There’s no better time then the dead of winter to test AWD gas mileage. (As I write this, I’m in the midst of reviewing an AWD 2009 Mazda CX-7 GT. While the official estimates are par for the course, I’ve been able to exceed the numbers on the window sticker.) Unfortunately, AWD gas mileage is nearly always lower than the FWD variant … when all four wheels are driven, fuel economy always suffers. It comes down to simple physics. Even the best gas mileage AWDs top out in the 30 mile per gallon (MPG) highway range.
A good number of the current AWD gas mileage champs use hybrid technology. I’ve put the Lexus 400h, Ford Escape Hybrid, and Toyota Highlander Hybrid to the gas mileage test over the past year and have achieved excellent results with each vehicle.
But make no mistake about it, the best AWD gas mileage isn’t confined to just the hybrids. If you need AWD but can’t afford the payments on an expensive hybrid, there are plenty of vehicles that can deliver highway mileage in the high-twenty mile per gallon range on the highway, if driven mindfully.
The tiny Suzuki SX4 Crossover is one of our favorite small AWDs, pulling down an impressive 32 MPG in our Interstate highway testing. While you can’t haul a big crowd to the slopes with the SX4′s diminutive dimensions, the little Suzuki does well if it’s just you and a buddy or two.
Apart from the hybrids, clean diesel technology holds the biggest hope for improving AWD mileage. Audi has announced that its A3 2.0 TDI clean diesel (shown above) will go on sale by the first quarter of 2010. While an AWD Quattro version has not been announced, the front wheel drive A3 2.0 TDI is said to deliver over 40 MPG highway.
To get the best AWD gas mileage results, choose the right AWD vehicle and drive mindfully. Achieving the optimum gas mileage is easy, once you know the tricks.
- by Daniel Gray
January 21st, 2009
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