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Question of the Day: Bare minimum acceptable horsepower?

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I definitely stole this from Autoblog but I thought it was a great little topic. I know it GREATLY varies based on the vehicle itself because a 5500lb SUV/Truck will need more power than a sub 3000lb car.

With that said.. For the "average" 3000-4000lb vehicle I think I would want minimum 200-250hp as a daily. Something that can achieve nothing less than a 15.5 second quarter mile. I know that involves more than just hp but as it's been stated hp isn't everything. I will always want something a little fun even though a slow 15.5 isn't anything special it is quick enough to pass on demand, have a little fun with hard launches, and not aggravate me.

As the vehicle weight grows I feel it is safe to assume more power is necessary to maintain the same goals listed above. The numbers probably jump to 300-350hp but it also is dependent on gearing.

There are just so many variables when I stop and really think about this but that's why I thought it would be a great discussion piece.

So, what is it? What's the minimum horsepower acceptable to you?

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My Choice is about 400 lbs of Torque on an electrified auto.

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3000-4000 lbs vehicle?

OK....as a bare minimum, no thrills driving but just enough to get you to work, from point A to point B, hauling family, groceries and all other necessary junk with safe acceleration levels and enough juice to actually haul said stuff?

That would be 200/250 horsepower with 200/250 ft.lbs torque.

With 200 HP/200 ft.lbs being closer to the 3000 lbs car and 250 HP/250 ft.lbs being closer to the 4000 lbs car. Crazy speeds wont be achieved immediately, but enough ooomph is there to actually perform family car stuff. Dont worry though, with those power levels, unsafe speeds for the street will be attained just the same.

Now, for pure driving enjoyment.

Obviously a fun driving chassis is needed with all the necessary hardware besides the engine is also needed such as tight steering and appropriate suspension tuning and proper brakes....but for a 3000-4000 lbs vehicle 300-400 horsepower and 300-400 ft.lbs is quite enough for shenanigans....

  300 HP/300 ft.lbs being closer to the 3000 lbs car and 400 HP/400 ft.lbs being closer to the 4000 lbs car.

Actually, power levels this high get you into trouble real fast with the law and with the safety of the public road system for yourself and others that share the road with you.

 

 

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I've never liked the whole "minimum acceptable horsepower" argument. Ccap touches on the reason why right off the bat: the real discussion is power/torque to weight, or real-world acceleration numbers.

If we're talking about minimum adequate power, I'd say a car needs to be under 9 sec 0-60 and 17 sec in the 1/4 mile. That means about 200 horsepower/torque in a 4000 lb sedan, or 150 hp in a 3000 lb car. Below that, a car feels lethargic getting up to speed even at full throttle, and will make you really debate 2-lane passing maneuvers. Fun-to-drive really doesn't begin until you're under 8 sec 0-60, though.

The line for what I consider "performance" begins at 6.5 sec 0-60 and 15 sec quarter mile. That's around 300 horsepower for a 4000 lb vehicle. That comes out mathematically to 225 hp in a 3000 lb car. It's at that point that the power can really overcome the weight and thrust the car forward on demand.

It still comes down to gearing and overall engineering, that's why I focus on acceleration time first and foremost.

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So the BOLT being an under 7 second 0-60 car should rock everyone's world! :metal: 

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It's always about the torque.  My 3,800 lb coupe only has 148hp.  Yes it's slow if you're trying to drag race it, but it's secret weapon is the 250 lb-ft of torque that comes on at like 1,200 rpm and a low first gear.  That means that while you may beat me to 60 if we're racing, I'm still often pulling away from you in normal traffic with nothing more than a mild purr under the hood while you're reving your 200hp 4-cylinder up over 4,000 rpm just to keep up with me. 

I pretty much ignore horsepower claims these days. 

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^ +1 on total agreement about the HP claims. Torque the real motivator.

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15 hours ago, cp-the-nerd said:

I've never liked the whole "minimum acceptable horsepower" argument. Ccap touches on the reason why right off the bat: the real discussion is power/torque to weight, or real-world acceleration numbers.

