The amount of horsepower one needs depends on a lot of factors. Generally, small cars have small horsepower numbers and vice versa. But then you have small cars like Mini Cooper with 300 hp and big SUVs with 200 Hp.
So, is the SUV underpowered or the Mini Cooper overpowered? What is a Good Amount of Horsepower (According to Body Type)?
What is a Good Amount of Horsepower for a Car?
The average amount of horsepower for an average family car in the US is around 180-200 hp. For sports cars 300-500 and 700-1000 for hypercars.
There is not a fixpoint or criteria that define the Horsepower requirement for different types of automobiles. Rather the amount of horsepower in any car depends on its requirements.
A family car, may it be a sedan, hatchback, or even a crossover SUV, power under 180-250 hp is good enough to keep you entertained in city and highways. The same power for a heavy full-size SUV or a truck wouldn’t be enough simply because they carry heavier weights.
So, What decides a good amount of horsepower?
To be honest, the amount of horsepower you can control is a good amount of horsepower. Enough power to get your job done and keep you entertained and confident. Keeping family cars restricted to 200-300 hp not only keeps the cost low but also prevents you from hitting uncontrollable speeds to keep your family safe.
If you buy a medium or full-size SUV or Crossover, the power is boosted to 400-500 hp, due to added weight and higher load carrying capacity but still limited to 130-150 mph top-speed.
Then you have cars with smaller form factors but higher power output. Sports cars or performance cars are designed to go fast and hit triple digits asap. So they have small, lightweight bodies with high-capacity engines, but they also have dynamics to support and hold that speed as well, ensuring that the driver is confident and well under control.
This, however, simply tells us that different types of cars have different horsepower as per their need. But, what decides the need? For that, we first have to understand how Horsepower works.
What’s Horsepower? What Factors Decide it?
The amount of power needed to pull/push 550 pounds for one foot in one second is defined as 1 horsepower.
Technically, horsepower is a unit used to measure power. 1 HP equals 745.7 Watts of power. But, in the automotive world, horsepower is used to represent the amount of power an engine is producing.
How much horsepower an engine can produce depends on its displacement capacity, compression ratio, bore, stroke, and many other factors. But how much horsepower a car needs simply depends on its application.
A family sedan, that averages around 3000 pounds, needs to carry around 1200-1500 pounds of load, with 18-20 gallons of fuel, 300-500 pounds of cargo, and can still hit 120-130 mph top speed or maintain avg speeds of 40-60 mph at full capacity is the determining factor for its horsepower need.
The same amount of factors are used to decide the basic horsepower needed for other types of vehicles as well. After which it is up to the manufacturers whether they want to make a fast car, slow car, or balanced deciding how much extra horsepower they add-in.
It is that EXTRA HORSEPOWER that makes a car underpowered or overpowered.
So, what is a good amount of horsepower for your type of car?
What’s a Good Amount of Horsepower for a Small Car?
The average amount of horsepower for small/compact cars in the US is around 75 -110 hp.
Small or Compact cars are lightweight unibody cars that are good for a small family. Two adults and two kids are commuting in the city, doing daily chores. Cars of such size usually have 1.0 or 1.2 L engines that produce anywhere between 80-120 hp.
The smaller engines are efficient and produce enough power to get you smooth sailing around the blocks. With speed limited to 25 mph in most city areas, you would never feel any lack of power. Even on highways, you can cruise around 60-70 mph without the car struggling.
While you won’t be pulling 10-sec 0-60 mph, it won’t matter, as the car is not made for it. Adding a larger engine for extra power would take away its practicality and also make it less efficient. Both of which are the primary needs for a good small car.
Cars like the Mazda Mirage at 76 hp, Chevrolet Spark with 98 hp, 2021 Mazda 2 at 100 hp are small cars with a good amount of horsepower.
Also read: 10 Best 300 HP Cars for Less Than $20k
What’s a Good Amount of Horsepower for a Sedan?
A well-powered family sedan has a wider power range between 200-400 hp.
