• Aug 26, 2008
Conspiracy theorists have long insisted that automakers could push their vehicles to achieve better fuel economy, and as it turns out, they were right. Of course, it isn't as easy as flipping a magic MPG switch, but automakers are making incremental gains on vehicles even between redesigns. Techniques like changing gear ratios, lowering revs at highway speed and using lower rolling resistance tires are helping drive up efficiency a few percentage points at a time.

For example, the 2009 Cobalt XFE (above) achieves 37 mpg on the highway compared to 36 mpg for the 2008 model with minimal aero and mechanical changes. Ford made similar changes to the 2009 Escape, enabling the Blue Oval's smallest crossover to hit 28 mpg in 2WD four-banger guise. Honda achieved similar incremental improvements when it introduced cylinder deactivation on the 2008 Odyssey. Chrysler will show 1 mpg improvement on the 2009 Avenger and Sebring four-cylinder model, which will bring the Pentastar's midsize sedans to 31 mpg.

While everyone seems to be sitting on the car buying sidelines until some unbelievably fuel efficient vehicle comes along with great looks and a low price tag, the reality is that these baby steps are what we should expect. There are some some bigger jumps on the horizon, like the Chevy Cruze that promises 45 mpg on the highway and diesel offerings like the Jetta TDI and oil-burning Accord. For the next few years, however, expect automakers to pick the low hanging fruit of high gas mileage first.

[Source: Detroit News]


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  • 30 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      GM should be sued over what they have done with the cobalt. Very little was changed.

      FORMER OWNERS UNITE AND SUE THE SH#T OUT OF THESE BASTARDS!

      If you noticed they got a little upset and said they couldn't meet the new CAFE, but NEVER really protested. Why? They can meet CAFE no problem. And...

      This is a win-win for automakers. You IDIOTS are paying more for less car all in the name of going green!

      Welcome to what going green is really all about. MONEY. You have been screwed again. Go liberals!!!
      • 6 Years Ago
      And to think, 20 odd years ago the civics and corollas etc got 40-50 mpg. It's B.S. this one mile at a time thing. Hell just adding aftermarket computers on some cars gets you better MPG AND Power....and you say car manufacturers can't change the same tuning...
        • 6 Years Ago
        • 6 Years Ago
        "20 odd years ago the civics and corollas etc got 40-50 mpg"

        There were a handful of extremely fuel efficient Japanese models available back in the 80s, but they weren't the mainstream models and they're not comparable to today's cars. They were almost like the hybrids of their day --- built for one purpose only.

        Sure, the revised EPA estimates for a 1989 Civic CRX HF are 41/50, but that's a very small 2-seater. Comparing "apples to apples" tells the whole story.

        A 1989 Civic sedan with the 1.5L engine and a 5 speed manual transmission has a revised rating of 29/35. An automatic 2008 Civic Sedan gets 25/36.

        Also, compare a 1989 Civic Wagon (26/32) with a 2008 Honda Fit (28/34). The Fit is faster, much safer, better appointed and gets better mileage.

        Technology has enabled us to buy cars that are faster, safer and get better mileage than older cars of the same class, but too many people end up buying bigger/heavier cars with gobs of power that thye can't use, then blame the manufacturers. 4,500 lb. crossovers (the new family car, it seems) that do 0-60 in under 7 seconds can't also get 30MPG. We need to trade power and size for fuel economy until technology brings us the next major shift in fuel efficient propulsion.

        -SimianSpeedster
        • 6 Years Ago
        The issue is weight. More safety regulations mean higher weight. Larger cars mean more weight and as long as 4 ton behemoths roam the street compact will have to be built that can handle a collision with them. So more weight will continue to exist.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Actually it is as easy as flipping a magic MPG switch, if people were willing to accept a switch that doubled their 0-60 time and made their top speed 55 mph.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Over my dead body. I'll drive my car how I like and get the MPG I deserve for it. That's why I buy smaller engined small cars to drive hard, smaller penalty for it. If I flog the crap out of my little hatch, it will get 26 mpg, if I drive it civilly I get 32 mpg. Still better than feathering it with something bigger...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Can I personally flip this said switch?

        That would be great.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "using lower rolling resistant tires "

      You want "resistance" there.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Friction is good for stopping and cornering. You don't need resistance.

