Here’s the latest reader Question, along with my reply!
Austin asks: Often on here, you talk about real world driving producing worse gas mileage in vehicles (that aren’t VW diesels) than their EPA rating. Recently, my family and I experienced this on a trip from Nashville to camp Lejeune. We rented a brand new 2018 RAV4, which is EPA rated for 23 city, 30 highway. Driving mostly interstate, the RAV4 only managed around 22-23 MPG. It was running out of gas before our 2015 town and country minivan was! Now I’m sure that our having the back loaded with luggage and three adults and a kid weighed the thing down, but enough to drop its average mileage by like 4 mpg?! This gives me the impression that EPA test conditions are far from real-world driving, which is annoying.
I guess that leads me to three questions: If the RAV4 had a V6, instead of a V4, would it have experienced the same drop in mileage when loaded? What would you say the average drop-off in real-world mileage is for most cars (for a suburbanite)? What vehicles, outside of the VW diesels, actually deliver/ exceed their EPA rated mileage?
My reply: You’ve discovered the truth – which is that your mileage will vary. And in EPA’s defense, driving is a highly individualized activity; the way you accelerate/shift (if manual) and brake will always be different than the way I do – or someone else does.
That said, the car companies “build to the test.” In other words, they set up their drivetrains to achieve the best possible numbers on the EPA’s test loop. But out in the real world…
And, you’re right (again). There is an even more noticeable disparity between the mileage advertised by the latest crop of “efficient” small/turbocharged engines and their actual efficiency out in the real world. The main reason for this being that while it’s true these engines are “efficient” under light load conditions and when not under boost, in real world driving, they are often worked harder than a “less efficient” larger/not-turbocharged engine would be and so their mileage decreases accordingly.
I personally would rather have the less taxed V6 over the working-harder turbo four. The real-world mileage difference is negligible while the potential (and often, actual) maintenance/repair costs for the harder-working/more complex turbocharged engine can be much greater.
The only vehicles I have ever test driven over the course of the past 20-plus years that always exceed the advertised EPA mileage figures are diesel-powered VWs.
But I suspect the “fixed” versions of these vehicles will not do as well.
. . .
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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