respect – you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here.

    TTAC’s reviews stand out from the ubiquity of all the other buff reviews littering the internet and print space because of their honesty and character. Much of that is a direct result of the personalities that write the piece. Furthermore, the 800 word limit makes us choose our words carefully. Insisting that the contributors mold their prose into specific structure is one step in the [wrong] direction of Consumer Reports.

    Each car review (supposedly) comes with an auxiliary “performance summary” page, where I think specs should be identified, and THERE we can regulate how they are conveyed by specific engineering terms (BTW, it’s lb-ft, not lb/ft – gripe). Here, all of your arguments stand valid… in fact those of us with the handy “Convert” tool can satisfy our metric friends around the world. The few words that compose the review itself should be left to the contributor to decide.

    I would focus on flagrant fouls – not pet peeves or interpretations of jargon (unless they’re so far out there nobody will “get it”). If Lieberman wants to pay homage to Clarkson with his torques, then so be it – we reserve our right to laugh at him :)

    But, I do understand you need something more substantial to chase than apostrophes, so ultimately RF will have the final say – since he is, after all, footing your bill.

    Again, welcome aboard – good to have you here.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    I read this whole page and there is nothing about that Pretty Porsche in the Window except to use it as an example. Where is the Truth in Avertising? The next thing you know you’ll post pictures of pretty women to get us to read about bail outs…no wait…DO post pretty women to read about bail outs!

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I’ve always used ft lbs, the foot being singular and the pounds in multiples is usually the rule. It’s probably better to say lb feet (many broadcast reviewers say it this way, but that implies a single lb of torque and many feet of leverage.

    Horsepower is a old standard at direct odds with the wattage ratings many Europeans use. Since the US has the strongest military and protect their sorry asses from the world I say do it our way and they can go lb/ft it

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    and don’t get me started on “Emm Pee Gees”. It’s not “miles per gallons”, it’s “miles per gallon”.

    “This car gets 20 MPGs” — Wrong.
    “These cars have very different MPGs.” — Acceptable, even if deprecated in favor of something like “MPG numbers” or “MPG ratings.”

    psarhjinian, do you also strongly insist on the (technically accurate) “attorneys general” instead of “attorney generals?”

    I agree with the point about consumption/distance being a more sensible measure. People want to travel a certain distance, and care how much gas it takes to get there. Rarely do you say “I’ve got 10 gallons of gas, how far can I get?” MPG also distorts that going from 13.33 MPG to 20 MPG saves you exactly as much gas as going from 20 MPG to 40 MPG over the same distance.

    Of course, the same theoretical problem happens with miles per hour as a measurement. Most people care about how long it takes to get somewhere. MPH can cause people to overestimate the time savings of going faster, but underestimate the time losses of congestion and slowing down. (If you go 40 MPH for half your journey, it’s impossible to average 80 MPH for the entire trip.) It even has effects for public perception about decisions about road repair, or track improvements for railroads, etc.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I don’t care about those numbers in isolation. I want power to weight ratios! :)

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    Torques??? “Hooked on Ebonics worked for me…”

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I’ll take a stab.

    100 ft. lbs of torque at 1200 rpm = 100fpt @ 1200 rpm (or 100pft if you like pounds feet). Rpm is crucial if torque is worth bringing up.

  • avatar
    Sigsworth

    Jeff,

    You. Can. Not. Win.

    I will be happy if you prevent the incorrect usage of “hopefully.” Not that I can point to any specific incorrect usage, mind you. That’s just my favorite grammatical error.

  • avatar
    red60r

    Just use “Cheveaux Vapeur” and be done with it.

  • avatar
    schadenfred

    dyno testing and graphs for every mention are they only way to go.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Call torque what you want, we’ll get it, but definitely include rpm figures for available power (HP and lb/ft) as it is the only way to judge from those numbers how the car will drive.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    And if we do do that vodoo that kilowatts do, should it be “KW” or “kw,” space or no space? And if we offer an rpm arrival point for maximum torque, why not horsepower? For example, “The lightweight Porsche Carrera GT has tremendous torque (589.78 nm / 435 ft lbs @ 5750 rpm) and prodigious power (451.2 kw / 605 bhp @ 8000 rpm).” I’ve got a headache…

    Whichever system TTAC decides to use (I don’t care either way, speak metric as well as imperial), could we please not attempt to reinvent the wheel and redefine official symbols on our own? It’s not really that hard to look them up. No need to get a headache. Just see the first comment here or google for it.

    And definitely do not use “nm” – it means “nanometer”, NOT Newton Meter.