If we're talking about minimum adequate power, I'd say a car needs to be under 9 sec 0-60 and 17 sec in the 1/4 mile. That means about 200 horsepower/torque in a 4000 lb sedan, or 150 hp in a 3000 lb car. Below that, a car feels lethargic getting up to speed even at full throttle, and will make you really debate 2-lane passing maneuvers. Fun-to-drive really doesn't begin until you're under 8 sec 0-60, though.

The line for what I consider "performance" begins at 6.5 sec 0-60 and 15 sec quarter mile. That's around 300 horsepower for a 4000 lb vehicle. That comes out mathematically to 225 hp in a 3000 lb car. It's at that point that the power can really overcome the weight and thrust the car forward on demand.

It still comes down to gearing and overall engineering, that's why I focus on acceleration time first and foremost.

I definitely agree with you, pretty much across the board. It's really a power(tq) to weight ratio that we're looking for but if I'm being honest I don't know what a good ratio is.

It really is more about acceleration rather than the power itself.

Wouldn't about 225hp in a 3000lb car be more like a 14.0 car? Just thinking because of GTIs. They're 3200-3300lbs and 220hp/258tq and tested at low 14's(14.3 from C/D).

Gearing plays a huge factor. Period. I'm glad it was brought up(not sure if I mentioned it in the op). That's one reason the Miata is such a great car. It isn't geared for commuting but geared to DRIVE.

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12 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

It's always about the torque.  My 3,800 lb coupe only has 148hp.  Yes it's slow if you're trying to drag race it, but it's secret weapon is the 250 lb-ft of torque that comes on at like 1,200 rpm and a low first gear.  That means that while you may beat me to 60 if we're racing, I'm still often pulling away from you in normal traffic with nothing more than a mild purr under the hood while you're reving your 200hp 4-cylinder up over 4,000 rpm just to keep up with me. 

I pretty much ignore horsepower claims these days. 

I would somewhat disagree.. It depends how/where you're driving. 99% of the time the low to mid range is all we use but if you're an aggressive driver and take your car to the track you actually utilize the peak hp negating almost all benefit of having a torque monster. Once you're out of first gear on a track, be it drag racing or road course, you largely don't benefit from torque. Gobs of torque would help in minimizing downshifts though, which would be nice.

I personally am a driver that suites EXACTLY what you say about hp/tq. I like the low end power and not having to rev the piss out of the vehicle to get it to go anywhere.

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1 hour ago, ccap41 said:

 Gobs of torque would help in minimizing downshifts though, which would be nice.

@ccap41You hit the nail on the head and what 99% of the driving population really wants and needs. Torque that gets them going quickly so as to not be a hinderance on the roads and torque to keep them going to minimize downshifting at higher speeds so they stay efficient in the 4th, 5th, 6th or what ever final gear they have.

EV addresses this totally and for the bulk of drivers, a 200+ EV will take care of almost all their driving needs.

Love Tesla and their new 100kWh battery pack, 315 miles is sweet, I can see us breaking the 400 mile range battery pack by the end of 2017.

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2 hours ago, ccap41 said:

I would somewhat disagree.. It depends how/where you're driving. 99% of the time the low to mid range is all we use but if you're an aggressive driver and take your car to the track you actually utilize the peak hp negating almost all benefit of having a torque monster. Once you're out of first gear on a track, be it drag racing or road course, you largely don't benefit from torque. Gobs of torque would help in minimizing downshifts though, which would be nice.

I personally am a driver that suites EXACTLY what you say about hp/tq. I like the low end power and not having to rev the piss out of the vehicle to get it to go anywhere.

If course how you use it matters.  But all these people running around saying they *have* to have 300+ horsepower in a 3,800 lb sedan make me laugh.  I keep up with traffic just fine with 148hp.... but it's because I have so much torque.... and my car does it without breaking a sweat.  I don't have a tach, but I bet I rarely ever exceed 3500 rpm. 

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3 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Wouldn't about 225hp in a 3000lb car be more like a 14.0 car? Just thinking because of GTIs. They're 3200-3300lbs and 220hp/258tq and tested at low 14's(14.3 from C/D).

