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Asians oversell horsepower

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Asians oversell horsepower
Toyota, Honda inflated claims of engine muscle; new tests force automakers to come clean with buyers.


By Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Sealing the deal

When you’re trying to decide between two similar vehicles, what factor is most likely to sway your opinion?

WASHINGTON -- After years of touting ever higher horsepower numbers to win new customers, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and possibly other automakers are now backtracking on some of those claims.

Strict new tests developed by the industry's top engineering group are prompting the carmakers to roll back horsepower estimates on several key vehicles, including the Toyota Camry, America's best-selling car, and Honda's luxurious Acura RL.

For the 2006 model year, Toyota says its Camry equipped with a 3-liter V-6 engine generates 190 horsepower. In 2005, Toyota said the same car with the same engine had 210 horsepower.

The revised ratings comply with new Society of Automotive Engineers standards designed to eliminate subjective interpretation in establishing horsepower claims.

While Toyota and Honda are retesting their entire vehicle lineups, other automakers generally are retesting only cars and trucks with updated powertrains.

Over time, most automakers are expected to comply with the new guidelines, and horsepower ratings for other vehicles could be revised.

Detroit's automakers say they have been conservative in calculating horsepower and don't expect to have to reduce horsepower ratings on many vehicles. In fact, after retesting, the Big Three have revised horsepower ratings upward on several vehicles.

The changes are likely to raise questions among customers.

"Horsepower is a big draw," said Jim Sanfilippo, an automotive marketing expert at AMCI Inc.

"This is at best difficult to explain," he added.

"Toyota and the other companies better have a good answer when customers ask questions about what happened."

The Camry has been a best-seller for years and a linchpin in Toyota's strategy to increase sales in North America.

Honda is reducing horsepower ratings across its Acura brand. The flagship RL sedan will lose 10 horsepower, to 290 from 300. The popular MDX SUV will fall from a rating of 265 to 253. Less powerful models such as the Honda Civic will see smaller reductions.

"From what we've seen so far, this is going to affect the Japanese and the Europeans a lot more than the domestic manufacturers," said Mark Brueggemann, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Brueggemann said engines have not changed, so car shoppers won't notice any drop-off in performance during test drives. But consumers look at horsepower when they're deciding which models to test drive and buy.

For example, the 190-horsepower Camry will compete against a new Hyundai Sonata that advertises 235 horses under the hood. "This could have a possible effect of eliminating a car from consideration," he said.

The changes are already having an impact among die-hards who prowl Internet chat rooms like AutoWeek's Combustion Chamber, Edmunds Town Hall and GM Insidenews. In a recent posting on AutoWeek's site under the heading, "Acura hurt by new SAE hp standard -- numbers were inflated," one chatter said: "Bottom line is if you sell me a car with the promise of say 300 hp, I want my 300 hp!"

Toyota had to advertise based on the new SAE testing procedures because of a California state law, said company spokesman Bill Kwong. The company then decided to use one set of ratings for all of its U.S. ads.

"We hope it won't be confusing," Kwong said. "If you drive a 2006 or 2005, it drives the same. It's the same car. Customers are not getting anything less or anything more."

Honda spokesman Mike Spencer predicted it would take a few years for customers to understand the changes, but eventually all manufacturers will be using the new SAE tests.

"We've been using SAE procedures all along, it's just that SAE changed their procedures," he said.

The news is better for General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Some models such as the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Fusion sedan are faring better under the new testing procedures, which could give them a much-needed edge in the marketplace.

The Cadillac XLR roadster with a Northstar engine saw its horsepower rating go from 440 to 469.

"We have confidence that our customers will get the power they pay for," said GM spokesman Thomas Read. "It's going to give the consumer a better rating for their engine."

As the new testing procedure is phased in, it may be tricky for consumers. For example, the Ford Five Hundred sedan is rated at 203 horsepower for 2006, the same as the 2005 model. But the 2006 rating does not reflect the new SAE testing procedure, because Ford is not going to the expense of retesting its existing engines, said company spokesman Nick Twork.

