Honda Lover's Delusion: Honda & Acura engines are more powerful than American V8s

The Mysterious VTEC

Ask almost any Honda or Acura enthusiast which is more powerful, an American V-8 or a Honda engine and he will always say, "Hondas, because they have VTEC and the shitty American engines don't!" Honda and Acura enthusiasts are always boasting about how "VTEC" makes Honda engines the greatest thing since the wheel was invented. VTEC is just variable valve timing, a feature that Nissan, Ford, and BMW all have in some of their engines. VTEC is just a crutch that Honda uses to make their tiny engines more drivable. Why do Honda engines need this crutch?

Honda engines used in Integras and Civics are very small (less than 2 liters) Small displacement engines need to spin HIGH RPMs in order to make power, and be cammed for optimum air/fuel and exhaust flow at high RPM. This causes the small engine to have almost ZERO low RPM torque. Without variable cam timing which gives a different camshaft lobe profile for high RPM and low RPM, the engine would make the car undrivable. A typical American pushrod V-8 has very good low RPM torque due to larger displacement and can make horsepower at both high AND low RPMs.

graph of torque and HP at drive wheels

The Horsepower Per Liter Farce

A lot of Honda and Acura lovers like to cite their engines' "superiority" and "efficiency" with "Hondas make more horsepower per liter." Ahh... the lame old "power per liter" ploy. Some high performance Honda engines make over 100 horsepower per liter. While that is nice, Honda lovers forget that those engines are only a tiny 1.8 liters! A high performance American 4.6 liter V-8 makes about 305 horsepower. Do the math!

305 horsepower > 195 horsepower

305 horsepower is more than 195 horsepower, no matter what the engine's displacement. Ants can lift 100 times their body weight; humans can lift much less. Ants are much smaller in size than humans. Humans are so much less "efficient" than ants, so does that make ants "superior" to humans?

Horsepower per liter means nothing, when a car with lower specific output but more total horsepower is beating you! A stock VTEC Integra has specific power well above a stock Mustang Cobra, but in an acceleration contest, the less "efficient" Mustang Cobra will win. On the street, small engines only provide the loser with an easy excuse. What will the Honda owner do after losing? Whip out his calculator, punch some keys and tell the V-8 owner, "You won, but your engine has lower specific output than my highly superior Integra!!!"

102 Horsepower per Liter

Many Honda enthusiasts smugly say, "Name me one American car that has 100 hp/liter STOCK--YOU CAN'T!" American automakers have done this before, years before Honda! In 1991-93, the
Dodge Spirit R/T made 224 HP @ 6000 RPM from a 2.2 liter 16V DOHC turbo engine. This works out to 102 HORSEPOWER PER LITER! In 1993 the Dodge Daytona IROC R/Tused the same engine and made the same horsepower. Why didn't we hear more about these cars? The Honda lovers were too busy saying American cars suck!
224 hp 2.2L engine cutaway diagram '93 Dodge Daytona IROC R/T

Many Honda people have written in crying, "No fair--that's a turbo engine! If you put a turbo on a Integra GS-R..." But we're not talking about "if" here. It seems they can't accept the facts. Honda does not make turbo-equipped engines stock from the factory, and what I am talking about here are STOCK horsepower ratings, regardless of induction. I guess it just hurts some Honda enthusiasts to shatter another one of their beloved myths, that only Honda is able to make over 100 HP per liter.

Anoter irony is that one of the most popular modifications for VTEC Hondas is a turbocharger or supercharger. If Chrysler had the foresight in the 80's to install them on the assembly line, then maybe there were a step ahead.

169 Horsepower per Liter-- Stock!

There's a very common engine that produces 169 hp per liter. That's incredible, isn't it? If Integra 1.8L engines were that "efficient" and "powerful", they would make 300 hp! What is this incredibly efficient engine? A .40 R/C model airplane engine (about .0065 liters), which makes about 1.1 horsepower at 11,500 RPM. All those Integra owners better run down to the hobby shop and buy 195 of these engines of "highly efficient design" and put them in an Integra, That way they can have bragging rights to say,"my car makes 169 hp per liter!"

.40 R/C model airplane engine

Honda's Larger displacement Engines

Also note that there are only a few of these "high specific output" engines installed in Honda cars. Honda themselves are using more and more larger displacement engines in their cars besides the Civic, Integra and Prelude, such as the V6 in the Accord and in Acura's larger sedans. Even Honda knows there's no replacement for DISPLACEMENT!

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