QOTW: POWER

Welcome back to another QOTW! Every week here at Rcars we get together and answer a question about varying topics, usually cars.

“No one man should have all that power.” The standout line echoed and repeated by Kanye West in the 2010 monumental song “power”. This is a general statement with so many meanings that can be applied to almost anything in life, but it begs the question, how much power is too much power for one person? Everyone has different views on power, but where is the absolute limit where it’s just too much for one person? Some think there’s cutoff to making too much money, or having too many shoes etc. What about in the car world; is there such a thing as excess, can you have too much power?

Everyone at the site drives a car with varying amounts of power, but what's the right amount? Jeremy Clarkson once said, "Any car with more than 700 horsepower is daft. You don't ever need or want more than 500. And, truth be told, most of the time, 250 is plenty. " So with that quote in mind I ask, How much horsepower do you consider "enough" for everyday daily usage, how much do you want to make you happy, and how much do you consider to be too much car a.k.a. overkill?

Jeremy Clarkson

Personally, I like to think that the amount of power that is perfect is dependent on the weight. Power to weight ratio is very important to me (and just about everyone here as you’ll see). A car with over 700 horsepower that weighs more than a truck is impressive, but it isn’t a good combination to me. Looking at the question and not specifics, there are certain numbers that on average can be assigned and fit. In my opinion “enough” horsepower is in the 240 range. Realistically, most cars and people don’t need more than 240. Combined with solid torque numbers, 240 is enough to get around and about. That amount allows you to have enough power for most daily driving activities, Change lanes, merge on the ramp, and maintain a decent speed without straining the engine. That 240 number also lets you have a bit of fun if you ever need to. The 240 range can seem low, but remember that Japan’s Horsepower Agreement of 276 horsepower came from the cream of the crop Japanese cars in the Grand Touring Championship running in the 300hp class. While some cars made more, but were advertised at the limit (looking at you Skyline) it was seen as enough. Therefore, if the flagship race cars from the land of the rising sun could make do with 276, the 240 range should be more than enough for non-seasoned racing champions. However, we all know car enthusiast want to go above and beyond.

For the amount I feel would satisfy me at this point in my life; 400 even, would be enough at the wheels to keep a smile on my face for awhile. Enough to be too much car, anything over 550 hp. At five-hundred even I think we’re seeing the limits of what is necessary in a production car on the streets or even for most people at the track. 550 is enough to kick the ass out, break traction on a turn, put the power down on a straight, or shoot off of the starting line. Once you get up into the higher end cars it becomes more about aero and downforce and ways to put the power down with diminishing returns. A 590hp car sounds very impressive compared to say a 550hp car, but those lap times might be closer than you think if the 550hp car uses the power better. Look no further than the Viper ACR. It only puts out 645hp. In a world where a Corvette puts out 650, the Ferrari 488 GTB put out 661, McLaren’s 675 Lt puts out 666hp, the ACR keeps up with all of them, and even beats some of them around a track. Power is dangerous for the uninitiated, and for the initiated it’s all about how you use it.

Lamborghini Gallardo, Viper, and C7 Vette

Afro, as always, came with a technically calculated answer. He decided to base his off of various circumstances. “If we’re going for enough being a bare minimum, I would honestly say probably around 200 hp is enough that, in a car that weighs around 3200lbs or less, You can get around without many issues. Additional passengers won’t have an excessive effect on the cars ability to go uphill, with some difficulty you could pull a small trailer, and on the highway, you can pass any car that is moving at a constant rate of speed. It makes for a very boring drive outside of the corners, but you won’t find yourself actually urgently needing more horsepower. When asked about his limit he responded, “anything over 500 is really only useful in a race setting. Unless you’re putting a lot of people at risk including yourself, you’re never going to scrape the surface of what’s above 500hp short of the occasional rolling burnout. While I'm not opposed to it in the slightest, I know that the full potential of that extra horsepower would remain dormant for all except the 6 track days I get a year. Also, very few cars past the 500hp point have a simple maintenance schedule, so from a livability standpoint, you are sacrificing a little bit. If I’d have to pick a specific number that I say is a stopping point, it’d be 1000hp. The Bugatti Veyron can only go flat out in a few places in the world and doing so destroys the tires in 15 minutes and drains the car’s fuel tank in 12. It may be doable, but it’s borderline pointless for anything other than bragging rights where as cars like the p1, 918, and la Ferrari all manage to use a decent chunk of their hp for raw speed.”

I think A good point is made here. At what point does it become a bragging rights exercise of engineering. “Look what my engineers can do” The new hypercars aren’t even all engine anymore.

