What’s the Difference Between Torque and Horsepower?
An Explanation from Our Ford Service Techs in Kansas City
If you’re like most people, you’re vaguely familiar with the terms “torque” and “horsepower,” but you might not know exactly what they mean. But these two terms are extra valuable for people shopping for sporty cars or powerful trucks – and for them, the higher the numbers, the better.
To help you understand the difference between torque and horsepower, we’ve put together a cheat sheet. Before long, you’ll be a pro at talking about these, and you’ll be ready to shop for your next vehicle to tow your boat or cruise down the highway.
What is horsepower?
Horsepower is the amount of power transferred from the engine to the wheels, or how quickly the engine can perform work.
Here, we’re using the physics definition of work, which is the energy transferred to or from an object via the application of force along a displacement.
What is torque?
Torque is a measure of a vehicle’s ability to do work. It specifically denotes the rotational force applied to the crankshaft of the vehicle.
Generally, the higher the torque, the higher the horsepower a vehicle achieves, especially at lower crankshaft RPMs. This provides lots of power at low speeds, which is what you want, especially if you’re towing a heavy trailer or camper.
Know that vehicles with low torque also can achieve quite a bit of horsepower, but possibly only when driving at higher speeds in higher gears.
Is torque responsible for speed?
Torque is important for acceleration, but not in the same way that horsepower is. Torque gets your vehicle moving when you press the gas pedal; horsepower keeps it moving.
Vehicles capable of a lot of horsepower are designed to be fast – take the Ford Mustang for example. Because of its size, it’s horsepower propels it quickly.
However, extra-large vehicles, like the Ford Expedition, have lots of horsepower, too. But because it’s so large, it isn’t going to move as fast as a smaller vehicle with the equivalent horses would. It simply requires high horsepower to propel it. Similarly, a larger vehicle will need more torque than a smaller one.
Torque and horsepower should be proportionate for a balanced, comfortable ride.
Which has the bigger effect on fuel economy?
If your goal is to drive on-the-cheap and spend as little money as possible at the gas station, then you’ll want to look for a vehicle with lower torque and horsepower numbers. Horsepower burns fuel while accelerating, so the higher the horsepower, the faster you’ll burn through gasoline.
Vehicles with low-end torque at slower speeds burn gas more efficiently, but it still depends on how you drive. If you’re aggressive and “floor it,” you’ll likely use up more gas more quickly, and may well damage your vehicle in the process.
Is torque or horsepower more important for towing?
If you intend to tow a trailer or camper, then torque is your best friend. Torque is like a muscle for your vehicle. Low torque is like having weak muscles, so your vehicle might struggle to pull extra weight. Higher torque puts less strain on your vehicle’s transmission.
In short, you need more torque, especially to get uphill, and keep your engine running smoothly. An SUV with less torque than a pickup can technically still haul your trailer, but it might not be a fun drive, especially if it’s long or happens frequently.
If you have a mid-size SUV, although it’s technically capable of hauling more than 10,000 pounds, you still might want to spring for a vehicle specifically designed for towing, like a Ford F-150. It has the combination of torque and horsepower that you need to have an enjoyable drive while you tow, and it’s capable of hauling heavy loads without putting strain on the transmission and other parts.
Where can I find a Ford dealership near me?
If you need help properly maintaining your vehicle, the Ford service center at Zeck Ford in Leavenworth, KS is here for you.
Or, if you’re in the market to buy a new or used vehicle, visit our used car dealership and new car lot to see our immense inventory on-site. And because Zeck Ford has connections to dealerships in other states, we can ship your perfect vehicle from one of our sister dealerships for a small fee.
You’ll find cars, trucks, and SUVs with a variety of ranges of torque and horsepower to meet your needs. Shop for vehicles at Zeck Ford, just outside of Kansas City.