By on August 2, 2009

All this talk about cash for clunkers (a.k.a. gas guzzlers) had me thinking: what are the least fuel efficient new cars currently for sale in the US? Over at fueleconomy.gov, the feds name names—only they don’t give us a straight “bottom ten” list. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “worst” ratings list one car for each genre. As it’s Sunday, I’m not going deep data diving. (Feel free.) So here are the most environmentally reprehensible rides, from the least least-efficient to the most least-efficient, by vehicle category:

7. Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi AWD — The “best” of the worst list clocks-in at 15/24 mpg. That’s not bad for a full-sized SUV, but pretty poor for a small wagon. That said, driving the small Saab’s quite a rush; its premium unleaded-fed turbocharged powerplant generates 210hp @ 5500 rpm. With Uncle Sam hoiking corporate average fuel economy standards and Death’s hand resting gently on Saab’s shoulder, the 9-3 Aero SportCombi’s failure to achieve better fuel efficiency is not what you’d call helpful.

6. Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG — If you’re sucking fuel at a furious clip—13/18 mpg under the EPA’s notoriously non-tire-smoking test—you might as well run with the Audi R8s. As Car and Driver‘s test indicates, the E63 AMG Wagon could well be the ultimate sleeper. Just don’t forget to get some kind of rewards card for your fuel purchases. And never wear horizontal stripes.

5. Aston Martin DB9 — Auntie Aston’s slinky coupe is the worst “Minicompact Car” [think: interior volume] a shed load of money can buy. The category includes such stalwarts as the Porsche 911, Mitsubishi Eclipse Spider, Jaguar XK, Ferrari California and . . . that’s it. In fact, the 470hp V8 Aston Martin DB9 isn’t even in the the 2010 listings. Maybe they improved its mileage? At 11/17, the only way was up.

4. Bentley Continental GTC — TTAC wasn’t totally blown away by this monster, but gas guzzling (10/17) was the least of its “issues.” As it should be. I mean, shouldn’t. The EPA estimates the GTC’s annual fuel costs at $3344—if the owner racks up 15,000 miles per year. AS IF. Besides, that’s, what, a week’s worth of depreciation? Oh, the environment. Sorry. BTW: for the purposes of federal regulation, the GTC is a “subcompact car.”

3. Ferrari 612 Scaglietti — Honestly, this car sucks. Gas, that is. Lots and lots and lots of gas. At 9/16 mpg, Maranello’s magic machine is a selfish, completely unjustifiable purchase. Shame on anyone who even THINKS about buying this planet warmer.

2. Bentley Arnage RLBentley Azure — The Azure’s 9/15 EPA mpg rating isn’t bad—compared to Bob Lutz’s jet. As a contrarian, I think driving a vehicle that gets under ten mpg is a badge of honor; you’re not even trying to appear PC. The Arnage (tied at 9/15) makes me nostalgic for the old Maserati Merak, which eeked out eight mpg. Talk about progress! One better mpg, a thoroughly modern powerplant and REAL air conditioning. OK, two out of three ain’t bad.

1. Lamborghini Murcielago — If sub-10 mpg is a polluting pistonhead’s badge of honor, the Murci wears it proudly. To wit: is there anyone on planet earth that doesn’t think this thing swallows gas like [joke deleted]? With a 26.4 gallon fuel tank, I’d love to know how much it costs (in fuel) to make the run from rest to the car’s 200 mph+ top end. But that’s me. And again: you Lambo owners are bad, bad people.

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29 Comments on “America’s Seven Worst Gas Guzzlers...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” … but the EPA classifies the Azure as a “compact car.” Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

    The EPA classifies car sizes by interior volume, not external size. The Azure’s 93 cubic feet of passenger space only bests the Toyota Corolla’s interior by one cubic foot. Corolla trounces the Azure for golf bag carrying purposes with 12 cubic feet of luggage space compared to the Azure’s miserly 8 cubic feet.

    No Looking Glass required, the Azure is small inside. Perhaps it makes the owner feel bigger and stronger to be packed away in a small, well padded interior.

    Same deal on the DB9′s mini-compact classification.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    There must be something seriously wrong if a four-cylinder can hit this list. So, what’s the deal with the Saab?

