Ask The Best And Brightest: Does Anyone Actually Get 40 MPG On The Highway?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

What’s the most powerful number in automotive marketing? No, not zero, as in “zero down, zero percent interest”… the answer we’re looking for is 40, as in “40 MPG hwy.” With the compact segment heating up, 40 MPG on the highway is very nearly a price of entry… if your base model doesn’t achieve the magic number, you’d better have a special edition that does. But even as “40 MPG” becomes more and more important as an industry benchmark, it inevitably raises a perennial question: do EPA numbers mean anything in the real world? Hyping the highest possible number rather than a “combined” figure is a classic marketing move, but one that risks exposing the EPA highway number as a meaningless metric. And if nobody actually gets the rated efficiency, it’s only a matter of time before the market begins to demand more accurate reporting.

Reporting from the launch of the latest 40 MPG contender, the Mazda3, the DetN’s John McCormick notes

At the Mazda3 launch in Los Angeles, the company conducted informal but revealing real-world mileage observations on its own cars and five leading rivals.

As driven by the media over a mixed bag of city, highway and even mountain driving conditions, the following overall mpg results were obtained: Civic, 34.5; Mazda3, 33.7; Focus, 32.1; Corolla, 30.7; Elantra, 29.9; and Cruze, 29.8. While hardly scientific, these numbers do underscore the fact the 40 mpg figure is an illusion.

Is the only way to get 40 MPG highway in a diesel or hybrid? Or have any of you, TTAC’s Best and Brightest, recorded 40 MPG in one of the new generation of gas-powered compacts or subcompacts? How gingerly do you have to drive to match EPA highway numbers? Are some cars closer than others? Is it time to pressure marketers to switch to a combined MPG number, or will that be just as misrepresentative?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Etho1416 Etho1416 on Oct 25, 2011

    With my 2009 Toyota Corolla base model with a manual transmission and using cruise control I get the following highway numbers driving on the highway. I drive the same 360 mile round trip on 95 between NYC and RI every other week or so, which is a fairly flat route: 48mpg driving 55mph 42mpg driving 65mph 38mpg driving 75mpg

  • Jetstar 88 Jetstar 88 on Oct 26, 2011

    2011 Jetta Sportwagen TDi: 40 mpg average on a trip to the mountains that included a few spirited runs on the Blue Ridge Parkway 2003 Jetta Wolfsburg 5-speed: About 30 MPG 1964 Oldsmobile Jetstar 88: 12 MPG, no matter what. Probably gets the same mileage at 45 MPH as it does at 115.

  • Lichtronamo Watch as the non-us based automakers shift more production to Mexico in the future.
  • 28-Cars-Later " Electrek recently dug around in Tesla’s online parts catalog and found that the windshield costs a whopping $1,900 to replace.To be fair, that’s around what a Mercedes S-Class or Rivian windshield costs, but the Tesla’s glass is unique because of its shape. It’s also worth noting that most insurance plans have glass replacement options that can make the repair a low- or zero-cost issue. "Now I understand why my insurance is so high despite no claims for years and about 7,500 annual miles between three cars.
  • AMcA My theory is that that when the Big 3 gave away the store to the UAW in the last contract, there was a side deal in which the UAW promised to go after the non-organized transplant plants. Even the UAW understands that if the wage differential gets too high it's gonna kill the golden goose.
  • MKizzy Why else does range matter? Because in the EV advocate's dream scenario of a post-ICE future, the average multi-car household will find itself with more EVs in their garages and driveways than places to plug them in or the capacity to charge then all at once without significant electrical upgrades. Unless each vehicle has enough range to allow for multiple days without plugging in, fighting over charging access in multi-EV households will be right up there with finances for causes of domestic strife.
  • 28-Cars-Later WSJ blurb in Think or Swim:Workers at Volkswagen's Tennessee factory voted to join the United Auto Workers, marking a historic win for the 89- year-old union that is seeking to expand where it has struggled before, with foreign-owned factories in the South.The vote is a breakthrough for the UAW, whose membership has shrunk by about three-quarters since the 1970s, to less than 400,000 workers last year.UAW leaders have hitched their growth ambitions to organizing nonunion auto factories, many of which are in southern states where the Detroit-based labor group has failed several times and antiunion sentiment abounds."People are ready for change," said Kelcey Smith, 48, who has worked in the VW plant's paint shop for about a year, after leaving his job at an warehouse in town. "We look forward to making history and bringing change throughout the entire South."   ...Start the clock on a Chattanooga shutdown.