I have a question about driving style that I’d like to pose to you and the B&B. Part of my highway commute is a steady 2 mile grade. With a running start of 75 mph, my 2007 Mazda B2300 slows to about 62 mph by the top of the hill when I keep it in 5th gear, with the engine turning about 2000 rpm. I can maintain 70+ if I drop into 4th and floor it, but I’m a cheapskate at heart. My question is, is it really more efficient to lug up the hill in top gear, or am I just kidding myself and doing irreparable damage to my engine?
As an aside, I recently traveled to Vietnam and I noticed that all the cab and minibus drivers upshifted extremely quickly. Typically they were in 4th gear by about 15-20 mph, and really lugging the engine (I rode mostly in Toyotas). Besides the obvious lack of quick acceleration, any downsides to this kind of driving style? How much gas could be saved?
How funny: I noticed the same problem in India. Be it Maruti, Toyota, Honda or Hindustan Ambassador, you’d hear a horrible “chug” of engine bogging on a regular basis. It keeps stressed out drivers from “unnecessary” down/up shifting in dense urban conditions, if that was the point.
Unless we’re talkin’ about a friction-challenged road starting from a standstill, never intentionally engage in engine bogging! Each engine/transmission/body combo handles loads differently, there’s no magic boggy-RPM number: the unique sound of engine bog is all you need to know. Depending on the severity of the bog’s shake, this increases clutch wear, damages motor mounts and maybe even stresses the weakest link in your reciprocating parts (crank+rods+pistons).
In your case: bogging up a 2 mile grade kills fuel economy. Being that low on the torque curve combined with massive throttle inputs means you’re burning fuel with little return on investment. Clutch wear? Probably not. But accelerating near your torque peak (3750 revs) gets you up the hill with the most efficiency (least throttle input) so you can spend more time “cruising” on flatter terrain at lower rpms, sooner. More to the point, 3rd or 4th gear is your friend,
my friend son!
Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:
Perhaps your (presumably stock) Mazda needs the SCT tune (low-octane) and modest intake/exhaust plumbing modifications of my Ranger. Its your sister-ship, ya know. The volume of low-end torque below 3000rpm increased dramatically to the point that 2nd gear with steep parking garage grades was doable, and almost worth the extra throttle input. Almost.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.