What Is Torque in a Car Engine: Explained in Plain Language


Aug 27th, 2020

What Is Torque in a Car Engine: Explained in Plain Language

To quote Enzo Ferrari, "Horsepower sells the cars, but torque wins the race." 

Power (in HP or kW)tends to attract car buyers more than torque does. Without torque, however, there is no horsepower to speak of. Yeah, torque is the unsung hero. We'll shine some light on what it means for a car to have a good torque and highlight engines with most torque.

Is Torque the Same as Power?

Both torque and power are major determinants of a car's performance. As you must have figured by now, they are related but distinct from each other. Don’t worry, I promise not to bore you with the physics behind these terms. 

So, what is torque? You can think of torque as the strength of the vehicle. It is the force produced when you turn the key and press the accelerator which propels the vehicle from 0–97 km/hr in seconds and pushes you back in the seat. This force is also responsible for powering big trucks and heavy-duty vehicles hauling heavy loads into motion. 

In comparison, power (expressed as kW in Australia and HP in most countries) is produced by the engine to maintain the torque produced and go faster. It is how rapidly work is accomplished, a product of torque and revs per minute (RPM) divided by a constant. 

In simplest terms, torque is a measure of an engine’s capacity to do work or create motion while power output is the rate at which work is completed (i.e. rate of applying torque). At this point in our discussion, it should be clear that both the torque and the horsepower are like alienated siblings, closely related but distinct. 

Which Is More Important, Power or Torque?

This is another question that gnaws at the back of the mind of many car owners. To respond to this question, allow me to use an analogy.

Imagine twisting open the cap on a new pickle jar. You start using all your strength to do it. This can be likened to applying torque, whether the cap comes off or not. As you continue to roll the lid off with your hand (much easier now with that initial ‘torque’ you gave it), you’re applying horsepower to open the jar completely. So, in a way, you needed torque to budge the lid, and when you got it moving, you applied  horsepower to get the job done more quickly.  

Both affect a car's overall speed, so the question of which is more important depends on how you intend to use your vehicle. More torque is needed to move load while more horsepower is required to go faster.

What Makes an Engine Have More Torque?

The amount of torque produced by an engine is directly proportional to the amount of air flowing through it. Larger engines pump more air, therefore produce the highest torque. Small engines can also behave like their bigger counterparts with the help of boosters, turbochargers, and superchargers which deliver additional air. 

Below are few other factors that determine the production of torque in an engine:

Let’s have a look into some of the cars with the highest torque.

What Car Engines Have the Highest Torque?

Here are the engines with the most torque presented in different categories:

  1. Hybrid engines - the 2.0L Koenigsegg TFG twin-turbocharged Freevalve inline-3 engine in the 2020 Koenigsegg Gemera with a massive torque of 3500Nm
  2. Electric motors - the 4 liquid-cooled permanent magnets synchronous electric motor on each wheel of the 2018 Rimac C Two with a torque of 2300Nm 
  3. Forced-induction petrol engines - the 8.0L quad-turbocharged W16 engine in the 2016 Bugatti Chiron with a torque 1600Nm
  4. Forced-induction diesel engines - the 6.7L 32-valve turbocharged diesel V8 engine in the 2020 Ford Super Duty with a torque of 1424Nm
  5. Naturally-aspirated petrol engines - the 8.4L Viper V10 engine in the 2013-2017 Dodge Viper with a torque of 813Nm

How Do I Get More Torque?

By adding improvements— aftermarket accessories and parts— to your engine, you can increase your engine torque. Even a basic oil additive can help the engine run smoother by reducing the friction that constrains torque. Below are a few ways to increase torque. 

  1. Install a turbo kit or supercharger - turbo or superchargers force air into the combustion chamber, therefore increasing the air available to complete the combustion process in the engine. With complete ignition of fuel plus improved ability to supply more fuel into the cylinder means you reach top torque faster and improve power. 
  2. Add exhaust headers - just as it is important to bring enough air into the combustion chamber, it's equally crucial to get the exhaust out fast. Improved aftermarket exhaust headers, as well as performance cams, lifters, and wider valves ventilate the cylinder more efficiently. This allows more fuel and air to enter to complete another cycle faster.
  3. Improved fuel injectors and intake manifolds - these parts are designed to allow better supply and mixture of air in the cylinder during the combustion process as they eliminate weakness in the induction and fuel system.
  4. Installing a larger diameter throttle body - this allows more air to enter the intake manifold.
  5. Engine maintenance - by adding performance oil additive, the piston will move effortlessly through the bore which results in an increase in torque and ultimately, horsepower.

It is important to note that engines with most torque rank better in the fastest-car-in-the-world statistics. Also, remember that aftermarket performance parts and accessories can be employed to improve overall torque in a vehicle. The best way to source aftermarket parts these days is via Carpart’s Car Part Finder. It’s by far the easiest and fastest way to find an auto part in Australia. Ask for a quote now!

By Damilare Olasinde