2014, Sep - Oct

Having fun with miles per gallon 

By Fred Ortlip

Newer cars these days are filled with technology that can distract us while driving, but who knew that newer models came with a built-in video game you play with your right foot, an exercise that actually adds focus to your driving and can save you money.

Our 2012 Golf TDI, with six-speed DSG automatic transmission, is one of those cars because of the travel feedback available by toggling the multi-function display buttons on the steering wheel. Not only do you get an instant fuel mileage readout but also the current-trip average, which is updated every 5 seconds, and total trip information over 100 hours or 10,000 miles depending on the instrument cluster.

Factor in the right foot in this formula and you can actually have some fun on your daily commute to work. Mine is 14 miles each way, 10 on an interstate and the remainder on secondary streets. Warm-weather months are optimal for fuel mileage, so occasionally I?ll hit the 50 mpg mark on the morning jaunt.

The morning commute's numbers are always better than the ride home, presumably because (1) I'm heading east with the prevailing western wind and (2) the elevation change between home and work is 300 feet, according to our friends at Google. So I'm going slightly downhill in the morning with the wind behind me and vice versa in the evening.

Practicing hypermiling techniques makes a difference. As Mr. Hixson advised in drivers ed all those many years ago, pretend you've got an egg between your foot and the gas pedal and try not to break it.

Typically, the morning readout will reach in the high 40s by the end of the drive, but on one day in July, I hit the jackpot - 54.9. Not sure why. I drive essentially the same way every day, generally right around the speed limit or slightly below, light on the throttle where possible. On this day, with mild (for July) temperatures, the AC was off and the passenger side window was cracked (which actually creates drag and can be a drag on fuel mileage). I must have hit fewer red lights.

If you're wondering whether sliding the DSG transmission into neutral while coasting to a stop to prevent downshifting is a good idea, VW recommends against it for my model.

So this turned out to be just another way to have fun driving the Golf TDI. We hit our second anniversary with the car in June, and with the help of the AccuFuel iPhone app storing consumption stats, the numbers can be offloaded to a spreadsheet for analysis.

The first 12 calendar months saw an overall return of 38.7 miles per gallon over 11,900 miles. Mileage tends to improve as the engine breaks in, and it did in Year 2, bumping up to 39.4 over 10,700 miles. I suspect the improvement would have been even better had we not suffered such a brutally cold winter. The mileage numbers reflect that. In the winter months of November through February of 2012-13, the Golf delivered 37.8 mpg. In the same winter stretch in the year just ended, it was 1.2 mpg worse.

Now we're cruising through the early weeks of Year 3, which saw the 'personal-best' 54.9 commute and better-than-ever numbers on our annual July trek to Michigan, about a 1,300-mile round trip (with three adults and a jammed trunk). By mid-August, the AccuFuel app reported 43 mpg over the previous three months and 42 mpg over the previous two.

Summertime means the inevitable orange barrels during construction season, but the frustration of one-lane travel at 55 mph or less is tempered by mpg numbers that tick upward on the display. One 10-mile construction stretch on the Michigan trek saw the trip average rise nearly 2 mpg. Another good way to make the numbers rise is to find a big rig that?s traveling a speed you're comfortable with and tuck in behind at a safe and appropriate distance to assure you have plenty of reaction time.

While the big rig is punching a large hole in the air, the display will blink out 0.1 higher increments over time. And here's where the real-time mpg readout can confirm that the big rig is pulling you along. On a flat surface at a steady speed, watch the real-time number drop when you veer out of the draft and into the fast lane.

You don't need a TDI to play fuel-mileage video. Any VW with multi-function display can help you achieve more smiles per gallon. And maybe even earn some braggin rights. VWCA

Fred Ortlip | vwautoist@mindspring.com


* Use both the gas pedal and the brakes as little as possible, and when you do, use them gently.
* Keep tire pressures filled to the manufacturer's recommendation.
* Consider shutting down your vehicle if stopped for more than seven seconds as that is all the fuel it takes to restart a modern day, fuel-injected engine.
* Conserve momentum: Time your approach, to arrive at the stop sign or light as the last car ahead is departing.
* Keep the throttle position constant: You'll go slower up hills but faster going down.


* BEETLE R LINE: Turbos dominate the Beetle lineup, especially in this R-Line model.
* SONATA'S CHALLENGE: As Passat aspires to Honda's Accord, watch out for Hyundai.
* 8 DIESEL DANDIES: Five of these top-rated oil-burners are from the VW-Audi stable.
* XL1 FOUR-DOOR: VW may be considering expanding its exotic XL1 concept.
* TOKEN COLLECTORS: A classic Monopoly game for classic VW fans.


* Driver's Seat - VW news & views by Cliff Leppke.
* Casual Collector - Steve Mierz.
* Frontdriver - Richard G. Van Treuren.
* Small Talk - VW and Audi news quickly.
* Retro Autoist - From the archives.
* Parting Shot - Photo feature.
* VW Toon-ups - Cartoon feature by Tom Janiszewski.



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