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Torque in cars – Why it matters

Torque and horsepower are usually highlighted in a car’s specifications to give potential buyers an idea of its performance. While most people are familiar with horsepower, others grapple with the meaning of torque.

Well, let’s … talk … about torque then. Why is torque bandied about by experts, what is this instant torque with electric vehicles, and why does it matter if you are looking to buy a car?

What is torque?

Torque is a measure of the rotational force applied to an object. In a car, it is the continuous force that is created when the pistons of the engine move back and forth on the crankshaft. This force is directed at the transmission and drivetrain, which then turns the wheels and tyres, and physically moves the vehicle forward.

Why should you care about torque?

Torque is an important part of a car’s performance. It is responsible for how fast a car can accelerate. The higher the torque, the quicker a car can gain speed which can significantly impact the driving dynamics. Car buyers who prefer a sporty or performance-oriented driving experience will always tend to go for higher torque for an engine that feels more responsive when they press the accelerator.

Torque is also important when a vehicle needs to work harder, for example, when driving uphill or when towing heavy loads. If you regularly carry or move heavy stuff in your car, then choosing one with a higher torque would be better suited for your needs.

Instant torque in electric vehicles

Torque provides a thrilling push-back-in-your-seat feeling when you hit the accelerator. This is most evident in electric vehicles, with their ability to deliver instant torque.

Instant torque refers to the ability of the electric motor to deliver maximum torque immediately from a standstill. Unlike traditional internal combustion engines that require time to build up power, EVs are powered by electric motors that provide direct power delivery. This means EVs can go from zero RPM (revolutions per minute) all the way up as soon as you press the accelerator.

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Instant torque delivers an extra thrill in EVs such as the BMW i5

Many drivers, and passengers, find this immediate response and rapid acceleration of EVs to be exhilarating. It also makes for some fun leaving other non-EVs behind at a traffic stop, when the lights change in your favour.

What is the difference between torque and horsepower?

Though not the same, torque and horsepower are complementary concepts in cars and are used to give you a good idea of the performance of a car.

While torque determines how quickly a car can accelerate, horsepower indicates how powerful the engine is. More horsepower thus enables a car to achieve higher top speeds.

Torque is typically measured in Newton-metres (Nm), after physicist Sir Isaac Newton. Horsepower is measured in horsepower (hp) or kilowatts (kW).

A car engine’s horsepower can be calculated using this formula: Torque x RPM (revolutions per minute) divided by 5,252.

How to calculate horsepower

Source: Wikihow

What types of cars have higher torque?

Other than electric vehicles which have instant torque, high-performance sports cars and supercars often have engines designed to deliver significant torque for rapid acceleration and thrilling driving experiences. These vehicles are engineered for speed and agility.

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Higher torque can usually be found in SAVs and SUVs

Many luxury cars also come with high-torque engines to provide smooth, effortless acceleration and a refined driving experience. This helps enhance the overall comfort and performance of the car.

Certain SUVs have high-torque engines to allow these cars to carry larger and heavier loads.


When considering a car, torque is an important factor affecting acceleration and overall driving enjoyment. If you are looking at EVs, try experiencing the instant torque during your test drive to see if the rapid acceleration gets your adrenaline going.

Photos: BMW Asia

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