Let's talk about torque.
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about torque and horsepower. In muscle car circles, you might hear the saying, "Horsepower sells cars, but torque wins the race." That's sort of true, but only in that torque is what gets you off the line and can give you an advantage. Torque is the measurement of rotating force, and a good way of comparing its effect is to a human sprinter leaving the blocks in a race. The sprinter needs strong muscles to propel themselves forward then build momentum with force from their legs. Horsepower would be the measurement of the sustained effort from those muscles to get them up to the desired speed and keep them moving.
In the real world, torque is the main component of initial acceleration from a stop. For day to day driving, torque has more of an impact on us than horsepower as we accelerate from a stop or low speeds more than we enter the vehicular equivalent of a sprint. If you want to feel that hefty initial shove of acceleration more than you care about horsepower, these are some of the cars available with a noticeable amount of extra torque.
Because torque is mostly about getting weight moving, lighter cars don't need as much in day to day life as, say, heavy SUVs. However, if you want to have fun driving, big torque in a smaller car is a recipe for grins. The VW Golf GTI has a useful 228 hp, but an even more helpful 258 lb-ft of torque being generated by its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Turbochargers are being used more now for fuel efficiency, but one of the other benefits is that they tend to produce more torque, particularly lower on the rev range. In a little hot hatch, that makes them quick off the line and peppy around town. The 2021 Golf GTI is on the horizon, and it's reported that it will also have more torque than horsepower, making 245 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque when it arrives.
As with most luxury vehicles, Bentley uses big torque so its cars whoosh rather than scream away from a dead stop. However, Bentley likes to use that torque in an overall package designed to delight the driver as much as the passengers. The Continental GT in V8 form delivers 542 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, but the 12-cylinder engine produces 626 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. That torque is provided all the way down at 1,350 rpm, meaning you only need to push gently at first on the gas pedal to win a traffic light race with the average sedan.
Trucks typically have a lot of torque for carrying heavy loads and towing, but the F-150 isn't as much about practically and utility as it is about fun and going fast off the beaten track. The Ford GT-derived twin-turbo V6 yields 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque in the Raptor. However, the Ford GT doesn't make this list for the same reason most sports cars and supercars don't. Typically, a higher engine speed yields more horsepower, and while sports cars value a balance between the two types of power, supercars usually value higher top speeds. Therefore, it's not uncommon to find sports cars with torque and horsepower figures close to each other, and supercars' horsepower figures being considerably higher.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from a fun-loving truck is the serious luxury of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV. Torque in luxury vehicles isn't just about accelerating fast; it's more about pulling away comfortably. With a lot of torque, the engine is straining less to pull away at a reasonable speed, and helping create a smooth and comfortable ride for passengers. The Cullinan's 6.75-liter V12 produces a more than respectable 563 hp, but for getting the 6,069 lbs worth of luxury barge off the line, it has 627 lb-ft of torque at its disposal.
When Mercedes brought out the second-generation G-Class, AMG took hold of the brand-new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, which made an already healthy 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, and cranked it up to 577 hp and 627 lb-ft. That's a glorious number that millionaire musicians and the Hollywood elite will appreciate, while off-road aficionados will approve of peak torque arriving at just 2,500 rpm. Well, at least those that can afford the $124,500 starting price will.
While it wouldn't outrun a Porsche Taycan S, the Chevy Bolt does have a more substantial disparity between horsepower and torque. In old-school measurement, the Taycan S makes 750 hp and 774 lb-ft of torque, while the Bolt generates 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. The Bolt also only has a curb weight of 3,563 lbs, and is way more fun to jet around in than it has any right to be. Of course, repeatedly putting your foot on the fast pedal dramatically decreases the Bolt's 259-mile range.
Volvo's S90 Hybrid has a complicated drivetrain. It's as if one day someone in management stopped by the engineering department and told them: "You've managed to both supercharge and turbocharge that little four-cylinder engine at the same time, now could you add an electric motor and a battery pack to the car?" A lot is going on there, but the result is a large sedan that can get up and go with the best of them. The 400 hp helps make the S90 Hybrid a legitimate cruiser, but the 472 lb-ft of torque delivered by everything working together makes acceleration both effortless and powerful at the same time.
Having plenty of torque in an off-road biased SUV makes a lot of sense, particularly when you're suddenly looking at the sharp base of a very big hill, and you can't get a run-up. The Range Rover Hybrid uses that electric power to punch up the torque delivered by the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four to 472 lb-ft, well above the 398 hp it has available. Of course, most Range Rovers will never see a hill without a road up close, so, as a luxury vehicle, all that low-down torque is still incredibly useful. It's also a plug-in hybrid, so you can charge it up and use just electric power for around 19 miles of range.
Few of us can afford a Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but thankfully there's some excellent premium SUVs on the market. The Lincoln Aviator looks fantastic, has a serenely attractive interior, but the Aviator Hybrid also takes off on a huge wave of torque. Electric motors are starting to be used more and more for their ability to deliver instant torque, both filling in the gaps from turbo lag and for adding overall torque to the drivetrain. The Aviator Hybrid makes 494 hp, a number that's then eclipsed by its 630 lb-ft of torque. When we first got to drive one, we noted that the acceleration was exactly what we want from a luxury vehicle. It's smooth and relentless acceleration rather than a gobsmacking jolt despite the SUV weighing 5,600 lbs.
While you can't actually go to a dealer and buy one right now, you can order a Mustang Mach-E GT. Whether you like having the Mustang name associated with an electric SUV or not, the power figures demand respect. The all-wheel-drive Mach-E has about 332 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, while Ford claims the Mach-E GT model has around 459 hp and 612 lb-ft. That's a lot of torque, and Ford is claiming a 0-60 mph time of fewer than four seconds off the back of it.
The other reason to have plenty of torque is to get extra weight moving, like a trailer or a truck bed full of something substantial. Trucks are no strangers to big torque, but equip a Ram 2500 with a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-six, and you suddenly have 850-lb-ft of torque, more than double the 400 hp available. However, tick the option on the Ram 3500 for the high output Cummins engine, and you still get 400 hp under the hood, but now you also have 1,000 lb-ft of torque at your disposal. Perfect if you need to relocate, say, a house.