  • avatar
    mcs

    I think it’s time to start my own personal C4C program. If anyone is feeling guilty about owning a Murcielago, 612, DB9, or Enzo, I’m willing to take it off your hands for $4500.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    The 9-3 summary is misleading – the 9-3 Aero SportCombi AWD is a 280hp turbocharged V6, not a 4-cyl. Yes, the 4-cyl FWD models do much better (19/29 stick). Not sure why the 9-5 is mentioned – different vehicle, different engine.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Except for maybe the Saab, all these cars are considered extremely desirable. Now if someone would just make a car that could post those numbers (MPG and HP) for under $15,000……

  • avatar
    adonasetb

    This list is really disappointing – not a single Motown product on the list.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    The 9-3 Aero has a turbocharged V6, not the 2.0T. The mileage isn’t terrible for 280hp/262lb-ft. And it’s honestly a hoot to drive. If it weren’t for endemic quality problems and the whole “dead brand walking” thing I’d be driving one now.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    This list is really disappointing – not a single Motown product on the list.

    I agree. You’d think Detroit would lead the way in something like this. They can’t even make real gas guzzlers anymore.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Hm, the revised mileage of my 2005 STi (classified subcompact). The rating at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/2008car1tablef.jsp?id=20642 is 16 city, 18 combined, 22 highway. No I’m not trading it in for $4500 in C4C.

    Each day I take it to work, in FUEL ALONE (@ $2.79 for premium), it costs me $9.40. My trip is mostly highway and I’ve been seeing 23.8mpg.

    My bike @ 43.8mpg or so using regular @ $2.56 costs me $4.68 in fuel.

    Since tires/brakes are about the same price/ea., the car also costs me double in maintenance. and triple in insurance with a clean driving record.

    The bike smokes the car even more in city traffic where I get about 16 in the sti & 35′ish on the bike.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This just in: rapper Eminem, struggling with the financial burden of 127 paternity suits and an entourage of 900, has traded in his Lamborghini Murcielago for a Toyota Prius.

    “Hey, man,” said the rapper, “it ain’t all gravy. There’s a recession on, and that’s dope.”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    For whatever reason the EPA tests always seem to overstate Saabs (and probably other turbocharged cars) fuel consumption. Lowest I have ever gotten on a tank on my ’08 9-3 SportCombi (2.0T 4cy 6spd stick) is 25mpg, despite a 19 mpg “city” rating. Long distance highway trips at 75-80mpg get me 33-34mpg. Those numbers are actually pretty consistent with the “old” EPA numbers before teh big adjustment a couple years ago. If I kept my foot out of it I am sure I could up that to 35-36mpg. And what would those “endemic” quality problems be, exactly? Nice part about keeping a car in production a long time – they work the bugs out.

  • avatar
    dodobreeder

    How many people in America actually own one of these jewels? What percentage of the total American roadworthy vehicles do these guzzlers make up? And what is their total cumulative contribution to global warming? Nil?

    People who buy such vehicles do not worry about the price of gas or their carbon foot print. If I could afford them I would buy any one of them, especially one of the exotics.

    And why would anybody in their right mind want to trade these gems for a Prius, Insight, Civic, Corolla or any of the other econoboxes. Good work bringing this to light Robert!

  • avatar
    stevenm

    They seem to have forgotten the 13/22 of the Viper.

    What’s patently astounding to me is the Saab. My 2L turbo four banger rally car gets better mileage than that, and it’s making over 400 hp.

    Maybe that’s why it bumped the Viper off the list. It’s got a larger engine than anything listed, yet is one of the most frugal. Go figure.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    I drove an E63 wagon for 3 days last fall. What a blast. It was a bit slow off the line at times but the mid-range was more than enough to dust 911′s, base Corvettes. It was tough to get them to run though…would not take you seriously…had to blast past them slow down, goad them into teaching you a lesson, then wave good-bye. I got no where near 13 mpg. I suspect now the E63 wagons are not as much fun…..too well known.

  • avatar
    commando1

    For the owners of numbers 1 – 6. they could give a horse’s patooty.

    For number 7: I don’t think the three of them will have much of a total impact…

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    That video was majorly boring.

    But the last scene in it was very funny, and made it all worthwhile!

  • avatar
    Rspaight

    You won’t find most of the (literal) heavy hitter SUVs on the EPA web site, since EPA mileage testing isn’t required for vehicles over 8500 lb gross vehicle weight. So there are no numbers available for Avalanche 4WD, Hummer H2, Expedition EL, Suburban, and so forth.

    I’ll bet all those are much more common on the road than anything on the above list.

  • avatar
    stuki

    @krhodes1,
    It’s not the turbos. It’s just that Saab drivers drive like sissies :)

    The 335 certainly does not get better than advertised mileage.
    Besides, the whole EPA test is bs. In addition to whatever they are currently doing, they should also drive cars to their potential, as no one (at least I hope so) who buys a Murcielago would drive it the same way someone drives his Prius. What a waste.