        Allegedly new low rolling resistance tires make up for their high-pressures by using different compounds, so you end up with the same grip.

        I haven't seen it tested, but this is the idea.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah, resistance is good for stopping and cornering.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Cobalt rose from 30mpg to 37mpg in 14 months. If you ask me, that's pretty amazing. They are helped a little bit by the fact that 30mpg was a little bit shameful for the car.

      Still, Chevy has risen to the top of the mpg ratings in several model ranges, including perhaps the most competitive category, the family sedan (Accord/Camry/Malibu/Altima/etc.), which is a pretty savvy move for the times. And they started on this a ways back, GM was the fastest mover on this. Maybe this bodes well for GM's future efforts.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I find it amazing that you can get 34mpg in a 3000lb compact car today. Imagine if the same engine was pushing around a Civic EX from 1988.

      If you really want a few extra MPGs really check your tires. Even put in a little more than what the sticker on your car says.

      My Lancer asks for 32psi but I ride with 34 on 18" 45 series tires and get a verified 34mpg on the highway in my 3200lb car. I only imagine what I would get if I wasn't running 3200rpm at 70mph.
      • 6 Years Ago
      In some cases it's polishing a turd, but on the other hand at least the manufacturer is helping to absorb the cost. For an end customer to make these changes it would not be very cost effective.
      • 6 Years Ago
      These improvements to existing models are nice, but they should be applied to ALL models. I believe the XFE versions of the Cobalt, G5, Silverado, Sierra, Tahoe, and Yukon are considered separate models. Much of these adjustments aren't dramatic enough to justify themselves as optional, are they?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Cobalt XFE package is standard. You don't pay extra for it. Basically, if you don't put any of the sport packages on the car, you end up with an XFE.

        On the Malibu, it's sort of standard. If you buy the 4-banger with the 6-speed tranny (which is NOT the base model), you end up with the higher mpg model, but there's no additional fee above buying that config.

        On the Tahoe, you flat out pay extra. You config everything, and then check another box to get the weight savings parts that give the extra 1 mpg.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It doesn't take a big bad liberal conspiracy to show that even little tweaks will make a difference in fuel economy for existing models. If automakers made these changes standard on most of their models, it would make more of a difference environmentally and economically than selling most cars at their current setup alongside a hard-to-find hybrid. Chrysler could especially benefit from this, since their lone hybrid will deliver disappointing fuel economy and the rest of their fleet's mileage lags behind the rest of the industry. It's really not that difficult to squeeze out another 2 mpg without a huge redesign, and better mileage doesn't mean worse performance. So rednecks who don't care about mileage won't even notice/whine. It's win-win.
      • 6 Years Ago
      We're calling the Escape a crossover now?!!

        • 6 Years Ago
        It is based off of a car platform, isn't it?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't care what platform it's on. It was sold as an SUV before, complete with jacked-up suspension and huge wheel arches.

        It's still an SUV, not a crossover. Call it a cute ute if you want.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just checked the Ford website, and the 2008 Escape 2wd with the 2.3L I4 is rated 22/28. I wasn't sure if they released the 2009 ratings yet.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Am I the only one who didn't know you could get an escape with a manual?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Ahh, thanks for clarifying.
        • 6 Years Ago
        22/28 is for the 5-speed manual (2008 and 2009).

        20/26 mpg for last years 4-speed auto, 20/28 for 2009's 6-speed auto. Which makes a Combined millage improvement of 1mpg. :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have a sneaking suspicion that they're only bringing it up a little bit at a time to look better and keep us smiling a them.
      I'm willing to bet they could add at least 10mpg to most smaller engine/lighter cars, but know their customers would throw a huge fit they did.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I'm willing to bet they could add at least 10mpg to most smaller engine/lighter cars, but know their customers would throw a huge fit they did."

        Sean -- Please tell us how you think this is possible. What are the manufacturers keeping from us that will instantly add 10MPG?

        Short of replacing 140-160HP 2.0 liter engines with 80-100HP 1.4 liter engines (especially diesels), 10MPG gains aren't possible, even in an economy car. Turning a 30MPG car into a 40MPG requires drastic changes in technology and/or performance.

        -SimianSpeedster
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