MPG Marathon 2015

Q&A: how do you outperform the official mpg test?

MPG Marathon 2015The Volkswagen emissions scandal has, rightly or wrongly, focused attention on the official fuel economy and CO2 figures released by car manufacturers: many drivers find they’re optimistic at best, blatant lies at worst.

But this week, we proved that you CAN achieve the official combined fuel consumption figure in real world driving: better still, we BEAT it by a few per cent for good measure.

Not only that, THREE drivers returned more than 100mpg, beating their cars’ official claimed fuel consumption by up to 25%!

So let’s look into how we did it and offer some tips on how you can try to do it too…

You beat the official combined mpg figure then, huh?

We did, in an Audi TT TDI.

Hold on, doesn’t that use the scandal-riddled VW Group 2.0-litre TDI engine? You monsters!

Actually, it uses the Euro 6 version of the under-fire motor, so is (officially) almost as clean as can be. Breathe easy, folks.

Fair enough. So what does Audi say you should be getting?

The official combined economy figure is 62.8mpg. Not bad for a cool-looking sports car. In fact, seemingly rather unbelievable for a cool-looking sports car, we grant you.

Did you pack a toolkit to take the wipers off and some tape to seal up all the panel gaps?

Ah, all that’s a myth, the SMMT has said this week. Car manufacturers don’t get up to dirty tricks like that to make their cars look clean.

OK, but how real world is this test you entered?

The MPG Marathon is pretty real-world. It’s run over 370 miles and two days on a random mix of A-roads, B-roads, motorways and city centres. Organisers list waypoints and locations we have to visit: it’s up to entrants to choose the routes they take.

So you just crawl everywhere at 25mph and be done with it?

Speed limits have to be kept up! Average speeds must be 30mph or above: add in the fact we have to drive through city centres and the like, and it’s a more realistic challenge than you may think.

How did you do in the MPG Marathon then?

We drove an Audi TT TDI and averaged nearly 65mpg. The official average is 62.8mpg. So we beat the official average by a good few per cent, despite intentionally driving as normally as we could.

What’s the trick to achieving the official fuel consumption figure?

Looking ahead. If you need to know one thing about eco driving, it’s this. Absorb the road, its challenges, the gaps in the traffic, the potential to lift off and coast rather than using the brakes, the chances to keep rolling through traffic lights as they change green rather than having to stop and start again while they change from red.

Eco driving is all about planning ahead rather than simply driving slowly. Try doing this, and really think about and concentrate on your driving as you do it, and you’ll be amazed at how your fuel economy will improve.

Surely that’s not it?

Of course, you can’t just do that if you want to average the most miles to the gallon. Changing up a gear early will help; today’s cars have so much drive, it’s surprising at how few revs are needed to keep pace with traffic. Letting the stop-start system do its work will save fuel, as will simply taking things ultra-steady when you first start the car up in the morning (when it’s cold, it’s at it’s least fuel-efficient…).

Bloke down the pub says that to save fuel, you must drive up hills no faster than 15mph

Bloke down the pub is wrong. The best way to tackle hills is to use momentum. As you approach it, you may even want to speed up a little, to give yourself a bit more speed – then, be easy on the accelerator as you let this energy take you up, using just enough gas to keep the speed up. Even if you drive up at 15mph, you’re still using fuel, and won’t have the ‘free’ advantage of momentum.

Think how you push a wheelbarrow up a hill – which uses less of your energy; taking a run up or slowly pushing it up?

Weren’t you at your wit’s end after two days of driving like that?

Surprisingly, we were rather chilled by the end of it, and certainly didn’t feel the need to rush out and rev wildly up the road in frustration. We’d made good progress, we’d been smooth and satisfying, we hadn’t ever felt like we were a rolling road block facing a never-ending dreary eternity behind the wheel.

I don’t believe you.

Honest. It’s not so much skill, driving economically, as a mindset. Look ahead, be smooth and steady, think smart, keep everything flowing. It’s a mindset we found rather fulfilling.

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