    @Rspaight
    One of the side effects of being a clueless politician or bureaucrat, is the inability to recognize that one person commuting to work in an 8500lb Suburban is no different environmentally than the same person doing so in a Murcielago. Neither is, for that matter, driving your six kids to school in the Suburban, versus making them bike or walk since they don’t fit in the Lambo.

  • avatar
    Tecant

    What would be the MPG for a city bus carrying just one passenger?

    Except for during during the 6-9am and 3-6pm times when people are riding the bus to and from work, I see a lot of empty or nearly empty buses burning gallons of diesel. I suspect that a Lambo Murcielago with one passenger does far better than the city bus.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Tecant,
    Just think about how many more passengers would want to ride the bus if the bus was in fact a Lambo!

  • avatar
    dastanley

    This list is really disappointing – not a single Motown product on the list.

    Isn’t it funny that the cars on this list are European/British? Not a single ‘murican car. So much for stereotypes of the American gas guzzler.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    What would be the MPG for a city bus carrying just one passenger?

    Except for during during the 6-9am and 3-6pm times when people are riding the bus to and from work, I see a lot of empty or nearly empty buses burning gallons of diesel. I suspect that a Lambo Murcielago with one passenger does far better than the city bus.

    city bus maybe 4-5 mpg. Too bad they had to be driven empty to n from depot. During the day, the drivers exchanged on route.

  • avatar

    butbutbut…..
    What about VW’s faux Bugatti (which is nothing like what Ettore would have fielded…H.O. Bentley would have been right at home with it)? And shouldn’t there be a 3rd or 4th MPG rating for MPG at speeds over 100MPH and over 150?
    I can see it now, the Veyron Bugatti:
    4/8/.25/.05
    OTOH, it’ll never take the pig prizes away from cigarette boats. I live about 250′ from the Hudson River and used to hear those guys roaring past. Haven’t heard them much the last few years. Can’t imagine why not…..

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “No Looking Glass required, the Azure is small inside. Perhaps it makes the owner feel bigger and stronger to be packed away in a small, well padded interior.”

    That is reminiscent of certain Duesenberg, Packard, and Chrysler Imperial coupes and roadsters I’ve seen, with hoods longer than a Civic, overall length about the size of the average four-door long-box pickup, and the relatively narrow two-passenger compartment is similar in size to that of a Miata. They knew how to do ostentation back in the day.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Dastanley wrote: “Isn’t it funny that the cars on this list are European/British? Not a single ‘murican car. So much for stereotypes of the American gas guzzler.”

    The worst of the ‘murican vehicles get medium-duty truck status and so aren’t even measured. The Chevrolet 1500 4WD with 4.8L is rated at 14/18. What do you think the Chevrolet 2500 with 6.0L gets? You might think that the 2500 “isn’t in the same class” as the guzzlers on the list, but I’ll counter by asserting that the 2500 logs way more commute miles and trips to the grocerie store than all the vehicles on the guzzler list combined.

    The Cadillac light-duty truck family (Escalade) is rated at 12/19, so that puts it mid-pack in the list; that’s definitely not a “work truck.” I’m not sure it it much more of a “utility” vehicle than the Mercedes station wagon.

    The Japanese have plenty of entries as well: Lexus GX gets 14/18 (they seem to have dropped the big engine, too, so 2008 model would probably bench much worse). The Toyota Tundra benches 13/17 while having an engine considerably less powerful than anything on the guzzler list.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Politicians and tree-huggers beware: The only thing standing between most Americans and these cars is money, not the environment.

    Phooey on CAFE.

  • avatar

    Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi AWD gets the same mileage as my G8 GT. That’s hilarious. Way to go, Sweden! Curiously, fueleconomy.gov doesn’t list the G8 GXP. That’s definitely worse and one of the reasons I didn’t get the GXP.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The Azure’s 93 cubic feet of passenger space only bests the Toyota Corolla’s interior by one cubic foot.

    I used to the think the previous gen Camaro had the worst interior volume relative to its exterior dimensions. Looks the Azure is worse. That’s quite an accomplishment.

    This might sound ridiculous, but I am surprised those cars aren’t fast through the quarter. 12.5 from over 500bhp net?

  • avatar

    How about this car for top ten burners?
    http://style-fyle.com/628/bentley-continental-supersports/
    Yeah, the published numbers are one thing, but when a vehicle like this is driven as it should be, then what’s your burn rate? Should we be using gallons-per-hour like with boats?


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