    It drives me absolutely crazy when supposedly technical people cannot be bothered to use proper symbols. It matters! Same with kb vs. kB – one is bigger than the other, yet you see them used interchangeably all the time. Is it fashionable to appear incompetent? Any time I see something like that, I stop reading an article.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    My humble opinion.

    Horsepower = bhp.

    Torque = lb-ft.

    Simple, elegant and easy to understand.

    “Torques” makes me cringe for reasons I don’t fully understand (or care enough about to figure out).

  • avatar
    CanuckGreg

    What about the proper way to abbreviate “rods per hoghead”?

  • avatar
    jayparry

    560 hp (562 with 3 feet of rollout like on a dragstrip)

  • avatar
    Luther

    Why do we still use a modified version of a weights and measures system developed by some inbred anal retentive “Royal Family”?

    SI Metric works better.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    psarhjinian, do you also strongly insist on the (technically accurate) “attorneys general” instead of “attorney generals?”

    Yes. Even though I admittedly screw up it’s and its on a regular basis, I’m a picky twerp about pluralizing.

    Of course, the same theoretical problem happens with miles per hour as a measurement.

    True, but most people use MPH as an absolute measure of current speed, instead of a measure of speed over time. The fuel-usage equivalent would be gallons per minute, which I think would be more sensible.

    Your comments about MPG distorting perceptions are bang-on.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    What wmba said. There are official abbreviations for these units. That said, I don’t expect you to type lb·ft because I can only get that dot by using Spanish keyboard settings. A hyphen will do: lb-ft. A slash makes it entirely different because that’s division. So I don’t care if you use lbs-ft or ft-lbf, just please don’t use lb/ft or ft/lb.

    I recommend hp instead of bhp because the latter only applies to measurements taken by dyno once the car is fully assembled. If the engine’s tested before it’s installed, bhp doesn’t apply.

    Also, a space between the number and the unit is nice. And no capital letters when they aren’t part of the official abbreviation. Thanks!

  • avatar
    miked

    We don’t need to worry about it. If you care about the stats, go look them up on the manufacturers’ websites. We’re here for the good writing and what the drivers’ experience with the car was. We can get numbers anywhere, we can’t get good writing anywhere.

    But if you want to be anal, we need to use the SI units with proper abbreviations

    Torque: Nm
    Power: kW

    and then we can’t use RPM, the real (SI) measure of speed is angular velocity: rad/s

    Then we need to give the mass of the car in kilograms (kg), size of the wheels in centimeters (cm), the turning radius in meters (m), the cargo space in liters (l), proper tire pressure in Pascals (Pa), brightness of the headlights in candela (cd), and the visability in steradians (sr).

    Silly isn’t it? Let the writers be creative. Let the scientists (me) be the nerds. There are more people who have read JL’s RS4 review than the sum of all of my papers together. There’s a reason for that.

  • avatar

    500HP. Dropping the space makes the abbreviation clear.

    kW when discussing electric cars, but it’d be a good idea to also include the HP equivalent.

    Lb/Ft or Lbs/Ft @ X RPM

    MPG is already a plural, just like RBI in baseball and RPM.

    “Torques” is an affectation and should be avoided.

    BTW, the tension gauge I use to measure bobbin tension on my embroidery machine is calibrated in miliNewtons.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    i think you’re making this way too difficult for yourself.

    first, i suggest you take into account the obvious level of knowledge ttac commenters have regarding this topic and never lose sight of it. very few dunderheads here, and of those, some will gain insight and perhaps an education of sorts and some will leave – that’s the way it works.

    second, remember that a style guide is just that – a guide. in our comtemporary society/culture, writing styles tend to vary as much as writers themselves [for instance, i don’t use caps. it’s not an intentional affectation i utilize in an attempt to distinguish myself from others – i’m just a poor typist and avoiding them makes expressing myself easier for me. and except for, perhaps, old-school english majors, i don’t think my handicap has ever adversely affected the meaning of my intended message] so who cares? variety is the spice of life. the primary objective here is to communicate – efficiently and effectively. i haven’t read a single ttac composition or comment yet that was incomprehensible to me in any material way and i have a feeling most people here understand all this much better than i do.

    so here’s my version of a ttac style guide for authors: [1] keep it interesting. [2] keep it informative [3] keep it comprehensible. [4] keep it on-topic. and [5] keep it to 800/900 words. want more? [6] engage your viewers. [7] make an honest effort not to insult them. [8] have fun with it – it’ll come through with your readers and usually be appreciated.

    [of course, none of this eliminates the need for intelligent editorial oversight nor a good proof-reading.]

