• Oct 20, 2010
Like two ships passing in the night, our long-term 2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street edition briefly met in person last Saturday morning before their driver – myself and Senior Editor Lavrinc – swapped keys, turned around and headed back to our respective ends of the country.

The Great Long-Term Vehicle Swap of 2010 went off without a hitch, and because we know more than a few of you are curious, you'll find a table after the jump that shows fuel consumption results for each vehicle on my own portion of the trip. But first, here are some other interesting factoids.

Miles Traveled: 4,938 total for both vehicles
Days: 4
Hours Driven: 10+ per day, per person
Starting Points: Cleveland, OH (Neff in Legacy), San Francisco, CA (Lavrinc in Jetta)
States Neff Traveled Through: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming
States Lavrinc Traveled Through: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming
Meeting Point: Cheyenne, WY

Continue reading...

These results are only for my time in each vehicle, from Cleveland to Cheyenne with the Legacy 2.5GT and back again with the Jetta TDI, or about 1,276 miles each way according to Google Maps.

Gallons Miles MPG Fuel Cost Cost/Mile
2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT 7.79 205.1 26.33 $24.53 $0.12
13.55 367.1 27.09 $42.00 $0.11
11.89 296.1 24.90 $34.47 $0.12
14.63 392.1 26.80 $40.95 $0.10
TOTAL/AVG 47.87 1260.4 26.28 $141.95 $0.11
2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Street Edition 11.84 423 35.72 $36.10 $0.09
10.82 448.4 41.44 $34.18 $0.08
9.94 421.8 42.43 $30.80 $0.07
TOTAL/AVG 32.60 1293.2 39.87 $101.08 $0.08

Even though the Volkswagen traveled a few extra miles, it handily beat the Subaru in terms of fuel economy. As it should. No one expects a mid-sizer with a powerful turbocharged four-cylinder and all-wheel drive to put up the same numbers as a compact sedan powered by a highly efficient diesel. That said, there are a number of mid-sized sedans available today that can achieve 30+ mpg on the highway. Most have less powerful naturally aspirated four-cylinders, whereas the Legacy 2.5GT uses a turbo to help produce a healthy 265 horsepower. Still, the brand new 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T also uses a turbo four that produces 274 hp and manages an estimated 33 mpg on the highway... but lacks all-wheel drive.



Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the Legacy 2.5GT requires Premium Unleaded, which means the old argument that diesel fuel costs more than gasoline doesn't hold here. I found the price for a gallon of each to be about the same during the trip and spent less overall on fuel for the Jetta TDI.

Even though the little VW was significantly better at the pump, I would actually choose the Legacy to do the drive all over again thanks to its supremely comfortable front seats and forgiving ride. Were the Jetta TDI not the sporty Cup Street Edition with thickly bolstered seats and a stiffer suspension, it may have been just as easy to go the distance in as the Legacy.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would have liked to see the return trip numbers too. Looks like the CA to WY route might have required a lot more mountain driving, while the midwest route almost certainly would have been flat until the end. Great info however, though the results are not very surprising. Thanks guys.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually, the Midwest leg is flat the whole way. Southeast Wyoming is just as flat as Nebraska.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just have to say... this article was _almost_ pointless. "Breaking news--a FWD diesel got better fuel economy than a 265hp turbo mid-size sedan with AWD!"

      What you should have done was go beyond that... tell us more about why you might (or might not) still prefer the GT over the TDI (space, speed, traction, seats, whatever). Or tell us why despite being out-gunned, the TDI was still your choice beyond just the pump. In other words, tell us anything more than how the VW was the better choice at the pump, because that's obvious and barely worth the post.

      What you started to write in the last paragraph should have been the story, because it's that kind of info that people will want to know when they're looking at investing $30k in a new car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Test it versus a FWD Turbo Car - Mini Cooper S.

      I'd like to see that mileage comparison. My buddy has a Cooper S that's pretty sprightly and almost always gets 30+ mpg (and he beats the b**** off of it). 80+mph all the time on the highway.

