Car specs 101: Understanding basic automotive specs and features

Car specs 101: Understanding basic automotive specs and features

Understanding the basic automotive specs can help you decide on what kind or type of car fits your preference. With that, we’ve compiled 8 of the most commonly used spec sheet terminologies that can guide you in choosing your new car.

Engine displacement 

Engine displacement means the combined volume of the cylinders in the engine (measured in cubic centimeters or cc). To put things in perspective, imagine a water container with a volume of 499.5 cc which represents a 1 engine cylinder. Now, add 3 more containers of the same volume. You’ll then have a combined volume of 1,988 cc.

That equates to a 4-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1,998 cc, which in most spec sheets is rounded off as 2.0L. Best examples of this is the Mazda 3 Hatchback SkyActiv R which has a 1,998 cc (or 2.0L) engine.

Horsepower / Torque

Horsepower is the amount of power generated by the engine as it turns air and fuel into energy. Torque, on the other hand, is the amount of force the engine is capable of exerting in order to pull the vehicle forward. Local car manufacturers often use ‘hp’ and ‘Nm’ to represent the vehicle’s horsepower and torque rating.   


The transmission is a component that distributes engine power and torque to the drive wheels so the car can move. Nowadays, there are 3 major types of transmissions; manual, automatic, and the continuous variable transmission or CVT. Manual gives drivers the full control of changing gears, while the automatic provides a more relaxed and convenient driving experience by doing away with the hands-on operation of the clutch and gear shifting. 

The CVT, on the other hand, is just like an automatic but it offers a smoother driving feel as it no longer has to change gears in order to increase or decrease speed. Think of it as having a single gear that can adjust itself to low, medium, or high speeds. The latest Mitsubishi Mirage GLS CVT is a good example of a car that has this kind of transmission.


This refers to the drive wheels or the wheels that are driven by the engine and transmission. The most common powertrains are; front-wheel-drive (FWD), rear-wheel-drive (RWD), and 4-wheel-drive (4WD).

Small cars like the Honda Brio use the FWD powertrain to align with its subcompact dimensions, while high-performance cars or those with bigger bodies like the Jaguar F-Type and the all-new Toyota Innova use RWD for better handling, stability on heavy loads, or both. 4WD vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado 2.8 LTZ 4x4 Tracker Pro pickup do well on uneven or varying road surfaces because power and torque are transmitted to all 4 wheels, improving grip in the process.


An automobile’s dimensions consist of its body’s length, width, and height. It also includes the wheelbase (the length of the lower body between the front and rear wheels), ground clearance (the height or measurement of the gap between the vehicle’s underbody and the road surface), trunk capacity, and maximum cargo (the volume by which the vehicle can carry stuff in the cabin when its rear seats are folded down).


ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System. It’s a device that prevents the wheels from completely locking, thus preventing the tires from skidding. It allows the driver to steer the car more effectively while braking to evade a collision. EBD, on the other hand, means Electronic Brake-force Distribution. It automatically adjusts and evens out the braking power to the front and the back wheels, depending on the situation and load carried by the vehicle (i.e. passengers and luggage). 

Cruise Control

The basic function of the cruise control is to allow the driver to program the vehicle to maintain a certain speed without stepping on the accelerator pedal. Some cars step it up a notch with an Adaptive Cruise Control. This uses a system of radars and/or cameras to monitor the traffic ahead and safety adjust the vehicle’s speed accordingly

Infotainment system 

An infotainment system consists of a touch screen LCD and a significantly-reduced number of physical control buttons. Its function ranges from playing music to movies, displaying vehicle information to a live feed from the rear view camera, and even displaying electronic road maps with GPS navigation.

Some systems even have connectivity features that allow users to go online or make hands-free phone calls.

It pays to know at least the basic terminologies car manufacturers use to describe their products. Not only will you be able to gain additional knowledge, you’ll also save yourself from the burden of getting confused as to which car fits you best or satisfies your liking. We hope that this simple guide will help you.