Cheating on horsepower ratings is not an uncommon practice in the automotive world. In theory it’s not unlike a food company putting less calories on the package than what the food contains but in reality a few less calories will cost a lot less than a few less horsepower.
Sports cars manufactures often report lower output figures than what the car and the engine actually delivers, even today !
This technique saves them a lot of money and of course saves us, the sports cars lovers, a lot of money too. The expected winnings from a new sports cars model are not as high as from a family sedan or a compact SUV. It’s the easiest way to go around newly imposed taxes on emissions and cheat EPA and insurance houses. Even further, manufacturers often adjust the desired horsepower in order to get a more NHRA classification. In reality they didn’t lie about the figures, just measured the power in conditions that were more favorable to their needs.
There are numerous ways to cheat, on of the tricks for lowering the insurance cost and category is to measure the peak horsepower below the max engine speed or when decreasing the RPM. If sports cars manufacturers wanted to achieve opposite results they would measure hp at the crank and not at the wheels or use an open-exhaust system. There are plenty of combos and tweaks that produce the desired results.
Either way figures can be manipulated but lets face it there are a lot more cars that are underrated than the once that are overrated, so here is our list of five cars that lied about their power ratings and gave us more than what we thought we got. Here’s a spoiler, no Muscle cars, they will be covered in a different article.
The Nissan GTR and Every Other JDM Sports Car
Due to the strict speed limits in JAPAN, Japanese manufacturers didn’t want to start a horsepower war in the country. This led to a so called “Gentlemen’s Agreement” which meant that sports cars manufacturers will limit their high performance vehicles to just 276 horsepower. That’s the main reason you will not be able to find a stock GTR R34 listed with more than 276 hp where in reality Nissan Motors Japan’s Godzilla made well over 320 ponies at the wheels. The R33 and R32 also lied about their ratings. In fact all of the JDM sports cars manufacturers lied about the power ratings of their cars, especially the cars that had the 3.0L 2JZ-GTR, 1JZ-GTE, the Subaru Impreza WRX, the Lancer Evo’s, the third gen of the Mazda RX-7 and many more.
It was not until source: Honda broke the agreement in 2004 by introducing the 2005 Honda Legend with 290hp under the bonet. But who could argue or point fingers at a car called the Legend, right ? Ever since the news broke all JDM manufacturers jumped right on the 300-hp train, which was a forbidden fruit for them for such a long time.
The BMW M5 F10
Even nowadays manufacturers use such tricks to go under the radar. The current F10 gen of the M5 – arguably the best BMW model – officially produces more or less 553 hp out of a 4.4L twin-turbo engine. The S63 engine has a compression ratio of 10:1 and the boost makes exactly 1.5bar (22 psi). Even further, that’s the first engine to use the new BMW technology – the valvetronic or in other words the BMW version of the variable valve lift system.
Everything seems fine except for the fact that iND Distribution claims that the car produces more than 600 horsepower, or about 50 more than advertised ! They have put the sports car on the dyno which revealed that a stock 2013 M5 makes no less than 527 hp at the wheels, however there is some 15% loss due to the RWD drivetain. Simple calculations show that the engine makes more than 600 at the crank. Of course the the 15% rule is not adhered too strickly so BMW made the move to evade some taxes and and directly affects BMW cars and their prices .
Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk VII
The Golf has been clearly understated since it’s production began in 1974, but the cheating was more serious in the newer versions of the car. The sixth generation of the GTI kicks in quite good, thanks to it’s 217 horsepower engine (official figures provided by VW ). Unfortunatelly for VW (but fortunately for us) the sports hatchback produces a bit more than 260hp when put on the dyno for a completely stock car It’s not hard to imagine Volkswagen pulling suck a trick as, the same 2.0L engine in the performance pack give you 227 hp and especially when you consider that the GTI clubsport( 261hp) and the GOLF R(300hp) use the same exact engine with a bit of tweaks here and there, then something doesn’t quite add up. Anyway, the inspectors at the iND also claimed that the the stock car produces 314 lb-ft of torque instead of the 258 that the VW is advertising.
So how does this work out ? Well, the car has a chip that lowers the power of the engine when the rear wheels are stationary (for example when the car is on the dyno) but, when the rear axel spins (when the car is on the road), the computer changes the engine’s settings to deliver a more powerful punch. Still, the GTI is one of the best hatchback cars !
I can’t but hold it in me – this is my favorite sports car of all times. I was five years old at the time that car came out, and it was just amazing ! Apart from being the best Ferrari car to ever roll out of the factory the F40 secretly offered more than the Italians wanted us to believe. But there was a small catch, it all comes to where you lived. Originally the car was advertised with 471 hp, produced by the beautifully engineered piece of art 2.9L twin-turbo V8 Engine.
Unfortunately the US version had a catalytic converter which severely happened the performance and most of the US spec cars wouldn’t even match the initial 471 hp rating, while their European counter parts would push as much as 510 hp on the dyno without breaking a sweat ! Like it or not, that’s the sad truth, cats have been spoiling the petrolhead’s dream for more than 50 years now, just ask any muscle car fan.
The Ford GT began as a concept car designed in anticipation of the automaker’s centennial year and as part of its drive to showcase and revive its “heritage” names such as Mustang and Thunderbird. At the 1995 Detroit Auto Show, the Ford GT90 concept was shown. At the 2002 auto show, Ford unveiled a new GT40 Concept car.
There are few lucky dogs that didn’t even know how lucky they were when they pre-ordered the revived legend that is the Ford GT. Apart from the social factor that comes with going to the petrol station every two minutes to refill the car, the 5.4L supercharged Modular V8 engine officially generated 550 hp at the crank and 500 feet-pounds of torque. Of course numerous dyno tests suggest a different story, they report more than 550 hp at the wheels !
The simple math suggest that this car produces more than 630 ponies at the crank if universally recognized formula for the 15% drivetrain loss is taken into account.
Dodge Neon and Caliber SRT-4
Years: 2003-2005, 2008-2009
Everytime I write an article about cheap and fun cars, there is always someone that’s unhappy who writes crap in the comment section, just because we missed out the SRT-4. To be honest, there are plenty of articles that praise the STR-4 as the underdog that was never recognized as the hero it deserves to be. But why do you think is that ? It may not be the most obvious cheater, but there is something else apart from the air conditioner that smells fishy around here.
The 2.4L turbo four Mopar was initially rated at the respectible 215 hp in 2003 and then at 230hp in 2004. This alone shows awesome potential, but the figures show that the SRT-4 makes more power measured at the wheels !
Another proof that the SRT-4 is underrated is that the Dodge Caliber which uses the very SAME SRT-4 was rated at 285 hp with a similar setup. Edmunt’s managed to squeeze 281 at the wheel out of the Caliber for our car service. Sadly the potential of this little engine was never recognized as only 26 000 units were produced ( 25,000 Neon SRT-4s and 1,000 for the Caliber). In other words if you lay your hands on one, its value will only raise up!
Years: 1986- 1988 Porsche
Remember the 80’s, most importantly the Porsche 959. Porche was one of the sports cars manufacturers that never seized to amaze us. The very limited 959 had a 2,85L turbocharged flat-six that managed to produce the outstanding for its time 444 hp.
People were skeptical about the numbers as for how could such a small engine to produce so much power ?! But they were wrong, the 959 didn’t make 444hp, on the contrary, numerous dyno tests over the years show that the car delivered 500 with ease, how else would you explain the 0 to 60 times of 3.6 seconds. Further evidence shows that Porsche offered a “beefed up” versions with 515hp, 530 and even as much as 585hp. So the moral of the story here is : “Never trust the Germans !”
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