The Second Golden Age of Horsepower

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Mar 24, 2007
Upstate NY
It hit me last night that we are currently living in a second golden age for horsepower. 300 hp family haulers that do 0-60 faster than sports cars of 10 years ago, 400+ hp pony cars, and 600-700 hp sports cars. On the low end, we have dinky little engines like 1.4's and 1.5's putting out 160-180 hp reliably, while 2 liter engines are now pushing out 250-280 hp or more with aftermarket tunes. Granted that's with the help of forced induction. It's just incredible to me that we have all these massively powerful and reliable engines so readily available. $32k will get one into a 400 hp pony car, while $27k will get a 290 hp family sedan. $20k gets a 160 hp compact. Even $15k gets 100 hp or more.

Coupled with the modern 5-9 speed autos and manuals, and those ponies are more accessible today than in years past. Generally most of that power is accessible within a downshift or two. That's why I say we're in a second golden age of horsepower.
I agree 100%. When my Mazdaspeed 3 was dead stock it could click off 14 second quarters. Most of the pure stock musclecars of the late '60s and early '70s were mid 14 second cars off the showroom floor. Since I've added a Mazdaspeed intake and a mild(Hypertech) tune the Mazda's 2.3 liter turbo is making @300 hp and 320 lb-ft. of totque- and returning 27-30 mpg when driven with restraint. And it's a piker compared to the mega-hp monsters you can pick up- most for much less than $100k...

By the time I got a decent job(the mid '80s) there were some very nice cars on the market(535i, Z28 Mustang GT, 944, RX7, etc.) but no real rocket sleds.

I keep thinking about picking up a new Challenger R/T or a used Challenger SRT-in Hemi Orange of course-so that I can live out the hot-rodding pleasures I missed out on in the first muscle car era.
Add slicks to the old cars and they will hold their own in the 1/4 mile. But every other aspect (except DIY repairs) is better with new cars.
I like driving 60's cars better than most of todays plastic wagons.
I do agree that calling a subcompact that runs 9 sec 0-60 slow is silly. My new Nissan has tons of usable torque for a 1.6 - it easily out torqued the Honda Fit in normal. spirited driving.
Cost out the door = $12,500. Thing doesn't handle too well though - combo of cheap conti tires and a front end alignment required.
This is a fairly recent turn of the industry.

I am a little impressed, and a little bit disconcerted.

Impressed, because the aftermarket's tuning of small, high power density engines has made it to the automakers.

Disconcerted because typically only people with knowledge, inspiration and skill were allowed (by virtue) to have the sleepers and the rockets, now any blissfully moronic [censored] can just walk into a dealer and purchase pocket rockets and power dense machines. And I don't like that. But I'm not mad, because it just pushes the "builders and tuners of cars" to step their game up even more. No manufacturers are putting sweet V6s inside of Mazda2 sized cars that'll run low 13s stock, so I don't feel too much pressure considering the the option to abandon stock tune (cams, turbo, ITB etc) remains there
At the Holtville airport race track about 10 years ago they had a race day with vintage classes. The track record for MGB's, TR's and other British sports cars of the era was beaten by a Honda Odyssey that was taking VIP guests around the track. Later he went around the track to pickup some course workers and out braked an MGA on a practice lap going into the hairpin. The Honda Odyssey driver did happen to mention it to the MGA driver that night at a dinner party. I'd like to see a BBC Top Gear type comparison between some modern cars and some vintage sports cars.
If an Odyssey could do that,think of a 300hp Pentastar V6 Chrysler minivan...
I've seen plenty of modern vehicles get spanked at the strip by old muscle cars, but it can go both ways. When you have new Honda Civics being bigger/heavier than old Accords, then they need 160HP just to move. 25 years ago I knew a guy who raced a 2.5L Turbo Dodge Caravan that spanked ANY new pony car (at that time). He ran 13.0-13.1 It was insane to watch!

I had a customer with a brand new 2014 Camaro SS come into the shop for his first oil change. We went for a ride after and he opened it up for me. It was OK, but having grown up at the drag strip, I wasn't really impressed.

That's not to say that modern cars aren't nice though. I love my F150 (the Coyote is a screamer) and the factory EFI in my Jeep allows it to idle on it's side while waiting to get pushed back over. New vehicles are comfy, quiet, and get great mileage. They're pretty reliable too.