The company will use the new SAE test only when it overhauls a powertrain, as it did for next year's Explorer, Twork said.

But Twork said Ford does not expect significant drop-offs in horsepower as the new test is phased in. When Ford unveiled its midsize Fusion sedan in January, it projected 210 horsepower. When it was tested under SAE's official protocol, the engine received a 221 horsepower rating, Twork said.

"We typically like to underpromise and overdeliver," Twork said. "We feel we've been pretty conservative, and we don't anticipate any major changes."

DaimlerChrysler is using the new SAE procedures on any model with changes in its powertrain, said spokesman Cole Quinnell. He said the company expects new ratings to be within 3 percent of the old ratings, with some going up and some going down. DaimlerChrysler is making a special effort to test high-performance models, like the Dodge Viper V-10. The Viper now tests at 510 horsepower, up from 500 in 2005.

"We've wholeheartedly embraced the new procedures," Quinnell said. "We hope it shows our credibility."

When an engine doesn't measure up to its advertised performance, it can hurt. Mazda Motor Corp. reintroduced the rotary engine with its RX-8 sports coupe a few years ago. It had a high horsepower rating. But when drivers got inside, they discovered weak low-end torque, meaning that the rocket-like acceleration they'd expected was missing.

Ford pulled its high-performance Mustang Cobra from the market a few years ago when enthusiasts complained the engine did not live up to its billing. Ford tweaked the engine before selling it again.

SAE says it tightened its horsepower rules when engineers noticed some elements in the old test were prone to interpretation.

"We tried to tighten language that was open to interpretation," said Dave Lancaster, a technical fellow at General Motors Corp. who chaired the SAE committee that wrote the new requirements.

Under the old testing procedures, there were small factors that required a judgment call: how much oil was in the crankcase, how the engine controls were calibrated and whether a vehicle was tested with premium fuel. In some cases, the little adjustments added up to a big change in horsepower ratings. The new SAE procedures allow less wiggle room.

John Di Pietro, road test editor at Edmunds.com, said the drop in horsepower ratings for '06 models they have tested are not especially dramatic. For vehicles such as a midsize family sedan, the reputation of the manufacturer will likely be more important, Di Pietro said.

"It will be up to the salesman to ensure they understand the engine hasn't actually lost any power," he said.
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What will be the story with the now 298-horse G35s?
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The Cadillac XLR roadster with a Northstar engine saw its horsepower rating go from 440 to 469.

[post="20"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Wouldn't that be the XLR-V? Wow... :D
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Finally the Asians get caught, on a large scale, for one of their many deceptive practices. I hope this hurts their sales......not just to be mean, but punishment for trying to inflate HP ratings in order to market their vehicles better against domestic vehicles. I hear the 280 HP Avalon is now down to 268 HP.
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It would appear to me that Honda has overstated their outputs in Acuras. The RL is down to 290 from 300; the TL is down to 254 from 270, and the MDX is down as well (don't remember how much). It will be interesting to see if the LS2 goes up at all and other American engines.
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I find it funny that the 3.3L V6 (the most powerful Camry engine at the moment) is now outpowered by the base engine in the Impala...and gets worse mileage to boot.
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Please guys don't get me started on this one! Don't use the terms, fraud, mis-lead, lied etc. It is just not true. The test changed so there is less room for interpretation. That is it. Credit Honda and Toyota for recertifing their engines to the new spec not the results of it.
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I find it funny that the 3.3L V6 (the most powerful Camry engine at the moment) is now outpowered by the base engine in the Impala...and gets worse mileage to boot. Do you have the new HP numbers for the 3.3? It used to make 230 in the Camry/Sienna.
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I find it funny that the 3.3L V6 (the most powerful Camry engine at the moment) is now outpowered by the base engine in the Impala...and gets worse mileage to boot.

Do you have the new HP numbers for the 3.3? It used to make 230 in the Camry/Sienna.

[post="376"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


In the Camry, it's 210hp now. I don't know if the Sienna's the same.
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Please guys don't get me started on this one!

Don't use the terms, fraud, mis-lead, lied etc.  It is just not true.

