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Old 04-09-2014, 02:18 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Wrong choice for efficiency

I had the best of intentions. After a decade with an aging Toyota that was getting 24 MPG in town and slightly north of 30 on trips, I was planning to downsize. Higher efficiency! Better mileage!

I started looking at mid-2000's Volvo V50's. I did research; I went to Fuelly, and found very nice average mileage numbers starting in 2006.

I found a 2006 V50 that was everything I could want, plus a few decorations I had lusted after for years: white color, travel computer, sun roof, heavy duty roof rails, alloy wheels. I pulled the trigger and bought it. I planned aero tweaks to make it even better: an air dam and rear wheel skirts.

I love the car. It is solid, snug, safe, and adequate in cargo capacity; however, it is NOT a fuel miser. In fact, it is a little worse that my ex-1994 Camry. We have had it through a cold Maryland winter, and in weeks of city driving, didn't break 20 MPG. Only when I "let it out" on long trips do things improve to slightly better than 30 MPG. On long trips, my aero dreams might help. I was fooled by my research; that nice average MPG included a non-US diesel version, where fuel use was reliably above 40 MPG! Oops.

The fact is, though, that aero won't help me when my average speed for a tank of gas is 18 MPH. The V50 is smaller than my old Camry, but it's no lightweight; in fact, the engine is a five cylinder 2.4 liter. It gives zippy acceleration, but that directly means zippy fuel consumption.

Still, it's a keeper. Part of the miserable fuel usage this winter is because of the snug heated seats; they made a choice between riding in snug splendor versus riding a scooter over icy streets even more stark. For the future, my principal mileage strategy will be to leave it parked as much as possible, and use bikes and scooters unless we actually NEED to carry eight-foot loads.

I may still do the aero mods, but the big efficiency gain will be by keeping the average speed per tank-full above 40 MPH.

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