Overall, I guess I'll agree that we're in the 2nd age. Look at new diesel trucks. 800 ft/lbs of torque? Insane. We're looking at a new Mazda 6. 184 HP from a 4 popper family sedan? That's pretty good, IMO. The new Taurus SHO, don't get me going...LOL!
Many of these new high powered cars have a lot of electronic nannies to prevent wheel spin and/or torque steer (if they're FWD) in lower gears, so that's partly why you don't feel the raw power as much when taking off.
Taking this further; how much horsepower top of the line average family sedan (aka Camaccord) will have in 2020 model year and what would it be 0-60 numbers? 400+ and under 5 seconds??
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Yep, I agree. My 1998 Corvette with a 5.7 liter V8 engine has 345 HP and my 2014 Impala 3.5 liter V6 has 305 HP! Of course it has variable valve timing and direct injection!

What is amazing to me is that I had a 205 HP 2001 Impala which got 22.5 mpg. My new Impala has 50% more horsepower and gets almost 50% better mileage! seems against physical laws!
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Originally Posted By: Vikas
Taking this further; how much horsepower top of the line average family sedan (aka Camaccord) will have in 2020 model year and what would it be 0-60 numbers? 400+ and under 5 seconds??

Except that you won't be in control of it anymore. Google will be in control.
Many thanks to the engineers. Both mechanical and petroleum. The automotive engineers are just getting started on the development of great new engines that will produce great horsepower to displacement ratios.

Most folks never come close to using their engines to the max capability.

But technology will keep improving design, horsepower, fuel economy, reduced weight, computer aided designs, etc. As things improve with vehicle materials and weights, safety and design for air flow, etc we will get better MPG and safer rides with improved performance.

And we will have vehicles that have less maintenance than in past years. That is good for all. Except the shops of course.

Anyway, I agree with the OP. It is getting better due to technology and will continue to get better. Hope I am around to see and experience it.

I hope to fly in a car one day.
Quite right.
And all the while the vehicles are getting heavier.
Not to mention the improvements in fuel economy through better power transmission technology and material science/specifications.

None of it would be possible without the utilization of computers in every aspect of design and development, let alone the engine management systems which facilitate the higher power densities, along with the improvements in fuel economy.

Vehicle safety has improved out of sight with more to come on the horizon.

The longevity of the car bodies has also been extended, due to better paint technology and design.

I envision a future where the vehicle technology will be so good, it will get to the point where we will not necessarily have to change our entire vehicle for a new one.

Instead, there will be an upgrade path as opposed to total redundancy, where the basic vehicle will be good enough in every respect to go forward with, and a retrofit of new or improved technology will extend the life of the body to become the normal way of doing things.

I think Electric vehicles will easily lead the way in terms of performance and economy.
Tesla comes to mind in that regard.
The Tesla business model seems to be a precursor to the changes that I envision.
Their battery packs are warranted for a period of 8 years.
After that, there will most likely be a very nasty sting in the tail.
In order to preserve their market value, I think they will need to shore up the used car price, by having an economical exchange program for the battery pack.
This may include an upgrade program of the latest technology available at the time that's going to be easy to retrofit as a complete package. Sort of a plug and play scenario, along with a bit of a software update.

These are very exiting times. IMO.
End of rant.
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Got that right. My no option f150 makes 302 hp. The 3.7l weighs maybe 60 pounds more than the engine on a miata. In the mustang the engine is so small it technically turns the car into a front mid-engine car.
Great thread, I started playing with cars in Oz that were typically ADR27A bred...mid 70s stuff.

That was when we followed the US down EGR, minimum ignition advance (no vacuum advance until top gear), lower compression ratios, and absolutely gutless.

It took 5L to make roughly the power of a 3.5 of a decade prior.

Cat converters came in in the mid 80s, and cars started to perform better, as they could tune them to run, and clean them up.'s amazing (except for the 2.0L auto forrester that I sometimes's as thirsty as my Caprice, and my push mower has better acceleration)
Originally Posted By: Quattro Pete
Many of these new high powered cars have a lot of electronic nannies to prevent wheel spin and/or torque steer (if they're FWD) in lower gears, so that's partly why you don't feel the raw power as much when taking off.

Also mechanical engineering. Torque steer can be largely eliminated mechanically. Tire size and compound plays into it, since cars these days wear wider, grippier rubber than in years past.
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