Kilowatts and Torque
Engine power is measured in kilowatts. But a really important factor that many people overlook is the importance of torque. Torque measures the amount of turning force the engine generates - the more torque, the better the acceleration and the better towing capacity you'll have.
The size of a car's engine is usually measured in litres. As a loose rule of thumb, the bigger the engine, the more power it can generate. However, with advanced engine technologies such as Toyota's Dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (Dual VVT-i), clever design and the addition of turbo chargers or super chargers, many smaller, high revving engines can produce a lot of power very efficiently.
Hybrids such as the Camry Hybrid, which combines an electric motor and a petrol engine, can also offer high performance with extremely low CO2 emissions[G1].
Small diesel engines produce relatively low power in terms of kilowatts, but can generate large amounts of Torque, which makes them economical on fuel and highly efficient workhorses.
Compare The Torque
There's no need to understand the science of torque unless you're interested, but if you are comparing cars and you want to see which one is likely to deliver the most powerful performance, it's worth comparing the torque they generate. You should find the maximum torque (measured in Nm Newton-metres) on the car manufacturer's website.
Restrictions for P-Plate drivers
In some states, if you are a P-Plate driver your licence won't qualify you to drive high performance cars or cars with modified engines. So it's best to check what restrictions apply before you think about buying. You can find out all you need to know by visiting the website of the relevant roads and traffic authority in your state or territory, such as the RMS, VicRoads or Transport SA.
If you're tempted to go for high performance, remember that while bigger engines may generate more kilowatts and torque, this can man they use more fuel and produce more CO2 emissions[G1]. So before you decide which model to buy, check fuel and emissions. Even a small difference in fuel usage can add up to a large expense over time.