QOTD: Making Progress at the Pump?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd making progress at the pump

The EPA’s annual fuel economy report showed a continued slow climb in the number of miles an average vehicle can travel on a gallon of gas, with 2018’s fleetwide figure expected to come in at 25.4 mpg. Weighted for sales, the picture might not be as rosy, as moar light trucks and fewer cars conspire to ensure real-world stasis.

But one man’s stable is not a fleet, so let’s judge our actions on an individual basis. How efficient is your current vehicle compared to your first?

Yours truly will go first, so prepare yourselves for some staid economy action. My first vehicle was the oft-mentioned base 2.2-liter Sundance with a gigantic fuel gauge standing in place of a tachometer. That gauge, ahem, wouldn’t have served much use.

The grandfather clock-sized fuel indicator did, however, alert young Steph to the fact that his small green coupe rarely achieved its EPA ambitions, regardless of driving style. For some time, sticky valves and a catalytic convertor that longed to star in The China Syndrome kept average gas mileage in the sub-20 mpg range. Combined EPA rating for a base, stick-shift ’93 model? 26 mpg. After fixing the aforementioned issues and achieving the promised economy, I pawned it off on a coworker and swore off Chrysler Corp for good. The fuel pump died a week later.

Should’ve saved up for a Duster!

Fast-forward 19 years and Cruze, Version 2.0 sits in the driveway. Too bad it’s not a Ram Rebel. Oh well. Anyhoo, a stick-shift 2018 Cruze rates a 32 mpg combined figure, meaning I’ve achieved an on-paper increase of 8 mpg between first car and last. Along the way, this writer’s cheap economy car added 60 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque. Curb weight rose from 2,608 pounds to 2,842 pounds.

That’s my entry-level story — what’s yours?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • Dividebytube Dividebytube on Mar 11, 2019

    First car I drove a lot was a 1984 Nissan truck, king cab with the 2.4L 4-banger. Mileage? I have no idea but it wasn't anything great. High teens in the city, low-20s highway would be my best guess. It was a 3-speed automatic and it was also the 55-stay-alive days. The first car that I owned, at the tender age of 17, was a 1968 Firebird with a 2-speed Powerglide (!) and a 400cid Pontiac engine. IIRC 12mpg was my average; which consumed most of my earnings of $3.50 an hour at 20 hours a week. I really didn't track MPG back then, just filled up as needed. Current car is a 2014 Mustang V6 - I average 15 to 16mpg in the city, can easily knock over 25mpg on the highway.

  • THX1136 THX1136 on Mar 11, 2019

    '72 Charger w/318 - 22 mpg highway. '98 Stratus w/2.4L - 34 mpg highway. Both figures from actual road trips of more than 100 miles. The '84 Shelby Charger I had got right at 35 mpg highway with the 2.2L.

  • Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
  • Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.