  • avatar

    If you have ever actually used Strunk AKA “The Elements of Style”, you will probably find this parody, The Elements of Spam, gut-bustingly cough what you’re drinking through your nose funny.
    OTOH, if yoo are primarily a wrench head, you may be totally non-whelmed

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    In the future, please express all speeds in furlongs per fortnight.

    Thank You.

  • avatar
    polpo

    I don’t really care how you write it, as long as you don’t write it as “torques.”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    When considerations like this start to come into a great site like TTAC, we might as well start a TTAC death watch.

    Just let the writers tell it like they want to….that has been part of the charm of TTAC, no formulas. Formulaic writing will lead to TTAC becoming more like (dare I write it) the monthly rag buff-books like C&D, and R&T….thatway lies madness. The more TTAC moves in that direction, the less we of the B&B will have reason to come here for automotive sanity. Just let it go.

    Check the spelling if you must. Make sure that the spell-check gods haven’t made any unfortunate word substitutions. Leave the rest to the contributors.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    First: I favor including a box with the basic specs for a reviewed vehicle. I would like to see dimensions: length, width, height, weight, and number of seats; engine specs: arrangement, cylinders and displacement (e.g.3L V6), and power and torque; performance data: acceleration (0-60 or 1/4 mi.), top speed, and mileage (E.P.A. is fine).

    The numbers can be taken from the car’s manual, sale brochure, or edmunds.com. If you don’t have them just put n/a. Do not waste time and money gathering numbers. This is particularly true with performance numbers. Use prose to describe how the numbers feel. Put the numbers in a convenient table.

    Second: I generally tend to favor SI units of measurement. But, with cars, I am a traditionalist. We all have out quirks. So use American customary units, unless the info is only available in metric.

    Third: Power and torque are only meaningful at a given rotational speed. They must be speced at a given number of r.p.m. If the motor is gutless at cruising speed and needs to wind up quite a bit to accelerate or if it has gobs power at any r.p.m. that is worth talking about in the text.

    Fourth: Torque is a measure of the force applied to a center of rotation through a lever attached to the center (e.g. a wrench twisting a nut). The force is measured in weight units multiplied by the length of the lever.

    By Newton’s third law F=M*A, in SI units, one kilogram times one meter per second squared (kg*m/s*s) is one Newton. A weight of one Newton at the end of a one meter long lever is a Newton*meter or Nm. It is also equivalent to the SI unit of work — the Joule, but most engineers and piston heads don’t think of it that way.

    Customary units do not observe the distinction between mass and weight, so the relevant units are usually pounds and feet (although you could use grains and furlongs). A distinction between work and torque may be made by expressing torque as: “pounds feet” and work as: “foot pounds”, [REF], but mathematically they are the same.

    I have always said foot pounds, and I think it sounds better than pounds feet, which sounds more like rudeness from the audience.

    It is never proper to place a slash between pounds and feet (e.g. ft./lbs) as the slash symbolizes division. It would be correct to place a raised dot or asterisk between them to symbolize multiplication.

    Fourth: Style sheets are available from the United States National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) and the Trilateral Commission in combination with the Illuminati (just kidding) The Unified Code for Units of Measure. The UCUM says HP for horsepower.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    “lb/ft” and “torques” are both meaningful expressions in English. Please don’t use use these existing expression incorrectly.

    Here are the two expressions used in a sentence: With a stiffness of 15 lb/ft, the spring will oscillate and produce 20 alternating torques per minute on the shaft.

    The metric units should adhere to well-established SI conventions.

    I’d like to see RPM listed with the power and torque statistics.

    While you are at it, I’d also like to see maximum speed and RPM in each gear. That gives both the ratios between gears and shift points. When cars are designed to have both high horsepower figures and high EPA mileage benchmarks, gearing is sometimes so tall that driving becomes awkward.

    As for converting between pounds and kilograms…..

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I’d like to have power to weight ratio listed. I’m okay with whatever units of measurement you prefer for either, I’ll just find a converter for it.

    I agree with polpo
    “I don’t really care how you write it, as long as you don’t write it as “torques.””

  • avatar

    -polishing cannonballs.

  • avatar
    jimpen

    I want power to weight ratios!

    I’ll second that. Knowing how many hp/ft.lbs or kW/nM per lbs/kg of the cars weight will, I think, give the reader a better idea about the subjective feel of the cars performance.

  • avatar

    ft-lbs @ xxxx RPM

    hp @ xxxx RPM

    figures without a designation of RPM tell me nothing – I need to know where the vehicle makes its power.

    And yes, we beat this dead horse to death – but fuck 0-60. I want to know both quarter mile AND trap speed – trap speed is the real indicator of what the vehicle is capable of doing.

