The Truth About Torque: This Is What Makes a Car Fun – And Why You Love It

Loving Life In A Ragtop Sports Car: Mustang Gt 5.0 Convertible Sports Car
Loving Life In A Ragtop Sports Car With Torque: Mustang Gt 5.0 Convertible Sports Car

Putting in the car seats was easy. The kids asked for a couple of extra spins around the neighborhood. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What is torque? Gear heads have made this simple idea complicated.

Next time you’re at a car dealership and the salesman starts to toss around ‘torque and horsepower’ lingo, then pauses to mansplain what torque is, do this:
“Hold on for just a minute while I engage my torque-driven touch-up.”


Don’t Worry. You Got This.

We hate it when people throw around technical lingo to try to confuse. Or to sound super smart when they are not. Torque is one of those terms that is especially debased. Like so many other automotive terms, you don’t need to be a car guy, or a guy, to appreciate torque.

What is torque? Well, you use it every day. It’s simply a twisting force that causes rotation. I may have used it last night to take the cork out of my wine bottle. It’s the force that propels your lipstick out of its case. It’s also the force that propels your car when you hit the accelerator.

Here’s an old saying that puts torque into practical terms:
“Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car.
Oversteer is when you hit the wall with the back of the car.
Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall.
Torque is how far you take the wall after you hit it
          –Old racer’s creed

Tips To Keep Car Sickness Symptoms Away So You Can Enjoy The Journey And Torque.But What Does Torque Really Mean?

Forget the wordy equations that explain torque. Let’s get to the matter faster: Torque is basically the amount of power the car has for acceleration. So, if you say, “I wanna go fast,” a la Ricky Bobby, you need torque. The more torque an engine has, the faster it can propel itself. It can be confused with horsepower, but really, it pairs with horsepower to get a car down the road. Torque is how much the engine can propel, and horsepower is how quickly it can do it.
Example: I applied torque to the lid of the peanut butter jar last night. My kids were screaming impatiently so I added horsepower to open it FAST.
Lanae Jackson, multicultural marketing manager for Nissan, described torque to us like this:



It’s that blow-your-hair-back feeling of thrust. And we love that, right?

What You Need to Know About Torque

Torque + horsepower is the secret to a car’s propulsion. But more torque and/or more horsepower isn’t necessarily the whole story. In the average-sized car with reasonable acceleration power, torque is typically a similar number to the horsepower rating. For example, the BMW 530i has a rating of 248 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque (lb., or pounds, being the amount of pressure, and ft., or feet, being the distance that pressure propels). 
A smaller, faster car will typically have less torque and more horsepower because it doesn’t need all that propulsion to get it up to speed. The Porsche 911 Carrera has 370 horsepower and 331 lb.-ft. of torque.
Then, think of a dump truck that takes forever to get moving from a green light. It needs lots of power, but it clearly does not have a lot of torque. But for the size and shape of the truck, more torque is what will make it move faster. 
Torque is what makes boxy vehicles peppy. The Volvo XC90 has more torque than horsepower to get its large 7-passenger frame up to speed on the highway. The top-of-the-line model has 400 horsepower but 470 lb.-ft. of torque.  
Bmw Electric Cars

The BMW iVision concept luxury sedan. Image: BMW

Why Everyone Will Come to Love Electric Cars: They Rule the World of Torque

Ever heard of Ludicrous Mode? That’s Tesla’s top speed setting in some of its models that lets them go from 0 to 60 MPH in the blink of an eye. It’s something that electric cars can do much better than gas cars and that won over the EV skeptics. That’s because as the current flows from an electric motor, rotation is instant and ends up providing maximum throttle when the driver accelerates. As a result, electric cars naturally have more torque and can be more fun. But watch out; their silence paired with the torque can be a fast, and perhaps, an unwelcome surprise.
Now when shopping for your next car, you can ignore the salesman’s gearhead razzle-dazzle. You can talk torque all day, but you’d rather get behind the wheel and drive. You’re welcome.
What Is Torque? Gear Heads Have Tried To Co-Opt The Tech That Makes Cars Fun, But We'Re Taking It Back. Starting With Torque. It'S More Familiar Than You Think; Here'S Why.

Donna is a SoCal mom of four who lives by the motto that life should never be boring, so... More about Donna Biroczky