Monday, May 19, 2014

Give Me More Horsepower, Damnit!

Photo courtesy of Scion. 
A horsepower war has been raging in the automotive industry for some time now. Unlike the big war in the late 1960s, this one hasn't been choked out by CAFE government fuel economy standards, despite GM's trying to claim such standards would kill the Corvette and any other cool car it makes. Nope, thanks to some pretty creative technologies like variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, turbocharging, hybrid powertrains and other such engineering trickery, we have been able to squeeze out more power from smaller engines.

An unfortunate consequence of all of this power being thrown around by automakers is that members of the public have become too damn focused on just horsepower. I read all the time on automotive blogs, Facebook posts, and pretty much anywhere else people who want to act like they are so car savvy, statements like this: "Come on (insert automaker's name here), give us MOAR POWERRRR!!!"

One of the common victims of this horsepower lust mentality is the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. The funny thing is that the Toyotaru sports car handles like a pro and is a blast to drive, but the fact that it doesn't push out at least 300 horsepower has everyone all hot under the collar.

While I'm a fan of horsepower, I realize that just horsepower doesn't make the car. There have been plenty of high-powered cars that handled like complete garbage, which makes them good for straight-line acceleration and that's about it. I don't know about everyone else, but I actually turn my car once in a while, so handling ability is important to me. There are other factors, like the curb weight of a car, the gearing ratios, how much of that power actually makes it to the wheels, torque output, drag coefficient, and yes even fuel economy that are important factors for a car's overall performance. But you get these highly sophisticated car snobs who, when a car that doesn't belt out an obnoxious amount of horsepower is placed before them, throw up their hands and loudly declare their disdain by using terms like "bro" or "that's retarded" like the sophisticated individuals they are.

I imagine that some of these Internet car people are like the guys I see at the grocery store, who are trying to load some food into a car that can barely accommodate a gym bag. Cars are wondrously complex devices that are fun to drive, but that also are relied upon by us to perform many functions. Focusing on just one aspect of the machine's performance is a huge mistake.

So remember, when car shopping you need to look at the whole enchilada, because just horsepower isn't going to carry you through your day-to-day activities.

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