Only an Expert Knows What All of These Car Acronyms Stand For. Do You?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Like all high-tech industries, the automotive world is crammed with acronyms from ARC to ZEV and everything in between. Some of those acronyms are common among mechanic and drivers, while others are specific to certain manufacturers. Do you think you’re car-savvy enough to spin through our automotive acronym quiz?

Most car acronyms are shorthand that quickly convey information about a car system or model. Others are meant primarily as a fancy badge or system intended for marketing purposes – because every advertising executive knows that John Doe can’t pass up a red car with “XXR3” emblazoned on the rear hatch. Do you know which acronyms are for engineering purposes, and those that are just frills?

There are thousands of acronyms in the car world. From A/T to LFP to MAF, as well as BHP and MSM and CLS, there are simply too many for most people to remember. Sure, you know what the VIN is, but how about MSVA? (It’s magnetic steering variable assist, by the way).

Whether you’re a racecar junkie or just a daily commuter, these acronyms could come in hand someday. Check your OBD (onboard diagnostics) and let’s go for a ride – our car acronym quiz just hit the green light!


Anti-lock brakes may save your life in a panicked driving situation. Most cars have an ABS indicator light that tells you the system is working properly. And if it isn't functioning? Your drive to work might get a whole lot more exciting!



All-wheel drive drive engages each wheel for maximum traction. Some vehicles use AWD only intermittently, while others have continuous AWD.



Remember when SUVs were a newfangled fad? Now, sport utility vehicles are as common as sedans.



Almost all new cars have built-in GPS (global positining systems). Not only does GPS help with navigation, but it helps track stolen vehicles, too.



GMC is the General Motor Company, which makes popular trucks and SUVs like the Acadia and Terrain.



Ford created the RS badge for the purposes of rally racing. The "RS" stands for rally sport, and other car makers use the term, too.



Founded in 1916, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works, in English) is one of the world's most famous car makers. BMW also makes Rolls-Royce and Mini cars.



Volkswagen uses TDI (turbocharged direct injection) in most of its vehicles. It means that these models have a system that vastly improves engine efficiency.



In ESC (electronic stability control) the car's computer takes data from various systems to determine if the vehicle is under- or oversteering. Then, the ESC system may automatically alter braking or engine power in order to bring the car back under control.



Jaguar loves to show off its SVR (Special Vehicle Racing) acronym, first unveiled as part of the F-type sports car. SVR models feature the company's most powerful engines.



The Grand Tourer Injection (GTI) refers to a car model equipped with a fuel-injection system. Most GTI versions are also rather luxurious compared to other cars.



In lieu of traditional transmissions, some cars use a CVT (continuously variable transmission). These transmissions don't have the typical noticeable shifting motion of legacy transmission technologies.



In 1996, Ford added a SHO (Super High Output) engine to a high-performance variant of the Taurus. It was a 3.4L V8 engine. Because you know, if any car really needed a crazy engine, it was grandma's Taurus.



Some cars use double-overhead camshaft, or DOHC technology. In this style of engine, one camshaft opens the exhaust valves and the other opens the intake valves.



The VIN (vehicle identification number) is the unique alphanumeric number stamped in various place on the car. It helps to identify your Corolla from the 5 billion other Corollas on the planet.



Some Infiniti cars sport an extra "X" badge. When you see it, you know that you're looking at an all-wheel drive model. And because it's an Infiniti, the wheels are probably made of gold.



Electric cars are ZEVs (zero-emissions vehicles), as they don't output exhaust gases. In the long run, ZEVs may help humans reduce emissions and combat problems like global warming.



Fiat is, of course, one of the world's famous car makers, based in Italy. It stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which means, "You overcooked the tortellini again, you caveman."



Some of Honda's cars sport a VTEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control) badge. The system ultimately helps improve engine efficiency.



A lot of newer cars feature a tire pressure monitoring system, which keeps tabs on your tire pressure. If pressure drops below a safe threshold, you'll see an indicator light on your dash. And then, of course, you should immediately proceed to a mechanic's shop.



Chevrolet is famous in part for its SS (Super Sport) variants. The SS cars are equipped with high-performance components and a nicer overall package.



Subaru sells millions of its WRX (World Rally Cross / World Rally Experimental), which started with the Impreza in the early '90s. The WRX denotes variants with extra speedy engines -- some of them are so fast that they put actual sports cars to shame.



Because BMW couldn't just use SUV like everyone else, the company opted for SAV -- sports activity vehicle.



In a KERS (kinetic energy recovery system), a car can harvest braking energy for future acceleration. Mazda and Peugeot are two car makers actively exploring KERS technologies.



The active lighting system (ALS) is a newer feature on some vehicles. In short, as you round a curve, this system turns your headlights just a bit so that you can see farther down the road. You're probably still going to run over that deer, though, if you were Googling the meaning of ALS while driving.



Cadillac proudly markets its DTS -- the DeVille Touring Sedan. Like all Cadillacs, the DTS is luxurious … and pricey.



These days, cars are operated by computer. The CCM (central control module) is the brain of the car, coordinating various systems, from braking to shifting.



The EBD (electronic brake force distribution) is part of the ABS system on some cars. It essentially applies greater braking power to the wheels that have the best traction.



Rear-wheel drive vehicles apply power to the back wheels. If you live in North Dakota in the wintertime, you do not want to be caught in a blizzard in an RWD car.



Dodge introduced its R/T badge as a way to indicate sporty cars with high performance. R/T (Road/Track) models are suited for road driving and spirited track fun.


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