      We are mostly flat (Phila Suburbs) but I wonder what the thing would get with a "normal" driver.

      Or even test it against the Insight. The new Jetta and Insight are both on about the same build quality scale. That would be a pretty close matchup. They would both get about 40mpg. Some people may say 47 mpg and some people say 32 mpg.. but the average seems to be in the 40mpg segment.


      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow, that's absolutely horrible mileage from the Subie.

      Long distance at 70+ mph, I regularly got 30+ mpg with my old AWD SVX, and that had an ancient EAT4 4-speed trans mated to the EG33 flat-6.

      Your Legacy is nearly 20 years newer, with 2 fewer pots, more than half a liter less engine displacement, and is blown to boot.

      What happened?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I wouldn't exactly say its horrible for a subie, more like its about average for subie. And you must be pretty lucky to have an SVX that can do 30 mpg + when driving 70+ miles, because the average mpg of an SVX is 18 mpg, 23 on highway. Unless you were hypermiling, if that was the case I'm pretty sure the new legacy can get 30+ as well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nope, none of that nonsense, just regular highway driving, trying to keep the needle standing up.

        Thinking about it, the SVX had a pretty deep OD in top gear and an economy final drive. Plus, I was wearing "plus zero" 55-series rubber. I guess it's possible that my SVX had a deeper OD compared to the the Legacy, which simply doesn't take advantage of the 6th gear for a really tall highway cruising ratio.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Downhill? or tailwind...very very strong tailwind... or maybe just tailgate a truck going 70 mph. All seem very dangerous at 70mph.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A loaded Legacy ain't light; I'm betting your SVX weighs a lot lighter due to considerably less safety equipment
        • 4 Years Ago
        Is it even possible to hypermile at 70 mph?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd have to confirm John H's SVX gas mileage results. I drove my 1995 SVX (3.3L flat 6 w/ AWD) for 12 years (my daughter still drives it) and it would consistantly return right @ 30MPG on the mostly flat, eastern interstates when driving 65-70mph. I'm guessing it was mostly due to great aerodynamics b/c it definitely wasn't known to be a light weight vehicle.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hahaha, Neff lives in Cleveland.
      • 4 Years Ago
      With my '10 Golf TDI I'm getting 38.5 mpg average reverse commuting out of DC down to just about Prince William. About 50 miles each day.

      On a trip this past weekend up to Maine and back i was seeing about 41 MPGs averaging about 75 mph when i was on the highway.
      • 4 Years Ago
      your fuel economy results can not be typical.. I get much more than you achieved in my daily driven '10 TDI Sportwagen (I drive about 180 miles each day)
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ l3it3r

        You living in WV or in MD somewhere?

        I live in Vienna and grew up in Mclean. I know exactly what you are talking about, traffic around Tysons Corner on RT-7 is AWFUL. Might as well park your car and walk. Even with all of that, I couldn't imagine moving away, there is everything you could ever want or need in the NOVA area.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with gtv4rudy. Hopefully it's a short-term position.. You can't put a price on your time...
        • 4 Years Ago
        @jrm125 it's about $60-70/week and it takes me to Washington DC to a stable, good paying job ;)

        Granted, my fuel bill was decidedly less before I moved 80+ miles from my office, but the cost of living where I live now MORE than makes up for the added fuel consumption.

        Oh.. and just to put this in perspective... my wife was driving only 18 miles each way, same car, and was spending about the same amount because of the horrible traffic on her route - something I'm lucky that I rarely have to deal with because of my hours and more efficient route.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have to ask...what's with all the driving? I'd hate to have your gas bill.
        • 4 Years Ago
        >(I drive about 180 miles each day)

        You and I are in the same boat (I drive 190 miles each day to the Baltimore/Washington corridor). I make that drive in my 1997 Jetta 2.0L. I don't get diesel-like mileage, but my highway mileage averages between 32 and 37 mpg.

