When looking for specifications of a car/vehicle we come across two parameter.

  • Horse Power/Pferdestärke (PS)
  • Power to weight Ratio

So, while considering any vehicle , which one of the above should I take into my mind as a relative measurement of performance not considering other aspects such as forced induction or handling or aerodynamics etc.

I usually see that vehicle manufacturers like to give out Raw HP figures which are massive but the car like for example most Bentleys weigh more than 2 tons.It will never be as fast as a Nissan GTR or a Ferrari 458.

Which figure would be best for performance(Again not considering handling or aerodynamics or any other fact) and why?

My Question is Why do manufactures specify power of vehicle while selling it for example in websites or pamphlets if it does not ascertain anything!

  • 2
    I suggest you refactor this question. It is too broad because you need to define performance. Handling characteristics, acceleration, top speed, braking, 0-60, 0-100, 30-50, etc could all be used as measures of performance and they each require different characteristics. Plus, not every performance parameter is affected by just power and power-to-weight ratio. There's a lot more going on than what these two metrics can reveal.
    – Zaid
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 8:58
  • Depends on the facts, Go american you go Muscle all day all night which means PS Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 9:56
  • When ever you go to a car dealer, the pamphlet will show only the HP and torque figures as part of the performance specification. I want to know if those figures really give clarity to the actual performance of the vehicle.
    – Shobin P
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 10:12
  • 1
    No, performance figures such as 0-60 time and top speed are what you need to look at but you can't look at manufacturers quoted figures, you need to look at independently obtained figures from the likes of magazines. Neither of these figures will tell you how well a car handles, for that you simply need to drive the cars back to back. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 11:15
  • 1
    @SteveMatthews - I'd also throw in skid pad, slalom numbers, and braking distance, if available, to the 0-60 and top speed figures. These will give you a lot better overall picture of how the car can handle and stop. Stopping (or more accurately slowing down) is very much important on road courses. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


It depends why you are comparing them. If you are playing top trumps in the pub then BHP (PS) is a good measure of an engines peak output. However, this doesn't tell the whole story.

Power to weight ratio is a good measure of how an actual vehicle will perform but again, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Essentially, if you are looking to compare just one engine against another, peak power is one measure you can apply. If you are comparing one vehicle against another, power to weight ratio is a better measure but is still flawed.

It all very much depends on what you are comparing vehicles for.

With regards to purely measurable engine data, you have another number which may give you more information about how tractable an engine will be; Torque, typically measured in Netwon Meters or Foot Pounds. In simple terms, peek power is how fast you will hit the wall but torque is how far you will carry the wall with you.

Neither of these figures in isolation, even if you know the point in the rev band which each occors still doesn't tell you the full story. For that you need to look at the actual power graph. An engine with lots of volume under the graph will be more tractable. For example, an engine which makes 80% of it's peak power at 1500 RPM and continues delivering at least that number up until the red line will be far more tractable than an engine that delivers more peak power but doesn't deliver any appreciable power until say 5500 RPM.

When it comes to a specific car, you can't simply compare like for like vehicles with different engines because you still have to consider gearbox radtios, final drive ratio, etc...

You also can't use power to weight as an absolute measure because you also have to consider weight distribution, powered wheels and handling characteristics such as centre of gravity, suspension articulation, track, camber, yaw angles, etc, etc...

If you want to compare two cars, your best indicator is lap time on a known track with the same driver on the same day with the same weather conditions but this again doesn't cater for things such as different tyres, etc...

If you want to compare two known cars that you have available, the best advice is to drive them.

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