What is BHP, PS, KW and torque?

Wednesday 8 May, 2013

Carmakers sometimes quote the power outputs of their engines using different units, which can be confusing when you’re trying to compare new cars.

Let us explain the difference between the different terms used by car manufactures to measure the power of an engine.

What is BHP?

Brake horsepower – or BHP – is the most widely used measure of engine power alongside PS (see below), although it’s often not clear which unit manufacturers are using in their brochures.

Unlike ‘horsepower’, which refers to an engine’s total output, brake horsepower only looks at the amount of energy left once other parts like the gearbox, alternator and water pump have all been powered. It’s measured at the road wheels, not at the flywheel. Powerful engines have a higher BHP figure. For example, an entry-level Toyota iQ has a 68bhp engine, while a Bentley Continental Supersports 6.0 has 621 BHP.

PS explained

Though it’s still commonly used by carmakers, PS or Pferdestärke (horse-strength in German) was actually replaced by kW as the EU’s ‘legal’ measurement of engine power in 1992.

One PS is about 98.6% of a single brake horsepower – the two are virtually interchangeable, and PS is sometimes referred to as ‘metric horsepower’.

Measuring power in kilowatts

You may see some carmakers quoting the power of their engines in kilowatts – especially on the Continent – but this measurement is used far less frequently than PS or BHP. A kilowatt (kW) of power equates to around 1.34BHP.

So what is torque?

Torque refers to the amount of pulling power an engine delivers when working at different speeds. The more torque an engine has, the more pull (or acceleration) it offers at lower revs.

Torque is nearly always discussed alongside brake horsepower, as it gives clues to how quickly the engine will be able to shift the car’s weight when overtaking or pulling away from traffic lights.

If you feel your car does not have enough BHP, PS, KW or torque, ask us about a Revo upgrade where we can unleash the true potential of your car.


Book in your Audi, VW, Bentley, SEAT or Skoda using our form or call our team on 0208 2000 995.

Fleet Manager, Fleet Van Servicing Centre North London.

Whilst travelling to you you ordered the part, and an hour after my initial call my van was on the lift and a new starter-motor was being fitted. An hour later I was on my way back to work. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Not only did you go out of your way to keep us working, you did it at a very sensible price.


Your local Audi, VW, Seat, Skoda & Bentley garage in North London