How Much Is Too Much Horsepower?

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707 horsepower.

640 horsepower.

Numbers like this used to represent the hottest, most expensive supercars on the planet. Today they describe the output of cars obtainable by middle managers and financially savvy blue-collar workers.

The Challenger Hellcat (707 hp) and the upcoming Cadillac CTS-V (640 hp) are examples of supercars for the masses; cars with power so great they border on dangerous.

Is all of that power necessary, or is it the result of thoughtless engineering meant only to upstage the competition?

The answer depends on the intended use of the car and the method employed to deliver the power to the ground. BMW engineers have their own answer, and it’s a little surprising.

Driving enthusiasts are the guys and girls who purchase cars with such incredible power. Enthusiasts are also the ones who prefer to control that power with a manual gearbox.

A Motor Authority story said,

BMW is still one of the champions of the manual among luxury carmakers, offering them in most of its mainstream and M models. However, there’s nothing to stop it from eliminating the option in models–like the M5 sedan–where it may seem less justifiable. It may come down to whether buyers continue to vote for manuals with their wallets.

Said voters will probably lean toward automatics and dual-clutch transmissions because they are faster and more fuel efficient. But here’s something interesting BMW M chief Frank van Meel said in a recent interview with Autocar,

For now, 600bhp is the most you can get in an M car.

He went on to say,

We’re at the limit. If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it’d probably be over the limits.

That’s not to say other cars, such as the aforementioned Hellcat and Cadillac, can’t handle the extra power. The question is, do they really need that power? BMW seems to understand there’s an equation to how much power can actually be used in relation to the transmission that puts it down.

That’s an example I think other automakers should follow.

Do cars today have too much horsepower?

-tgriffith

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1 Comment

  1. Yes,I think that there a few that have questionable horsepower,that is a very few that would be much more controllable w/some chassis&drivetrain upgrades,chevy z-28 camaro!!have you ever opened the hood,looked how the vehicle was tied together!!

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