        And you're absolutely right - the cost of living (bang for the buck) where I reside more than makes up for the fuel expenses...;)
        • 4 Years Ago
        @NightFlight I moved to Hagerstown, MD from Lorton. Tysons is insanity. I'm driving to Kingstowne though, so it's another 20 minutes away! Luckily I'm usually crossing into VA at around 0600 and missing all of the traffic. Takes anywhere from 1:10 to 1:30 on a typical day. Crappy traffic days can take much longer. Again, in comparison, my wife drove from Lorton to Alexandria (18 miles) and it would take her the same amount of time.

        This morning I was going about 75/80MPH the majority of the drive and got 47MPG. I've done the drive at the speed limit and have achieved well over 50MPG (usually 54MPG when I do the speed limit). Best tank on my daily drive has been 700 miles (14.5 gallons) or 48MPG. Best tank on a long trip I took was 820 Miles (56MPG). My typical fill up happens around the 600 Mile mark though, so about 41 or 42 MPG on average. That's with 75-80+ MPH driving over mountains and through traffic.

        I've got over 30k miles on this car already (bought it in January) and having a fully broken in car might help a bit, but I don't think that the review car has been driven properly. A diesel Jetta is not a sports sedan, no matter what suspension or body effects are put on it. It handles great, but the acceleration is only good when going down hill. Sure, it's faster than a Prius, but what isn't? Drive the car how it was meant to be driven, spiritedly, but with economy in mind. My instant MPG is rarely below 40, and usually hovers around 50 or 60. My drive includes a few mountains, so there are extended periods of time where I'm only getting about 23-28MPG @ 75/80 MPH, and I feel bad about that! I can only imagine what the full size trucks and V8 sedans are getting as they pass me.

        Anyway, my point about posting was that the writer's results can't be typical of this car on long trips. The drive was long enough that all low speed mpg would have been a moot point. I don't know what screen on the dash computer they were driving on (should leave it on instant consumption), or if they were using cruise control (which nets much WORSE MPG), but they did something wrong to only get that MPG over such a long trip.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What you've just seen here is the incredible power of Autoblog bringing our nation's fine citizens together.

        =D
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dang.

        Well, more power to you sir :) Congrats on the move btw.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @l3it3r,
        Never mind the fuel cost, but what's the cost to your quality of life? All the hours spent behind the wheel could be better spent with your kids and your wife instead. How about the stress in driving 180 miles in bad weather and bad traffic?
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you're the TDI sportwagen that goes down 7, I've seen you before. I know there couldn't be two. ;)
        • 4 Years Ago
        ...on top of that, I work a four-day 10hr/day schedule which makes the daily commute more manageable...:)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thread hijack...we need an AB forum!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I take the bullet and drive 45 minutes (versus the girlfriend's 10-12 minutes) so I have to deal with the craptastic Wisconsin winter and not her.

        The Forte has TC/SC and her 2003 Sable does not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Nightflight

        Only thing i miss about the d.c. area is the uptown theater and armands pizza. I could earn 3 times what I earn where I am.. but I would have to pay 20 to 50 times more for the house I have.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Or your fuel results aren't typical.

        50% (about) of people will get better fuel economy than average and 50% will get worse. Just because someone gets worse mpg than you doesn't mean they aren't getting typical mpg.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Next you should do a road trip in a Volt.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @Lavrinc - what kind of fuel economy did you get?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm calling shenanigans. Those cars should be bug-riddled.

      JK Autoblog :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I recently test drove several Legacys, 2.5i not the turbo. While I can't comment on the performance of the turbo, I do take exception to the comments about the seating... I found both driver and passenger seats to be horribly uncomfortable; no thigh and lateral support and very spongy. On the vehicles with cloth seating, I clearly felt the seat frame in my lower back. On the vehicles equipped with leather seating. factory AND dealer installed (hmmm, I wonder why dealer installed?), the extreme opposite- felt like I was sitting on a wooden bench that was crowned in the center. I will also say that the regularly aspirated 2.5 is somewhat underpowered for this car. While the car has many positive attributes, I would hesitate to recommend.
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