The ultimate vehicle specification guide - the cars in details, Part I

Vehicle specifications are of an immense importance when going on hunt for a new car. They represent the strongest and weakest characteristic of every car, based on which people make purchases.

With more than 33 500 different specification in Car Database Api's resource hub, we've decided to finally lift the veil off some the most common specs terms and explain them in details. So let's dive in.


An automobile (or as we call it for short "a car")is a motor vehicle on wheels (3, 4, 6 and even 8) used for transportation. Cars are often being classified into different types based on different characteristics.We have:

  • according to their usage in every day life: commercial and noncommercial vehicles, small and large family cars and city cars;
  • according to their size: micro cars, mini cars, super mini cars, compact cars, minivans, full size cars;
  • sports cars are divided into: super cars, muscle cars, pony cars, supercars;
  • according to their coupé: suv, mpv, van, minivan, hatchback, crossover, touring, sedan, convertibles;

Car brand

Brands in the automotive niche represent the name under wich the manufacturer assembles the vehicles. Ferrari, Aston Martin, Peugeot, Porsche, Opel, for example, are car brands.

Car model

Vehicle models (model of automobile) are the names car companies use to promote and sell their range of alike cars. For example, Fiat's 124 model has 124 coupé and 124 Familiare as part of it.

In some cases, one model can bear different names, depending on the market it is being sold. 


In the automotive world, the term generation defines the period a design was used for a particular make and model. Take for instance BMW's 3 Series - the first generation E21 was from 1975 until 1983). All the cars from that generation share the same design features.

Modification (Engine)

The Modification (Engine) column describes the technical parameters of the vehicle's engine - including the name (letter abbreviation or a sequence of numbers) given by the manufacturer, the number of valves and type of fuel system.

Year of putting into production and year of stopping

It defines the time period during which a certain model was in production. (For example : Fiat Ulysse I (22/20) 1.8 99 hp was in production from 1997 untill 2002.)

Engine power

The engine power (often referred to also as horse power or hp for short) is the highest power engines are capable to put out. In Car Database Api the metric used for engine power is the maximum output of the combined engine units in the specified engine modification. There are different combination variations, based on the drive units and the fuel used.

Vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE, for short) are cited with their maximum ICE engine power. If the vehicle uses more than one type of fuel - respectively, we have marked the power produced via the fuel type.

As for the electric a hybrid motor vehicles - in Car Database api we have pointed out the combined maximum power of all power units ( NB! this has nothing to do with the summation of the maximum power of all units).

Some hybrid vehicles have electric drivetrain, which means that the ICE's (internal combustion engine) main function is to power the generator and produce electricity. If that is the case, the maximum output power is the one produced by the electric motor/s - meaning that the engine power in the field is that of the ICE, but without a direct reflection of the transmission.

In the table's field "ICE power" it marked the real ICE power only when the vehicle has an alternative drive - hybrid, for example.

When talking about the electric engine power, in the field marked "Electric power" we have the power of each one of the electric vehicle's motors (separately, not combined).


Horsepower is the metric used to measure an engine's power. Historically, the term horsepower comes from the fact that in the 18th century, Scottish engineer James Watt tried to measure the power of his steam engines. In his attempt to do so, the compared the work done by one of his steam engines to the work done by a draft horse. As time went by, the meaning of Watts horsepower widened by adopting and adding to its meaning the output power of the piston engines, turbines, electric motors and etc.

There are more than one standard and type of the horsepower, but two stand out as widely used: mechanical (also known as imperial) and metric. The mechanical is about 745.7 watts, while the metric is around 735.5 watts. There are also electric horsepower, boiler horsepower, hydraulic horsepower and air horsepower.

Here, it is important to mention that it is impossible to compare different car engines based on their horsepower. Why? Because different countries have different regulations and measurements of engine power. For example, in Germany, engine power is in DIN-PS - which includes the already assembled engine unit with all of its elements. In USA, the engine power is in accordance to SAE (SAE-HP). Italians use Cuna-PS.

Model engine

The model of the engine represents either the letter or the numeric sequence manufacturers use to distinguish each of their engines produced.

Engine displacement

Measured in cubic centimeters, liters or cubic inches, engine displacement is the swept volume of the pistons inside the cylinders of a reciprocating engine in a single movement from top dead center to bottom dead center.

Engine speed

The engine speed represents the number of times a vehicle crankshaft rotates 360 degrees in a matter of a minute. RPM or revolutions per minute is the metric it is measured in.


Torque represents the rotating force of a vehicle engine. Usually, it is measured in Newton meters (Nm). But sometimes it could be found written in pound-feet (lb-ft.).

Fuel system

A vehicle's fuel system is the aggregation of the different parts needed to carry fuel in and out of the engine.


It's job is to transform the energy created by the rotation of the fluid in the rotor system into energy that can be utilized.

Valve train

Written also as valvetrain, it is the system that hold control over the operations of the valves that are in every internal combustion engine.

Position of cylinders

It describes where the cylinders in the vehicle engine are placed. There could be some variations - such as inline, boxer, rotary , v- or w-engine (where cylinders are placed in v or w-shape).

Number of cylinders

The joint volume of the engine's cylinders in a vehicle from the engine's measurement unit - its displacement.


That's the diameter of each one of the cylinders.


Represents the length of piston's movement from bottom to top position. 

Compression ratio

Describes the ratio of the volume from max to min in the internal combustion engine's cylinder.

Number of valves per cylinder

Valves help engines improve their performance. Depending on the type of the engine, the number of valves per cylinder car vary - they could be two, three, four or even five.


Author: Diyana Ilieva

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