  • avatar
    T2

    Wow how do you follow that.

    Third: Power and torque are only meaningful at a given rotational speed. They must be speced at a given number of r.p.m.

    My pet peeve is that max power figures should also list the torque at that power so that the roll off from the point of max torque can be appreciated.
    Those who like to rant about diesels for cars might be less inclined if they saw those 33% torque roll off figures.

    Fourth: ……The force is measured in weight units multiplied by the length of the lever.
    Yeah, when we move from imperial measure to metric we simultaneously move from gravitational units to the non-gravitational. As Robert points out imperial uses the pound mass in the same context as force whereas in the metric system mass and force are separately defined by their own units of kilograms and newtons. For this reason alone it is a good idea to move to the metric system.

    Then there is the incongruous 746watts = 1 Hp conversion particularly when you come to electric propulsion.

    Finally rpm. Rotational Speed would be much better expressed in Revs/sec (N) used by the Europeans. I don’t mind the 2*pi multiplier in the equation. But that rpm/60 is annoying.

    I think rpm made more sense for the 40 strokes per minute beam engines of the eighteenth century whereas the rather unwieldy 12,000 rpm of today’s electric motors can simply become 200 rps (N).

    Expressing torque in Newton-meters the equation reduces to :
    Power in watts = Torque X 2pi X N

    And if everyone agrees I would say that this is quite enough torque from me.
    T2

  • avatar
    Martin B

    Nm, kW, and kg, with a space between the numeral and the symbol.

    Never, ever, ever, “torques.”

    I’m surprised HP/ton is never used. I think it’s an informative metric.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m not too picky. Just don’t use pounds per foot (lb/ft). Save that for springs.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    @T2: thanks. I agree, but like I said I am a traditionalist when it comes to cars. For many years now my tachometers have been marked in r.p.m.

    If you give us the engine data and specs we can see the power/weight ratio.

    For the mathematically challenged out there, your Google search bar can do arithmetic.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    RF was correct. We’ve opened a can of worms.

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I’m all for a little box at the bottom of a post with the standardized specs. Let the author write as he wishes.

  • avatar
    obbop

    CID was so much sexier than this newfangled liter stuff.

    Just can’t envision looking neat on the seat of a Mustang Boss 5.8 or whomping upon those Fords and Chevys with a 6-pack bolted atop the 7.2 Magnum.

  • avatar

    obbop: What about the Ford Seven-Litre?

    I am pretty insistent on XX hp and XX lb-ft, with the space. I am okay with bhp, but I don’t think XXHP is acceptable — if I were copy editing something, I wouldn’t let that stand. “Torques” and “MPGs” should be grounds for flogging.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    Boy, I can’t remember a topic that has caused such a big response. There is always tension between saying what is right and saying what is commonly used.
    As an Australian in America, I have trouble with mpg because we have not used miles for decades and when we did use gallons they were 20% bigger than yours. I agree that litres per 100km or gallons per 100 miles is a more useful expression.
    As far as power goes, Australia has been metric for donkey’s years and the correct measure is kW however car manufacturers persist in quoting hp simply because it is a bigger number!

  • avatar
    detlef

    No love for Pferdestärke?

    In all seriousness, the issue this article is really dancing around is whether TTAC is an American or European publication.

    If the answer is the former, then it would be appropriate to use the units of measure standard in the American market in effect at the time the vehicle was produced. Pre-1972 American cars would be rated with SAE gross horsepower, cars 1972-2005 in SAE net horsepower, and 2005-present cars in SAE certified horsepower. With respect to displacement, the CID/SI transition occurred mostly over the course of the 1980s.

    However, if TTAC is a European publication, then it would be necessary to chose between DIN horsepower, kW, CV (which is actually tax horsepower and different than “cv”), ECE, etc. Cited displacement would depend on if the vehicle originally was measured in liters (litres?) or cubic centimeters. I can’t even begin to entertain the problem of citing torque figures with any historical and regional accuracy.

    Another question logically follows: if TTAC is a European publication (or insists on using European standards of measure in reviews), should readers also expect British English spelling in the future? Shall we begin referring to bonnets, boots, aerials, estates, and the like? Is the Audi TT an aluminium coupé, or an aluminum coupe?

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    Dear detlef
    What is your insistence on “European”? I think the entire world has pretty much standardized (standardised?) on the metric system. Only the USA sticks with pounds, feet and fails to see the advantages of a sheet of A4 paper.

