Engines are so advanced now that we can get power ratings that range from impressive to “are you kidding me?!” out of pretty much anything. We live in a world where you can get nearly 200 horsepower from an I3, V6 engines make nearly 400 HP with turbos while still getting almost 30 mpg.
If you’re like me, you’ve had moments where you questioned whether handing out 500+ horsepower cars to regular Joes was a good idea.
We asked readers what cars they thought made horsepower too accessible. These were their answers.
When Performance Became Affordable
I wouldn’t phrase this so negatively, but i realized how awesome and affordable acceleration is when i made an off-the-cuff quip to a friend that “i bet you lunch a V6 Camry is quicker than Magnum PI’s Ferrari.” I said that in 2013. It’s been true for longer.
Suggested by: Christopher Radak (Facebook)
When Teens Get Their Hands On Hellcats
When the 17 year old third owners start getting their hands on the Hellcats, I think that’s going to be the revelation for most people that 700 hp might be just a tad much. I can already hear the crying and see the lines at the local funeral parlor.
Suggested by: Jalon P Niklaus
Watching A Van Autocross
When I watched a Honda Odyssey set a respectable time in an auto cross…
Suggested by: Mat Maessen (Facebook)
When Large SUVs And Trucks Got Powerful
Large “family” SUVs/trucks, especially SRTs, any SS models, Raptors, etc..I love me some HP, but I truly feel many people don’t understand the power and weight they are in control of these days…
Suggested by: @SeanTG84 (Twitter)
When Trucks And Minivans Left The Factory With 300 HP
To me, it was when the standard minivan and light-duty pickup left the factory with nearly 300 and 400 hp respectively.
Traditionally, these were utilitarian vehicles – designed and focused on moving people and cargo where HP and performance were afterthoughts, at best. Growing up, you’d see the early 90’s Caravan or F-150 happily loping along in the slow lane at 55, packed either full of people or gear, using every bit of their 150-ish hp.
Now, the harried soccer mom blasting across town for the tournament is riding everyone’s bumper in her Sienna at 80+ mph with power that would be a late 90s Ferrari blush.
When it is that easy to go fast in a vehicle that was not primarily designed with performance in mind, horsepower has become too accessible.
Suggested by: Sector 7G-Wagen
2012-2013 Chevy Impalas
The 2012-2013 Chevrolet Impalas. It was an overlap where it was the last year of the lighter W-body chassis but with the 300+hp 3.6L V6 and the 6-speed automatic replacing the old 3900/4-speed combo. The first time I drove one, I had to pull over and pop the hood to see what it was packing. We sold a bunch to elderly customers and a bunch of them came in griping that they got speeding tickets with them or found themselves solidly over the speed limit frequently.
Suggested by: Nick Dixon (Facebook)
2002 Nissan Altima And A Couple Others
I remember the 2002 Altima getting the 3.5 V6 and its 240 hp from the bigger Maxima. Then I saw it on Motorweek liquify its front tires doing a 0-60 run. To my 15-year-old brain, it seemed outrageous that a boring family sedan could do that.
Then in 2003, the E55 AMG came out with 469 supercharged horses! 120 more than the 2002 model. That was also a pretty insane number. It was also one of the first engine sounds that I heard where the car sounded *angry*.
Also in 2003, Ford dropped the supercharged Terminator engine into the SVT Cobra. 390 hp to fight off the 350 hp Corvette. This was still when the Mustang fought the F-body Camaro, not the Corvette. (Or exactly because GM killed the F-body a year prior.) Regardless, that seemed like an awful lot of power when the then-new 350Z and RX-8 had what? 240-270 hp?
Suggested by: EMF15Q
2011 Ford Mustang GT
Cheap, 400hp, live rear axle, takes to mods like a duck to water, and perfect for young peacocks trying to show off.
Suggested by: Wallace Rick (Facebook)
Mid 2000s Mercedes S600s
My threshold was finally crossed when depreciation hit and the mid 2000s S600s dropped below the cost of a new corolla.
This car makes just shy of 500 horsepower from the factory, which is fine. But the knowledge that for an extra 2 grand you can get into the 600 horsepower club really resonated with me.
500 was and is a lot, but 600 is the kind of numbers that even today only a handful of cars will tread on.
Suggested by: syaieya
Ford Explorer Sport (Fifth Generation)
Ford Explorer with the EcoBoost 3.5. 360 horsepower to let The Karen-Amber soccer moms idle in the carpool line picking other little Ethan (but not spelled how it sounds) and Mildred-Maye from after-school.
Why? Because I get the “sleeper” minivan need because fun has to be found somewhere. But with the ‘roided out SUV/Crossover minivan replacements in that 4,500lbs is just going to road-rage with boosted efficiency and near insta-torque when Ethan and M-M get to screaming in the 3rd row back seat.
I get there have been fast SUVs and there are a lot of other faster SUV but the old “Exploders” were powered by the 4.0/4.6 boat anchors and could hardly do highway pulls. Now, if Karen-Amber’s foot slips at the local Whole Foods, she isn’t just taking a few shopping carts with her, she is taking the who bakery down at 88 mph.
Suggested by: FutureDoc
Subaru Legacy Spec B.
It was my second Subaru Legacy which was a Spec.B. The car came stock with about 250 hp/ft-lbs but after some minor exhaust modifications and a COBB accessport, those numbers climb up another 60 hp and 80 ft-lbs. So at just at around 310 hp/330 ft-lbs, that car felt very fast. But it wasn’t just the added power that made the car fast, it was how well the car was able to put power to the ground, partly because of Subaru’s excellent AWD system and also because of the suspension mods performed.
The first time I took the car to the track after stiffening sway bars, endlinks, adding adjustable camber bolts, and modifying the alignment, the car was telegraphic in how it responded to my inputs and it put down the power in a heroic manner. Too much speed through a 180 degree turn? Just gently roll onto the throttle in 3rd and the front will start pulling straight as the rear shifts from oversteer to neutral. Turn-in was so quick and predictable as was its at-limit handling and extremely neutral cornering with a manageable throttle-induced oversteer.
I, a weekend track warrior with only half a dozen track days under my belt, was able to keep up with veterans in their 911s, C5 Vettes, and M3s, at least around the curves and the chassis made me feel like a superhero at the track. That car made track driving effortless and road driving even better and made it feel easy.
That was the last car I owned before the switch to the electrical and computer-controlled rolling smartphones we have today and it was more fun to drive than any of the 500HP+ V8 BMWs I drove at a marketing event last month.
Suggested by: oddseth