Rethinking the Need for High Horsepower

So, I’ve got a couple of stories to share that might make you reconsider just how much power you think you need behind the wheel. You see, these days, cars are pushing the limits of horsepower and acceleration, but do we really need all that power for our everyday driving?

Surprising Acceleration Encounters

Picture this: I recently found myself in a peculiar drag race scenario. I was on a bicycle, equipped with a hybrid powertrain consisting of a Bosch electric motor and my trusty 40-year-old human legs. In this bizarre contest, I triumphed over a Chevrolet Volt and even left a Tesla Model 3 in the dust. Sounds crazy, right? But it illustrates a crucial point – most of us don’t unleash the full potential of our vehicles.

On another occasion, I trailed behind my wife, who was driving her 2023 Kia Niro EV. The specs claim it can do 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is admittedly slower than some other electric vehicles. Yet, as she merged onto the highway, her Niro surged ahead, leaving me in my Mercedes-AMG C43 and other cars in the left turn lane eating her dust.

These anecdotes aren’t meant to brag about my cycling prowess or my wife’s lead-foot tendencies. No, they serve to highlight the fact that, in reality, most drivers don’t push their vehicles to their performance limits. Our obsession with “bigger is better” might be deeply ingrained, but modern cars often far exceed what we actually need.

Blame It on the Need for Speed

Now, the automotive media, including us, shares some responsibility in perpetuating this obsession with acceleration. We love a quick 0-60 time, and cars that deliver it tend to get rave reviews. But here’s the thing: just because one car is slower than another doesn’t make it slow. It’s all relative. Take the Kia Niro EV and its supposed “slowness” compared to the EV6, for instance.

Turbocharging, all-wheel-drive, and electric motors have ushered in an era of rapid acceleration. 0-60 times that used to be exclusive to high-performance vehicles are now becoming the norm. But does that mean anything above 2 seconds is “slow”? Not really.

It’s About the Feel, Not Just the Numbers

The Buick Envista in my driveway is a prime example. It sports a 1.2-liter turbocharged engine with 137 horsepower and a 9.4-second 0-60 time. On paper, it may not seem very American or impressive. However, when you’re behind the wheel, it feels far from sluggish.

In contrast, some rivals with similar 0-60 times, like the Honda HR-V and Subaru Crosstrek, can feel slow. It all boils down to power delivery. The Envista’s little turbo engine churns out maximum torque at just 2,500 rpm, providing an energetic feel in everyday driving. Combined with its smooth six-speed automatic transmission and decent sound insulation, it offers a spirited experience on the road.

It’s Not Just About Speed

So, what’s the point of all this? Well, it’s time to reevaluate what we truly need in our cars. Single-motor electric vehicles and small-engined cars can be more practical and cost-effective for daily driving. Even the slowest among them can feel perfectly adequate unless you’re racing against supercars.

In the end, if you crave power and speed, go for it! There’s no harm in wanting the most potent car your money can buy. But let’s not dismiss the more modest options available. Take a test drive; you might find that they perfectly match your everyday driving needs, even if they don’t break speed records. And with more car companies offering such choices, we won’t have to pay extra for performance we don’t necessarily need.