One of our newer authors Sam came with a response from personal experience. “I would say that 300 is a solid number for usable power. Depending on the power band, 250 is definitely usable in say an S2000, but I'm at around 270hp and 360tq and I think it’s plentyyyyy for daily use. To make me happy though, I need 300hp and 400tq”

The other Sam (this could get confusing) Had this to say, “ anything in the 200-300 is enough, I'm more concerned with power to weight ratio. My Volvo is like 108 hp 100 ft/lbs torque, but it weighs just a hair over a ton, so it has kick and is fun to drive. My xterra is 260 hp, with 280 ft/lbs, but it feels like it hauls ass and climbs trails like a goddamn mountain goat. I embody the old adage "driving a slow car fast is way more fun than a fast car slow". Sam just gets the fun factor and the enjoyment of driving.

Jeremiah, right off the bat, referenced power to weight (noticing a trend here) “It depends on the weight of the car. Based on the cars I have now, I think 200 is plenty for a daily. I want good fuel economy and enough power to comfortably merge and pass people. I'm happy with 150-250 for a fun car, because I like light cars and I prioritize handling over straight line power. As long as it's geared and set up well, I can have a ton of fun with that much. For a gratuitously fun car, if it needs more than 400hp to feel fast, it's too heavy!” He also made a super relevant point, “any "regular" car with over 400hp is too heavy or too compromised in some other way. It might still move quick, and I can respect the power, but I'd much rather have a simpler car that doesn't need that much.” No one here has discussed compromises yet. It’s interesting to think that maybe drivers feel and fun are compromised in the conquest for power. It might not always be in weight where you are compromising it could be the number of electronic nannies, or AWD vs RWD etc.

Connor didn’t have much to say that hadn’t already been said but his opinion is always interesting. “250-300 for a daily driven car for most people. It's enough to pass everyone this side of a P1, and you have enough power for the back roads. Although I personally tend to want 350 to 400 horsepower in my shitbox, because I'm crazy... And the overkill point is 500-600 horsepower. That is the point where tires go from screaming to dying at half throttle, and that's not how you get a good lap. Smoky burnouts are fun, but not fast.”

Jake’s Point of view is welcomed due to his excellent power to weight ratio. “I think 300HPhp is enough for a daily, less than that and the daily commute is not exciting enough when getting on the on-ramp. Closer to 400 is happy - plenty of power IMO. 550+ hp is overkill in my opinion. I wouldn't go for a car at 550hp+ for my 1st or 2nd car. Car #3? maybe a hellcat will do. I feel like 400hp is the perfect number in most cases, but I want to daily a 500HP for research purposes. I've been in 500+ but it was only driving short period of time or during ride-alongs.”

Porshe physics

Sham kept it brief but gave us an exact science to live by. “Any more than 300rwhp is too much for a DD. AWD it's 350whp. And fwd it's 260fwhp.” There you have the limits as told by Sham. For him, personally 280 in any form works.

Cody also had a lot to say on this topic. It’s only fitting because Cody makes a big amount of power among us, but has a big amount of heft as well. “Ideal horsepower really depends on what sort of car you're driving. 250 horses would be a handful in an NA Miata, but in a modern full sized sedan 250 horsepower seems barely adequate.
What we should be looking at is a power to weight ratio. My current daily is a Challenger Scat Pack, rated at 485hp that puts it somewhere around 8.5 pounds per horsepower. For me, that's roughly where you can have lots of fun without soiling your pants every time you get a little too enthusiastic, it's isn't stupid or overpowered, but it's enough to make you drive around with a big grin all day, enough that you don't get bored of driving it.
Of course, you need to take other aspects into consideration. A 1971 Challenger with its 1971 brakes, 1971 tires, and 1971 (lack of) traction and stability controls with the same power to weight ratio as my modern 2015 would be a totally different experience.
Then you have what is "fine" by my standards; Same rule applies, depends on what you're driving. 155hp is plenty in a Mazda3 but would be excruciating in a Grand Cherokee, so I really can't say that there is a "just enough" when talking about horsepower in a broad sense, it's all case-by-case.” After his stream of consciousness, Cody decided to leave us with a philosophical thought, “in the '80s and '90s, double digit horsepower was acceptable in a compact car, how do you think a 90 horsepower Honda Civic would fare in today's market? 90 horsepower was enough for people 30 years ago, and it's not like 400+ horsepower cars didn't exist at that time either. I feel like we have maybe been desensitized to what horsepower really is, I caught myself saying that the 5.7L Challenger "only" made 375 horsepower a few days ago…”

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Cody makes an extremely solid point. We are in the Golden age of horsepower. His Challenger makes more raw NA power than a BMW m4, which cost much more. A Maxima starts at 300hp. The RSX type S was considered a sporty exciting car with FWD in 2006, the BRZ is lighter has RWD and people are insisting it needs more. The v6 camaro makes 335 horsepower. Compare that to what the pre coyote v8 mustang that just in 2010 made 315 ponies. Are we getting spoiled by the ease of access to power?

Power. A 5 letter word with immense consequences. Remember with Great Power comes Great responsibility.

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