Tom and Ray Magliozzi: How much car power is enough?
Dear Tom and Ray: I need some straightforward and honest guidance on how important torque and horsepower are for a small car.
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#1 Nov 4, 2008
The short version is that you can never be too good looking, have too much money, or have a car that is too powerful.
The Versa is a bit smaller and lighter, therefore, I would say that only 200-220hp is adequate, but only barely, for the sake of drivability assuming front wheel drive configuration. In a car that small, you don't need as much power, so if you can trick it with an aftermarket AWD system (very expensive, mind you) you can settle for more modest outputs of 350 hp as opposed to the 5-600hp you might want in a larger car, but I'd be perfectly happy with a decent 350-400hp assuming it were All Wheel Drive.
Of course, more power is always better until it gets to the point of being undriveable, so tires, brakes, suspension and chassis rigidity are all important factors that allow you to get more and more power by pushing the upper limit of the driveable performance. If, in a very highly capable car capable of death defying track times you can burn out all driven wheels on an overly eager upshift assuming presence of Limited Slip Differentials from a roll in most forward gears when briskly powershifting at redline, that is the sign that you have enough power. Anything less may leave you being passed by someone with a faster car when you just want to squeeze in that hole in traffic....
High performance driving school and track experience strongly recommended if you want high levels of power!
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