Magazine article Newsweek

My Engine Is Bigger Than Your Engine: Carmakers Are Locked in a Horsepower Arms Race

Magazine article Newsweek

My Engine Is Bigger Than Your Engine: Carmakers Are Locked in a Horsepower Arms Race

Article excerpt

Byline: Keith Naughton

Maneuvering among all the SUVs on the road used to be a white-knuckle ride for Judy Podkulski. Her car, with its puny four-cylinder engine, was no match for the monsters of the motorway. So Podkulski traded in her economy car and bulked up to a 240-horsepower engine--under the hood of a sensible Honda Accord. "I used to be intimidated by all those macho tailgaters," says the 45-year-old mother of two. "Now I can take 'em."

America's horsepower arms race is escalating. And it's not just sports cars and SUVs. Tame family cars like the Nissan Altima and the Toyota Sienna minivan are packing power once found only in muscle cars. For all the overwrought talk of an SUV backlash and the rise of "green cars" like the Toyota Prius, Americans are actually pumping up the juice in all kinds of cars. But unlike politically incorrect SUVs, the traditional car with massive horsepower is virtually guilt-free, a stealth excess. And plenty of us are doing it. Sales of V-8 engines accelerated 15 percent in the last two years. Eight in 10 car buyers say power is important, according to pollster AutoPacific. Last month's Detroit Auto Show was overrun with ponies, from the frighteningly fast V-10 Dodge Tomahawk concept motorcycle to the 1,000-horsepower Cadillac Sixteen. …

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