Sedans and SUVs are the most versatile type of cars in the market. Among sedans alone, you have sedans like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Verna, Toyota Corolla, all of which are economical family sedans. Then you have sedans from BMW, Audi, Mercedes all of which are luxury sedans.
Sedans vary greatly in their application, and so does their power level. A good amount of horsepower for a normal family sedan should be anywhere between 150 -300 hp. The power varies from mid-size sedans to full-size sedans. Sedans like the Mazda 6 @187 hp, Toyota Camry @203hp, and Kia Stinger @300 hp are good examples of well-powered sedans.
Move up the class to luxury Sedans, and we got big long cars full of luxury and amenities. The extra size with added weight needs more power than the average sedan. A good amount of Horsepower for luxury sedans is around 300-500 hp.
Among luxury sedans, the BMW M7 @320 hp, Mercedes S500 @ 430hp, and the Genesis G90 @365 hp are some cars with great power.
Also read: Are Sedans Dying? Will They Die Completely?
What’s a Good Amount of Horsepower for an SUV?
SUVs rated at 200 hp for small SUVs, 240 hp for mid-size SUVs, and 400 hp for full-size SUVs are enough horsepower for their classes.
SUVs just like sedans come in different shapes and sizes. But unlike sedans, SUVs are big, chunkier vehicles with higher load-carrying capacity. These are versatile vehicles that drive both on/off-road, tow loads, have a larger boot to carry cargo, and also have at least seating of 5.
The less aerodynamic wider body and bigger wheels, and heavyweight needs more power to move around completely, which is why SUVs even small are ones with big engines and high torque.
Generally, a Small-size SUV that can sit 5-passengers, tow around 3500-4500 pounds can be powered by a 4-cylinder with power rated between 170-200 hp. SUVs like the Subaru Forester @182 hp, GMC Terrain @170 hp, Ford Escape @ 180 hp are compact SUVs with ample amounts of power.
With Mid-size SUVs, inline-six or turbocharged 4 cylinder engines are great powerhouses. These engines produce power around 240-300 hp, enough for handling daily commutes, long highway rides, and light off-roading trips.
The Kia Telluride @ 291 HP, VW Santa Fe @277 hp, and Honda Pilot @280 hp are some well-powered mid-size SUVs to consider.
Finally, you have large SUVs. What separates these from others is that they are great off-roaders, can carry 5-7 people, tow above 5000 pounds and offer a lot of cargo space to support a big family. Since they are the big guys, they need to be powerful but not fast.
Most large SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe, Audi Q7, GMC Yukon are all powered by either a turbocharged V6 or a V8. Such SUVs have a powerband between 350-400 hp and can do 0-60 mph under 10 secs.
What’s a Good Amount of Horsepower for a Truck?
Trucks depending on their sizes have ideal engine output ranging from 200 hp to 600 hp with over 1000 lb. ft. of torque.
Trucks as we all know are not meant to go fast. Rather, they should be fast enough to maintain highway speeds and powerful enough to tow weights 4 to 5 times their weight, even on inclines. This is why trucks focus on having higher torque than horsepower.
Generally, a compact truck would have around 200-300 horsepower. They feature either a four-cylinder or a six possibly with a turbocharger. They have torque around the same range and can tow 8,000-10,000 pounds.
Compact trucks like the Honda Ridgeline @280 hp, Ford Ranger @ 270 hp, and Jeep Gladiator @285 are well-powered picks for compact trucks.
On the other hand, full-size pickup trucks like the Dodge Ram, Ford Raptor, GMC Sierra have power ranging between 300-400 hp. These trucks have an expected carrying capacity of 2000-3000 pounds with a towing capacity of 10,000-15,000 pounds, including a big bulky body that needs a powerful V6 to pull all the weight.
Adding extra horses to the engine also doesn’t make any sense as they drive at an average of 50-60 mph. Instead, they have high torque, some exceeding 600 lb. ft. to be able to tow the weight.
The same logic applies to Semi and Heavy-Duty Truck classes. With power ranging between 400-600 hp even for class 8 heavy-duty trucks, they are blessed with torque exceeding 2000 lb. ft.