Horsepower vs. Torque: Which Is More Important?

By Austin Morris 01/17/2023 4:00pm

Horsepower vs Torque

Quick Facts About Horsepower and Torque

  • Torque is responsible for making your car accelerate quickly.
  • Horsepower helps determine your car’s top speed.
  • EVs usually have more torque than gasoline-powered cars, making them accelerate quicker.

Have you ever wondered why your car may or may not go from 0 to 60 mph in 2 seconds? Well, it has everything to do with the torque and horsepower on your car.

These two features essentially determine the speed of your vehicle. The higher the torque and horsepower, the faster you go. This is why car commercials love to boast about how much horsepower and torque their respective cars can produce.

But, what do these things actually do, and how are they different? We provide all the answers to your speed-related questions below, so you can determine which is best for you.

What Is Horsepower? 

Horsepower refers to how much power your engine can produce in a certain amount of time. So, the more horsepower that your engine has, the faster you will be able to go. Simple right?

Well, it’s a bit more complex than that. The horsepower doesn’t have much to do with the “off-the-line” speed, but once the car takes off, the ability to use a high top speed and maintain high speeds is where the horsepower kicks in. The power produced from the engine is what’s keeping the vehicle moving at such speeds.

That amount of time is either measured in one second or one minute. This force is what essentially has to do with how fast your car goes when you are stepping on the gas pedal.

Vehicles like the 2023 Ford Mustang Mach 1 can reach a top speed of 168 because the power produced from the engine keeps the car constantly accelerating and eventually maintain a top speed.

What Is Torque? 

Torque, like horsepower, is responsible for the speed of your car. Torque is related to the amount of twisting force something can push out. So when you are trying to twist open a sticky doorknob, the force needed to twist and open the door refers to the amount of torque being used.

So how does this relate to how fast your car can go? Well, if you’ve ever tried to race somebody at a traffic light, how quick you went from stop to start is because of torque. It is responsible for how quickly the car can accelerate and helps you go from 0-60 mph in a matter of seconds.

The up-and-down motion of the pistons in your engine produces force. The force is then transferred to your wheels which in turn causes the car to go. It is especially necessary if you plan to tow something because the amount of work and force produced in the engine directly relates to how much the vehicle can pull and tow.

See our Towing Capacity Guide.

What Is the Difference Between Horsepower and Torque?  

While horsepower and torque do go hand in hand to ensure a fast ride, they are still two completely different aspects of your engine’s capability. You can’t have one without the other, but you can have one high and one low. Let us explain.

Look at big trucks, for example. Thanks to a new 3.5 L PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6 engine, any 2023 Ford F-150 can produce 570 ft-lb of torque, but you wouldn’t dare bet on that pickup truck in a race. That’s because, despite its high torque, it only produces 450 horsepower. And while that’s a decent amount, when you factor in the vehicle’s weight, the horsepower would have to be much higher for it to compete in a high-speed race. The torque in the F-150 does, however help its towing and payload capacity.

Torque is essentially the power needed to get the car moving. This is what helps it to accelerate to the coveted 2- to 3-second 0 to 60 mph time. On the other hand, horsepower will be responsible for the car’s top speed and maintaining that speed. That’s why vehicles with V8, V12, and turbocharged engines can go so fast because they are producing more power. And where does that power come from?


See our Payload Capacity Guide.

How Are They Measured? 


When measuring how much horsepower a car has, you must first find out how fast it can lift 33,000 pounds one foot in a minute, or rpm (revolutions per minute). So when it comes to your car, horsepower is how quickly your vehicle produces output. That amount is significant in helping your car reach its top speed.

Take the 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody for example. It has a strong 797 horsepower that gives it a top speed of 203 mph. As you can tell, a high horsepower correlates with a high maximum speed.

For all of you mathematicians, the exact formula for horsepower is H = T x rpm/5,252, where T is torque, rpm is revolutions per minute, and 5,252 is the constant.


On the other hand, torque is measured in pounds to feet, meaning it will measure the amount of force used in feet. One way to look at this is to imagine you’re using a 3-foot-long wrench to tighten a bolt. If you apply 300 pounds of twisting force to the wrench, you will use 300 pounds-feet of torque, expressed as lb-ft.

The formula for torque is pretty simple, torque = horsepower x 5,252 divided by the rpm. Once again, the 5,252 is the constant.

The torque is the amount of pulling power the car produces while stepping on the gas. While torque is important in trucks since they need the muscle to pull heavy items, smaller sedans can also have lots of torque. For example, the 2023 Chevrolet Camero SS has 455 lb-ft of torque, which helps it reach 0 to 60 mph in just four seconds.

How Horsepower and Torque Affect Acceleration 

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Horsepower and torque affect acceleration because, well, they make the car accelerate. In terms of acceleration, torque plays a bigger role in how quickly your car accelerates. That’s because the torque results from the force the pistons generate and at what speed. The quickest vehicles can generate high levels of this torque force at relatively low rpm. This allows the vehicle to accelerate quickly. So when you feel your neck push back into your seat after slamming on the gas, that’s the torque at work.

When it comes to how fast your car can go, that’s where the horsepower takes over. Horsepower is why certain cars with turbocharged V8 or better engines can hit top speeds of 300 mph.  The force produced in the engine by the horsepower at relatively high rpm is what’s going to allow you to reach high speeds.

So, which is better for you and your racing dreams? Well, if you just want to go fast and hit 140 mph, then horsepower would be more effective for you. However, if you want a strong car that can pull boulders and take off quickly, a high torque might be more important to you. In short, torque makes your vehicle quick. Horsepower makes it fast.

Torque In Electric Vehicles 

So since electric cars don’t have engines, do they still have torque and horsepower? Yes, they do.

Just like gas vehicles, electric cars must still accelerate and reach a top speed. However, the output is measured in kilowatts instead of rpm. But, for electric cars, the acceleration happens much faster than their rivals.

Look at accelerating in an EV as turning on a light switch. There is instant power–no need for the electricity to warm up before hitting the light bulb. Since there is instant power, the EVs have better and stronger torque than their gas rivals.

The Tesla Model S Plaid offers drivers a mind-boggling 1,020 kW of horsepower and 1,050 kW of torque. Gas-powered vehicles can’t deliver this kind of power instantly. Think of it as turning on a gas stove that ticks before the flame combusts. A car’s gas engine has to get going first before reaching its peak performance. Electric vehicles don’t have this problem as their peak rpm starts from zero. So if you ever wondered if electric cars can keep up with gas cars, the answer is yes, very much so.