Gearing plays a huge factor. Period. I'm glad it was brought up(not sure if I mentioned it in the op). That's one reason the Miata is such a great car. It isn't geared for commuting but geared to DRIVE.

This is why I covered myself before pointing out horsepower numbers! 225 hp in a 3000 lb vehicle just happens to be the same horsepower to weight ratio as 300 horsepower for 4000 lbs (13.3 lbs per horsepower). It's simply a general number. I know large cars with 300 horsepower like the Impala and Chrysler 300 are right in the high 14 second range, they happen to have 260-270 tq and various transmissions.

The GTI is a poor example because it's geared for performance (both in manual and DCT), generally dynos higher than the factory rating, and has much more torque than horsepower to offset the estimation (nearly as much as the aforementioned large cars).

Take the Fiesta ST. It weighs 2700-2800 lbs and makes 197 hp/202 tq. It falls near the 15-second line of "performance" that I outlined, and lo and behold, the power to weight ratio, 13.9 lb/hp, is pretty close to the 300 hp in a 4000 lb car.

Edited by cp-the-nerd
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as another reference, my Mazda6 pretty much has the same torque peak as my 99 MC had, but at 750RPM lower, and about the same weight (~200lbs) as the MC

I don't remember really timing my MC to 60 might have been 9-10 seconds.

the mazda is probably mid 7s.  this is why i was always curious about GM upgrading a low 3L v6 with a 6speed, not only for performance, but also economy.

While a 200 HP engine is nice, gearing and torque is certainly more important.

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This is such an open-ended question that has so many variable come into play, it's almost not even worth answering. Power under the curve, P-to-W, gearing, etc is what matters.

 

Fwiw, I can say this to apply my logic to some real world examples- The Twins- 200hp, 151tq- are unacceptable for me, personally. Not enough torque low down, and then compounded by that weird mid-range dip. The Mustang GT-435hp, 400tq- wouldn't work for me, I don't think. Too soft down low, not raucous enough up top. Kinda lost in the middle. The new STI- 305hp, 290tq- feels more sluggish in real world driving than my GTI- 220hp, 258tq (yeah, right). The STI is laggy down low, has a stout mid-range, and then runs out of breath and falls off up top. It's the kind of turbo engine to make people dislike turbo engines.

Edited by Frisky Dingo
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On 8/29/2016 at 7:54 PM, loki said:

as another reference, my Mazda6 pretty much has the same torque peak as my 99 MC had, but at 750RPM lower, and about the same weight (~200lbs) as the MC

I don't remember really timing my MC to 60 might have been 9-10 seconds.

the mazda is probably mid 7s.  this is why i was always curious about GM upgrading a low 3L v6 with a 6speed, not only for performance, but also economy.

While a 200 HP engine is nice, gearing and torque is certainly more important.

The Pontiac G6 with the 6-speed manual and the more torquey 3900 was a 6.2 second car, so your estimate doesn't sound far off.   The 3500 + 6-speed auto would be mid-7s most likely.

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Such a wide array of variables.  HP and torque under the curve, etc.  My little Beetle surprises me.  Roughly 3100 pounds with 200 HP and 207 tq.  The power band is really stout which means power is always abundant and I can climb most of the grades around here in 6th gear and even have some juice in reserve.  0 to 60 is the mid 6s which is perfectly fine for fun to drive. 

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42 minutes ago, Stew said:

Such a wide array of variables.  HP and torque under the curve, etc.  My little Beetle surprises me.  Roughly 3100 pounds with 200 HP and 207 tq.  The power band is really stout which means power is always abundant and I can climb most of the grades around here in 6th gear and even have some juice in reserve.  0 to 60 is the mid 6s which is perfectly fine for fun to drive. 

The DSG also helps.... they sap less power than a torque converter automatic. 

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36 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

The DSG also helps.... they sap less power than a torque converter automatic. 

Oops, should have mentioned mine is the 6 speed manual.  You are correct though. 

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