  • avatar
    detlef

    @ Spike_in_Irvine:

    My insistence on the adjective “European” is twofold in nature. Firstly, the qualification of SI measurements as “European” is completely correct. “SI” itself is an abbreviation of the French “Le Système International d’Unités.” I think you would find the majority of the SI units were developed by Europeans, and that they were merely adapted by other countries outside of Europe. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to refer to the “Newton-metre” as a European measurement.

    More importantly, I believe there is a substantial portion of the TTAC readership which is European or customarily use these European standards of measure, such as my good neighbors across the street, the Canadians.

    Finally, while you may consider the metric system to be a superior system because it is “standardized” (more widely accepted), that argument is rooted in a logical fallacy – the appeal to common practice. That the metric system is more widely used doesn’t make the metric system inherently better than other standards of measure; it simply makes it more common. Yes, the metric system may be great for scientific pursuits, but as a practical, human-scale measurement it is absolute rubbish.

  • avatar
    MagMax

    I don’t think it really matters whether TTAC settles on a particular usage, even if it’s different from everyone else’s, so long as whatever is used is consistent, and spelled correctly. (Frankly, I was more concerned about the mis-spelling of “seperate” in one of the articles today and was surprised it hadn’t been corrected.) If you’re going to set up a convention, what will you do with mpg? Will you also give miles per Imperial gallon? Will you give a metric equivalent? If so, is it going to be the usual x litres/100 km, as we use in Canada, or the much more useful way they do it in Dutch language magazines, x kilometres/litre? I prefer the latter and wish that were adopted everywhere in the place of the x litres/100 km.

    Let’s leave all of these stats for a separate box at the end of the reviews so the writers don’t lose words on providing what essentially is information that can easily be sourced from elsewhere. The reviews should continue to be opinions and not just lists of facts, equipment, options, and so on.

  • avatar
    AnalogKid

    Two things:

    1) “We’re not under no obligation” is glaringly incorrect. “We’re not obligated” is correct.

    2) The use of “Torques” makes me cringe. Any other means of describing torque is fine.

    Nice to see a copy editor. For awhile now, the reviews have been riddled with typos and usage errors. I figured RF was too busy writing “Death Watches” to stay on top of it all.

  • avatar
    nudave

    Make it simple – use the European system.

    Maximum KW/revolutions per minute.

    Maximum Nm/revolutions per minute.

  • avatar

    You’ve got all that unused, dead white space to th left of the story; stick a spec box in there. In SAE, with a button to switch to metric.

    Hey, that’s a really good idea. Me am so smart.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Horsepower and torque numbers without the corresponding RPM are useless. I’d prefer to see them graphed, not just the peak values, but that level of detail is often not published. I prefer SAE measurements.

    I usually care more about the torque measurement than horsepower. I believe it was Smokey Yunick that said, “Horsepower sells cars; torque wins races.”

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Mike66Chryslers wrote:

    Horsepower and torque numbers without the corresponding RPM are useless. I’d prefer to see them graphed, not just the peak values

    I agree, that would be brilliant. Too bad that information is so hard to find.

  • avatar
    chnaane

    Most parts of this question are simpler to answer than presented, because many of the proposed options are flatly wrong and therefore don’t warrant consideration. The English unit of torque is correctly abbreviated lb·ft , with a middle dot. It does not have a period, an en- or em-dash, a hyphen, a slash, a stroke, or anything other than a middle dot. And the unit order is pounds followed by feet; “foot-pound” is a colloquialism. There is an especially unpleasant part of hell reserved for writers so high on the fumes from their overinflated self-perception of cleverness that they afflict us with asinine little affectations like “torques”, which is right down with calling snow “the white stuff”.

    As has already been correctly pointed out, the correct abbreviation for Newton-metres is Nm, and for kilowatts is kW.

    Horsepower is a little trickier, because there are multiple horsepower rating systems in common use. If we disregard that snag, then we need only pick the least-obtrusive method of abbreviation, which is lowercase/no-space: 245hp .

  • avatar
    Johann

    I think you should just have a box at the bottom. Give us the choice to tick which system we’d like to see and save that to a cookie. That way we always (and only) see the system we understand. But as stated you are not Car and Driver so I won’t fret about this too much… Google is but a click away to find the specs if we really want it.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • FormerFF: If I were going to deal with a 1980s car, I’d go with BMW’s 635 CSi.
  • Lou_BC: Kinda like Ford’s “I 3150” badge.
  • Superdessucke: I get it that enthusiasts don’t buy cars and blah blah. That’s fine, I guess, but that...
  • eggsalad: I know it’s sponsored content and untouched by actual editors, but it is disingenuous for an...
  • Arthur Dailey: @Syke: Sorry for your loss. I nearly pulled the trigger on a 2nd generation xB. The first generation...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber