What Is Torque?

In automotive terms, torque is the rotational or twisting force generated by an engine’s crankshaft. When shopping for a new vehicle, torque is important because it impacts a vehicle’s ability to accelerate, ascend steep inclines, perform off-road, and even towing capacity.

How Does Torque Work?

Torque is generated by the combustion of fuel inside a vehicle’s engine cylinders. Ignition creates pressure that makes engine pistons move rapidly, rotating the crankshaft, and producing the rotational force known as torque. This force is sent to the drivetrain through the transmission system, turning the wheels and propelling the vehicle forward. 

In practical terms, torque is what makes a car accelerate from a standstill, scale steep inclines, and tow heavy loads. The balance of torque and engine speed also determines a vehicle’s overall driving force and capabilities under various weather, terrain, and road conditions. 

How Does Torque Work for Different Types of Engines?

Torque determines the amount of power an engine can produce. Torque primarily depends on the amount of air that flows through the engine, although other factors – such as gear ratio and drivetrain configuration – also play a role. Generally, larger engines pump more air and generate more torque. However, a smaller engine’s layout and design can render it more efficient, as can enhancements like turbochargers

For instance, although the horizontally-opposed layout and strategically low placement of the SUBARU BOXER® engine is relatively small in size, it delivers exceptional torque thanks to its low center of gravity and balanced weight distribution. The BOXER engine’s optimized torque delivery, particularly in lower RPM ranges, gives drivers ample power for quick acceleration and responsive handling whether they’re navigating city streets, commuting on highways, or trekking across rough terrain. 

Different types of engines — such as internal combustion, all-electric, and hybrid—also produce and use torque differently.

Torque for Gas Powered Cars


Gasoline-powered engines, also known as internal combustion engines, use spark plugs to ignite fuel in the engine, creating pressure needed to move the pistons and generate torque. Similarly, diesel engines also use internal combustion engines, but require diesel fuel instead of standard gasoline. 

While the mechanical principles of diesel and gas are the same, their torque outputs differ. Gas engines tend to produce lower peak torque at higher RPMs, while diesel engines can produce higher torque at lower RPMs. This helps diesel engines easily perform rugged tasks like towing heavy cargo. While diesel engine vehicles may generate more torque, they also produce more emissions in the process.

Torque for Electric Vehicles

Rather than using internal combustion to produce torque, EVs like the Subaru Solterra are powered entirely by electric motors. This allows EVs to achieve peak torque immediately, without the need for gears or revving up.  In fact, many EV engines incorporate a reducer in their transmission in order to modulate and deliver torque safely. 

EVs are well-suited for city driving and quick maneuvers thanks to their instantaneous torque delivery. Electric motors also maintain consistent torque across varying speeds and RPMs, endowing them with impressive agility and responsiveness along with an exceptionally smooth, quiet ride.

Torque for Hybrid Vehicles

When it comes to hybrid vehicles, torque plays a pivotal role in optimizing powertrain performance and efficiency. Since hybrids contain both an electric motor and a more traditional combustion engine, torque is delivered in different ways depending on which type of motor is being used at a given time. This setup allows drivers to enjoy the benefits of both gasoline and electric power and torque. 

Many hybrid vehicle systems are designed to blend torque seamlessly, transitioning between electric and gas power. They benefit from immediate, consistent torque and responsive performance when driving at low speeds or with city driving – typically, times when the gas engine is not engaged. When a hybrid is running while using its combustion engine, the vehicle generates torque in the traditional manner, producing rotational force via the crankshaft.

Explore the full lineup of Subaru vehicles!

With a full range of models that deliver outstanding torque thanks to our SUBARU BOXER engine foundation, Subaru has exciting options to fit your needs. From our rugged Wilderness vehicles capable of towing all the camping gear you need for your next adventure, to our sporty WRX and BRZ performance models, explore our lineup to find the right Subaru for you. 

Check out our full lineup of vehicles today!