Car specs explained: Common automotive terms and what they mean

Some automotive specs simply make sense: “Eight airbags” means a automotive has eight airbags. However specs like torque, wheelbase and much more acquainted ones like horsepower and weight, are sometimes misunderstood when it comes to their relevance to the method of choosing a automotive to purchase. Too many automotive specs are means reasonably than outcomes.

On this video I outline the specs mostly used within the advertising of vehicles, clarify what every one means, and let you know which of them you’ll be able to largely ignore. Spoiler alert: That is numerous them.   

A dizzying array of specification numbers come up if you analysis a automotive. Not all of them must be understood as a lot as skilled.


I additionally sort out the lesser-known downside with MPG scores, clarify the growing relevance of MPGe as electrical vehicles achieve acceptance, and point out the one spec that’s best to decipher and hardest to cope with: MSRP.

If there’s one spec I would like you to come back away with a newfound curiosity in, it is torque. Torque is what you have actually been on the lookout for if you examined horsepower; It creates that enjoyable to drive acceleration all of us love, and it is turning into extra attention-grabbing at naturally torquey electrical vehicles being to flourish. 

The video above has one of the best rationalization of necessary automotive specs, however this is a short abstract as nicely:

0-60: The holy grail of efficiency specs. It is the minimal period of time a automotive must speed up a standing cease to 60 miles an hour. A very good apples-to-apples comparability between vehicles, however a take a look at drive could let you know extra. 

12V/120V/5V: The three sorts of energy usually present in a automotive. 12 volts DC is what comes out of what we used to name a cigarette lighter outlet, which remains to be inefficiently formed to carry a cigarette lighter. 120V (additionally labelled as 110V and 115V) is, in fact, home present and is AC. 5V DC is the facility delivered by a USB port, however no person refers to it by its voltage.  

CD, or coefficient of drag: You may typically see this when a brand new model of a automotive comes out as carmakers like to boast about how they diminished a automobile’s drag or friction passing by the air. All that you must fear about is the automotive’s gas financial system, acceleration and prime pace (if that issues to you), and wind noise. The Cd that helps with these might be ignored. 

Displacement: Typically seen as “2.0” or the same badge on the rump of a automotive. That is the quantity of house within the engine’s cylinders the place air and gas are blended to combust and create energy. Listen as an alternative to the automotive’s acceleration, gas financial system and towing capability; how a lot displacement a carmaker makes use of to ship these is peripheral, particularly with turbocharging and hybridization blurring the road between what numerous engine displacements can accomplish. 

Headroom/legroom: I ignore these measurements. In a spot like a automotive’s inside, filled with advanced shapes and deformable supplies, easy stick determine measurements like legroom and headroom let you know virtually nothing, in my expertise reviewing over a thousand vehicles. Simply sit within the factor. Inside cargo capability figures are a bit extra helpful, however simply barely.   

Horsepower: The usual measure of a automobile’s engine expressed as work. 1 horsepower equals the work wanted to raise 550 kilos 1 foot in 1 second. By itself, considerably arcane. Look at the 0-60, towing load and MPG figures as an alternative.

Kilowatt hours (kWh): It is a measure of battery capability in an electrified automotive, particularly necessary in a pure EV. It is analogous to the dimensions of a gasoline tank. The extra kWh, usually the extra electrical vary, but in addition the larger chore to recharge the automotive.

MPG (metropolis, freeway, common): Most of us perceive miles per gallon, or a minimum of assume we do. Lesser know is an inherent distortion on this spec that will bias your view of vehicles you in contrast primarily based on it. A good explanation of the problem with the MPG spec is found at the Skepticblog. The Europeans know this; that is why they categorical gas financial system as consumption-per-distance (Liters/100 km) versus our distance-per-consumption ranking (MPG).

MPGe: Miles Per Gallon (Gasoline) Equal is how the EPA makes apples-to-apples out of gasoline and electrical energy. A gallon of gasoline has an power potential of 115,000 BTUs and that’s equal to 33.7 kWh of electrical energy. This quantity helps you consider the effectivity of a automotive that may run on combustion or electrical energy at numerous occasions. This can change into a extra necessary spec as electrification marches on. 

MSRP: This one’s simple: Do not pay it.  

Torque: That is how exhausting the automotive’s engine can twist one thing, and twisting is the entire thought behind transferring a automotive: The engine twists the center of the transmission which twists the drive shafts which twist the wheels and off you go. A extremely necessary comparability spec that too few individuals are accustomed to. 

Monitor: Wheelbase’s lesser-discussed sibling. The space between the wheels, facet to facet throughout the automotive. Inside baseball.   

Watts (audio): Audio programs can vary from 200 watts to 600 watts, 1,200 watts or extra. These numbers do not let you know how loud it will get (all of them can harm your listening to), reasonably they counsel what number of audio system it has or, extra importantly, how elegantly it could actually painting transient moments in music when numerous energy could also be wanted momentarily. Do not sweat the quantity, hearken to the system with a bit of music and medium (telephone, USB, CD) you are accustomed to.   

Weight: Numerous these they usually matter. Curb weight is an empty automotive with a full tank of gasoline, maybe the least necessary weight. Gross weight is that of a automotive and all of the individuals and stuff it may be safely loaded with. Towing capability is what a automotive can pull and produce to a cease. These final two weights are necessary specs you’ll be able to’t empirically decide by driving a automotive.  

Wheelbase: The space between the 2 axle strains, or facilities of the wheels, on one facet of a automotive. This will have a serious impact on dealing with, journey high quality and automobile look, however decide these attributes immediately. Don’t be concerned concerning the wheelbase that delivered them. 

Wheel measurement: That is often the diameter of the wheel, much less typically its width, and with out the added dimensions of a tire wrapped round it. It has a serious impact on a automotive’s dealing with, journey high quality and look. It may be a great snapshot when evaluating vehicles or trim ranges, however you continue to need to drive the automotive to see how the standard of drive components play out with a given wheel measurement.  

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Brian Cooley