As the second largest expense after housing, choosing your mode of transportation is not to be taken lightly. But making an informed decision about which car to buy can be tough when you don’t understand all the terms and specifications listed in the vehicle description or what those catchy phrases on review sites mean. If you find yourself googling “Is an eight-speed automatic good” or “Is 150 horsepower enough for an SUV,” this page is for you. Keep reading to learn the meaning behind the most common car specs, auto terms, and industry phrases to help you make a better buying decision.
Horsepower (HP): This term measures the vehicle’s engine power. A car with 200 HP will generally be faster and more powerful than one with 150 HP. Depending on the size and purpose of the vehicle, you might need more or less horsepower. For daily commuting, 150 HP might be sufficient for most compact cars, but for larger SUVs or trucks, you might seek higher HP for smoother acceleration and hauling capabilities.
Torque: Often measured in pound-feet (lb.-ft), torque is the force that propels the car forward. While horsepower is about speed, torque is about strength and pulling power. Cars with higher torque values often accelerate faster from a standstill. EV vehicles and some hybrid vehicles have instant torque allowing them to zip from zero to 60 in faster times.
Transmission: This refers to the car’s gearbox. An “eight-speed automatic” means the car automatically shifts through eight gears as you drive, optimizing fuel efficiency and engine performance. Manual transmissions, where you change gears yourself, are less common today but preferred by some for a more engaged driving experience.
MPG (Miles Per Gallon): This measures a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. A car with a higher MPG will travel more miles on a single gallon of gas, saving you money at the pump.
Drivetrain: This refers to how power is sent to the vehicle’s wheels. Common types include front-wheel drive (FWD), rear-wheel drive (RWD), all-wheel drive (AWD), and four-wheel drive (4WD). Each has its own advantages depending on driving conditions and desired handling.
Curb Weight: This is the weight of the car without passengers or cargo. A lighter car might offer better fuel efficiency, while a heavier car can provide a smoother ride and better stability.
Infotainment System: Modern vehicles come equipped with multimedia systems that control music, navigation, and sometimes even climate. Knowing how user-friendly and advanced an infotainment system is can influence your decision.
Traction Control: A safety feature that helps prevent wheel spin when accelerating by adjusting engine power or applying brake force to specific wheels.
Adaptive Cruise Control: A feature that adjusts your car’s speed based on the traffic ahead, maintaining a safe distance without the driver needing to adjust the speed manually.
Blind Spot Monitoring: This uses sensors to detect vehicles in your blind spots, providing visual or auditory alerts to the driver.
Towing Capacity: This is the maximum weight your vehicle can tow. It includes the weight of the trailer as well as everything on it. If you’re looking to pull a boat, camper, or trailer, you’ll want a vehicle with the right towing capacity to handle that weight safely.
Payload: This refers to the maximum weight of both passengers and cargo a vehicle can carry. While often confused with towing capacity, the payload is about what goes in and on the car (including the bed of a truck) rather than what is towed behind it.
You might come across descriptions like “2.5L V6 24V GDI DOHC”. Here’s how to decipher it:
When it comes to balancing the needs of modern drivers with the latest in automotive innovation, few do it as seamlessly as Toyota. So, when you’re ready to turn this newfound knowledge into a tangible driving experience, visit us at Toyota of Meridian in Meridian, MS, and let our experts guide you to the perfect Toyota model tailored to your needs.