2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI: Going the Distance
August 30, 2011
The Ron Montoya is the natural enemy of the Mike Magrath. Ron Montoyas are friendly, hard working and generally pleasant. Mike Magraths are jerks. Ron Montoyas can also grow beards. Mike Magraths think that beards are for criminals.
So when Ron Montoya had set his sights on claiming the range record for our 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a Mike Magrath had to beat it...
The plan was simple enough: Drive our Volkswagen Jetta really, really far on one tank of gas. There was a hike in Death Valley the girlfriend and I have wanted to do for a while and Death Valley is pretty far away. So we went there.
We took the same route as the Fuel Sipper Smackdown series, but traded the pre-determined fuel stops for no fuel stops and traded the standardized driving style for one that would increase range and tolerability.
1) No AC
2) Coast as much as possible. If there was nobody on the road, coast (in D) until the car hit a pre-determined low speed and then use neutral to extend the cruise. (Yes, using N uses more fuel than D, but if you don't need to use the throttle to maintain speed as I certainly would have if left in D, then it's a net win. Plus, doing this averaged about 200mpg on the instant read while coasting in D registered ---mpg. )
3) Use AC when coasting. Hey, free power, why not?
4) Drive with the trucks: Whenever possible and necessary, I'd accelerate with the trucks. No faster. No slower. These guys are moving a LOT more mass and are WAY more concerned with fuel economy than I am.
5) No stops.
6) Look ahead. Way ahead. This is a good rule for every day driving, but essential for fuel economy. Can't get trapped behind slow / turning traffic, can't jam on the brakes, can't accelerate out of bad situations.
7) Don't be annoying: I had to be able to live with myself during this drive, I couldn't be a roadblock.
Everything went well until the temperature hit 115. At that point we needed to start cycling the AC on every few minutes to avoid dying. When it hit 120 we needed it even more. By the time the mercury climbed to 127, it was on full blast non-stop.
So the AC was on and it was over 120 degrees for at least two hours of the drive, neither of these factors helped. And then, because it was 120+ degrees, we were drinking more fluid than normal which meant -- gasp -- that we needed to stop. Twice. That didn't help either.
At the end of the drive we'd managed 642 miles on a single tank which then took 14.056 gallons of fuel. Based on my full-tank average of 45.724 (the MPG record here is 46.1 mpg), I could have gone another 20ish miles, but by that point, I'd been driving for hours and didn't want to risk it.
On a cooler day with less air conditioning, I'm convinced that 800 miles is doable. Hopefully I'll get another crack at it before the car goes away.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 10,074 miles