Motoring Sunday 4/10/15…
…CAR TERMS EXPLAINED PART 1: As long as cars have been on the road, different car-related acronyms, terms and slang have followed. At best, it can all be confusing; at worst, it’s a little intimidating.
We hate to see you fake your way through your conversations with your buddies — or worse, a salesperson. There’s no shame in not knowing, but there’s also no excuse for not getting educated. For this reason, we’re running down some basic car specs and terms over the course of a two-part feature.
Since manufacturers love to bombard us with endless numbers for marketing dazzle and extra confusion, we’ll weigh the relevance of each term on a scale of 10 — 1 being general information that’s nice to know, and 10 being must-know terminology.
Horsepower is the common measurement of an engine’s output. By pure definition, one horsepower is the power needed to lift 550 pounds one foot off the ground in exactly one second. In simpler terms, horsepower is one figure to consider for mid- and upper-range engine response. There’s no magic number for ideal horsepower, as other variables like engine torque, vehicle weight, aerodynamics, and gearing all play supporting roles in the car’s overall performance.
Torque is the rotational equivalent to force measured in pound-feet. Pound-feet isn’t some kind of tortuous fetish; one pound-foot equals the twisting force produced when a one-pound force is applied at the end of a one-foot-long lever. You’ll see the pound-feet measurement of torque touted with horsepower, even though horsepower often gets all the credit for an engine’s performance. Remember, though, low- and mid-range response is where torque plays a big role.
Miles per gallon (MPG)
Miles per gallon may be understood for its face-value definition as the U.S. standard measure of a vehicle’s appetite for fuel, but don’t leave it at that. When manufacturers quietly mutter, “Your mileage may vary,” believe it. The official mileage figures are estimates based on results of Environmental Protection Agency tests, which don’t include real-world use under varied conditions. So guess what? When you see the MPG rating on the vehicle sticker, it’s a safe bet your numbers won’t be quite as good. Take that into account along with roulette-wheel gas prices as you research and shop.
This term refers to the length in seconds to accelerate to 60 miles per hour from a standstill — sometimes listed for imports as 0-100 kilometers per hour, which equates to 62 mph. It’s not uncommon for sports cars to clock four-second runs, while a typical SUV trails behind at around nine seconds or more. Bear in mind these numbers are typically gleaned by the factory and/or professional drivers on a test track under optimal conditions. Beyond bragging rights and for real-world practicality, it’s good to know this figure as an indication of how quickly a vehicle can accelerate to highway speeds.
Ok. It’s a Sunday morning and we’re not going to get tedious.
Part 2 will be completed on the next round of Motoring Sunday.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend.