Hyper-Miling Is Not My Thing

Garage Love: Hyper-Miling is Not My Thing

by Per Schroeder

It takes a lot for me to admit that I’m not good at something. My inner-German just wants to attack, conquer and win at everything—work or play. I surreptitiously let my 5-year old win at Bey Blade and think to myself that I’m beating all of those other dads that are too competitive to let their sons gain confidence in life. I should probably talk to someone about this.

So it takes some effort to admit that I am bad at Hyper-Miling. I simply can’t get anywhere near the fuel economy figures that are typically seen for a given car model, especially ones that are fun to drive. The best I can seem to do is about 90 percent of the EPA highway rating—and that’s even with the more conservative modern ratings.

 

A 2014 Mazda3i Touring now resides in my driveway. It's an economy car, dammit! 

My commute involves about 100 miles of highway driving each day and I justified the purchase of a new Mazda3 to myself (and my wife) with the fact that it was rated at 40mpg. Over the course of a month that would save us about $90 bucks over the Subaru wagon that was rapidly degrading as the miles racked up. Of course, the fact that it’s a feisty little terrier that appears to enjoy being picked up and shaken by the scruff of the neck didn’t hurt the decision either.

The first few tanks were quite respectable as I let the Skyactiv 2.0 break in gently. I saw around 37mpg on a few days, but most trips were in the 36.5 range with some traffic on the highway. As the mileage broke 1000, however, I started really straying from the righteous path of MPG salvation. My commutes now see more throttle inputs, more trips to the upper reaches of the tachometer and a whole lot less soft-pedaling.

 

That fuel mileage gauge is the bane of my existence.  

I’m at about 1700 miles and my per-tank average is now dipping well into the 34mpg range on the same commuting schedule. While that’s still considerably better than the Subaru, it’s well off what I’d like to be seeing on the daily grind.

The SkyActiv’s 13:1 compression ratio and direct injection fuel delivery yields great mileage as it extracts every bit of energy from the gas it sips. A byproduct of this miserly technology is a healthy torque curve that is very reminiscent of Volkswagen’s 1.8T mills. It responds well to a heavy foot and a downshift to boot it out of corners. I even checked under the hood to see if “SkyActiv” actually meant “little turbo that was too small to actually mention in public.” Nope, there was just a gorgeous long-tube header packed in there next to the firewall.

I call my driving style “responsible hooliganism.” From a stop, I accelerate as fast as I can up to around—say 10 percent over—the speed limit and then hold it there with a soft upshift. I like to scoot in first and second gears, skip third and drop it into fourth to lope along from there. I get my jollies on the track or autocross course, but it’s still fun to regularly drop the hammer like a meth-fueled carpenter.

It doesn’t help that I like small-bore cars that really need to be thrashed about to extract their full potential. I’ve owned over 70 cars at this point in my life and I can only think of four that displaced more than 2.5 liters. I’m a big guy with little cars and a heavy foot—just like my idols from the early days of European stage rally. Not only am I good at being bad at fuel economy, as a track guy, I am also excellent at burning up tires and brake pads. I am a one-man EPA disaster.

That might be the reason for my gas-burning ways, but there has to be an external reason for my failure. I’m starting to think the blame really lies with those sneaky engineers at Mazda. They appear to have made a fuel-efficient car that’s fun to drive and doesn’t suck the soul out of you. That’s terrible. They should know that cars like this need to be as bland as toast and as much fun as a urinary infection.

 

Slap on some numbers, throw on another set of wheels and tires and voila—an autocrosser! 

I am going to write a letter to Mazda to express my displeasure with the car’s fuel mileage. I don’t think I’m going to get better than 33 on the next tankful. I’m headed to an autocross, so it’ll be loaded down with my race tires and gear. Simply unacceptable. 

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