The test changed so there is less room for interpretation.  That is it.

Credit Honda and Toyota for recertifing their engines to the new spec not the results of it.

[post="354"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Detroit's automakers say they have been conservative in calculating horsepower and don't expect to have to reduce horsepower ratings on many vehicles. In fact, after retesting, the Big Three have revised horsepower ratings upward on several vehicles.


So why has Detroit been conservative while the Asians have be "interpreting" the SAE procedures to help them get more HP?

All of the auto manufacturers knew about the procedures, and what they were doing. Detroit chose to do the right thing, and the Asians chose to take advantage. Now they got caught......and it probably won't matter, because you and the auto rag journalists will come to their aid and claim that they've done nothing wrong.
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Wouldnt that be kind of like rating ground clearance to the floor instead of to the frame? Was that open to interpretation too? The way I see it is, if its not rated as exactly like its sold with the specified fuel listed in the manual, its cheating, especially if it was done purposely just to inflate the numbers. GM would be taking a beating right now if the Malibu only had 190 instead of 200, or if any other ratings from GM were 5-10 short.
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Well, most of Infiniti's power ratings are unchanged or raised:

M35/45:

http://nissannews.com/infiniti/2006vehicle...i_m/specs.shtml

FX35/45:

http://nissannews.com/infiniti/2006vehicles/fx/specs.shtml

Q45:

http://nissannews.com/infiniti/2006vehicles/q45/specs.shtml

QX56:

http://nissannews.com/infiniti/2006vehicles/qx56/specs.shtml

The G35 hasn't been tested yet. Edited by VarianceJ30
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So why has Detroit been conservative while the Asians have be "interpreting" the SAE procedures to help them get more HP?

All of the auto manufacturers knew about the procedures, and what they were doing.  Detroit chose to do the right thing, and the Asians chose to take advantage.  Now they got caught......and it probably won't matter, because you and the auto rag journalists will come to their aid and claim that they've done nothing wrong.

[post="400"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Like I have said do not get me started on this topic. But, you have.

First I will preface that I do not know the specifics of the changes to the SAE spec. or what has caused the variability. And truthfully I do not really care because it does not matter. Here is my assessment of your comments.

You have used the phrases that are malicious and ignorant.

"All of the auto manufacturers knew about the procedures."

No, that was why the SAE spec. was redone. The global industry knew there was variability and chose to evaluate the spec.

"Detroit chose to do the right thing, and the Asians chose to take advantage. "

No you are incorrect again. Why the variability I do not know but the fact that the manufacturers have chosen to re-certify their engine show that they acknowledge there was an issue. Ford and Chrysler both stated that all of their engines will not be certified to the new SAE standard.

"Now they got caught."
You are ignorant and naive for stating that. Who got caught? Toyota and Honda released their figures at their choice and part of the new spec. negotiations.

"and it probably won't matter, because you and the auto rag journalists will come to their aid and claim that they've done nothing wrong."

Actually this is the statement that irritated me most. Read Detroit News, they started this ignorant debate against the Asian brands. As for me, I am stating the realities.

The bottom line is the performance and that has not changes.
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I hear the 280 HP Avalon is now down to 268 HP.

[post="312"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


No, Toyota's new line of V6's are measured with the new standards. This includes the Avalon, IS250/350, etc.
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Like I have said do not get me started on this topic.  But, you have.

First I will preface that I do not know the specifics of the changes to the SAE spec. or what has caused the variability.  And truthfully I do not really care because it does not matter.  Here is my assessment of your comments.

