While it’s slow going, the revival of the American economy can be clearly linked to the renewed strength of our domestic automobile industry. At a rally yesterday at Cuyahoga County Community College in Ohio supporting President Obama, Bruce Springsteen gave thanks that General Motors is still making cars, remarking ”What else would I write about?”
That quote got me thinking about the wealth of automotive imagery in Bruce’s songs over the years, dating all the way back to his very first album, Greetings From Asbury Park. There’s The Angel’s mention of VW – “The interstate’s choked with nomadic hordes in Volkswagen vans with full running boards dragging great anchors,” and the pure American brother in Lost in the Flood, “dull-eyed and empty-faced, race(ing) Sundays in Jersey in a Chevy stock super eight.” Continue reading →
While today’s hybrid gas mileage ratings may seem impressive when compared to the majority of conventional vehicles on the market, there’s still a long way to go. This unfulfilled dream is clearly evident when studying the historical chart of hybrid gas mileage. The earliest models of the Honda Insight set the bar remarkably high (regardless of the change in the EPA’s testing procedures implemented in 2007); so high that they remain to be equaled by a production vehicle today.
Viewing the statistics, it’s easy to understand how the Insight hybrid achieved those remarkable gas mileage results. Weighing in at under a ton, Honda’s little spaceship had a big head start, with a diminutive 1.0 liter three cylinder engine providing just enough oomph and efficiency to land the micro hybrid’s gas mileage in the stratosphere.
With the Insight put out to pasture after the 2006 model year, the Toyota Prius snatched the hybrid gas mileage crown, edging out the Honda Civic Hybrid. Continue reading →
The mid-sized Mariner SUV was introduced in 2005 as Mercury’s version of Ford’s Escape. The Mariner Hybrid joins the Escape Hybrid in delivering excellent gas mileage, as it holds a comfortable slot at the top of the SUV fuel efficiency charts. The Mariner shares many components with the Escape, as well as with its other corporate cousin, the Mazda Tribute.
The 2008 Mariner Hybrid is equipped with a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine producing 133 horsepower (HP) and 124 foot pounds of torque, along with an electric motor that cranks out 94 HP (for a stated 155 HP combined). Non-hybrid Mariners are available with the owner’s choice of a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine that produces 153 HP and 152 foot pounds of torque or a 3.0 liter V-6 that provides 200 HP and 193 foot pounds of torque.
Need a four wheel drive with the best gas mileage? Get ready to downsize. None of the best gas mileage four wheel drives (4WDs) are jumbo-sized sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
Simply put, the aerodynamics and vehicle weight of the bulkiest SUVs cause gas mileage to suffer, leading to many a painful transaction at the pump. The trick is to get small(er), lighter, and more slippery. Credit Subaru for getting the ball rolling with popularizing economical 4WD drive passenger cars in the early days. Since 1997, every vehicle Subaru’s offered in America has been all wheel drive.
These days, it’s not just Subaru. There are plenty of four wheel drive choices that are neither truck nor SUV. And forget the notion of pint-sized economy cars. You’ll find a generous helping of 4WD luxury from manufacturers including Audi, Volvo, Cadillac, and Lexus … in fact, you’ll find many of their offerings in the 2008 list of best gas mileage four wheel drives.
Purists will gladly share that there’s a difference between four wheel drive and all wheel drive (AWD). And surely there is … but for a great many folks, it comes down to two simple questions: will it go in the snow and will I go broke feeding it?
At the other end of the spectrum, the little Suzuki SX4 delivers plenty of bang for the buck, by combining the best four wheel drive gas mileage with a low sticker price (for those who don’t just think miles per gallon … but miles per dollar.)
Along with its corporate cousins, the Ford Escape Hybrid proves the exception to the rule as the highest all around mile per gallon (MPG) four wheel drive vehicle. If you can’t get a great deal on an Escape Hybrid at your local Ford dealer, take a look at the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. And if you happen to live in Southern California, the Mazda Tribute Hybrid HEV might be an option … as long as you’re able to snag one of the 350 Tribute HEVs built for this test market.)