[post="438"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


From the SAE site:

SAE Engine Rating Standard Prevents Numbers Fudging (an article on how GM will use SAE J1349 Certified Power, AEI May 2005, Vol 113 No.5, p 59 )
General Motors has become the first manufacturer to certify an engine's power and torque ratings using a newly adopted SAE standard (J2723), James Queen, GM Vice President, Global Engineering, announced during his keynote address at the SAE World Congress and Exhibition in April 2005. The world's largest automaker plans to certify all of its engines to the voluntary standard, and is encouraging its competitors to do the same. The LS7 engine for the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 was certified under the new standard this month. The 7.0-L V8 unit produces 505 hp (377 kW) at 6300 rpm and 470 lboft (637 Nom) at 4800 rpm. "The new voluntary SAE power and torque certification procedure ensures fair, accurate ratings for horsepower and torque as it uses third-party certification," said Queen. "SAE technical standards level the playing field, and this certification procedure is just the latest example of the value SAE has offered over the past century." To tout power and torque ratings as "SAE-certified," engine manufacturers must have an SAE qualified witness watch over the entire testing procedure to ensure that it is conducted in conformity to SAE standard J1349. Third-party witnessing is the main provision of J2723. An existing SAE standard, J1349, spells out how the actual testing is to be done. J1349 was updated last year to eliminate some ambiguities that allowed engine makers to cite power and torque ratings higher than the engine's actual capabilities. Engine makers are free to cite power and torque figures derived from testing conducted outside the scope of the SAE standards, but they may not claim the figures are SAE-certifed. "We feel that both the consumer and industry are well served by having accurate, consistent ratings from all manufacturers," said David Lancaster, a Technical Fellow in GM Powertrain and Chairman of the SAE Engine Power Test Code Committee that updated J1349 and wrote J2723. Data from a wide array of parameters (e.g., air:fuel ratio) will be collected during testing conducted to the SAE standards. SAE will create a database and offer it to industry in different packages and at different price points.



This states that "some manufacturers" were stating non-SAE certified horsepower ratings. I wonder which manufacturers those were?

Linky: http://www.sae.org/certifiedpower/details.htm
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Thank you Brew, I was looking for just that info myself. From what I understand from reading several articles on this, several companies were not abiding by the idea behind the SAE certifications... Some companies were using differeing levels of oil in their engines, different setups for exhaust, differing levels of octane in their fuel, providing better air intake (I heard one story of an "un-named" company using a small blower fan outside the building to push air through a pipe into the engine's intake for a performance car), things like that. These small differences combined allowed for what seems to be up to 20 HP being different on their specs.
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V-6 Camry 190 hp, weak!

[post="243"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


my 1998, was rated at 194, but my brothers 108 hp corolla was just as fast...

and yes, to a bit above, the XLR-V is not a northstar (as I am aware) yet a LS6 Superchared?
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my 1998, was rated at 194, but my brothers 108 hp corolla was just as fast...

and yes, to a bit above, the XLR-V is not a northstar (as I am aware) yet a LS6 Superchared?

[post="507"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Nope, it is a NS. A supercharged 4.4L
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This whole situation really sucks for the Asians. That being said, it's not like they inflated their engine's HP on purpose. The "new" test shares some of the blame and Toyota has been testing their engines with premium fuel in order to get the higher HP. Hopefully they've learned their lesson. And 190HP is rediculous. The new Camry couldn't come fast enough, no pun intended. Edited by sciguy_0504
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Ford's new Fusion has been SAE tested and still has 221 hp. I haven't heard of any other Ford vehicles yet. I've been following this quite a bit, and it appears that Toyota and Honda have had to make the most (and largest) changes. Even if they did test under ideal conditions that would never happen in a real life situation, it doesn't change the fact that their horsepower numbers have dropped by as much as 20 hp. Nissan has pretty much stayed solid, with a couple numbers even going up slightly. I read a while back that GM was certifying all its 2006 cars, but I haven't read anything since. So while it may not have been some "plot" by Toyota and Honda, but it still looks bad on paper no matter how you put it.
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I don't know what some of you people are not understanding. The old SAE regulations left some "loopholes" where manufacturers could "cheat" to get better HP figures. Things like piping cold air from outside directly into the air box, playing with oil levels, different octane fuels, etc........all of which were purposely done with the intent of raising claimed HP figures. How could any manufacturer consider these acceptable practices? The answer is, some of them thought it was just fine, and others restrained.......and guess who thought it was just fine???..........TOYOTA!!!!......and HONDA!!!!! ;)
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