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AWD Gas Mileage

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.

2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI at NAIAS 2009 ... can an AWD Quattro be far behind?

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.

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6 comments ↓

#1 daverave on 08.27.09 at 11:18 am

When will they make a hybrid diesel-electric? They are available in city buses, but not cars — at least i know of none.

#2 Riko on 02.13.10 at 10:14 pm

I have an Audi Quattro A4 with a turbocharged 1.8 liter engine. I am able to achieve 30 plus mpg on the highway if I keep the speed around 70 mph with the cruise control on (about 2700 rpm with 5 speed automatic). Factors I have found which can lower mpg include altitude, outside temperature, heavy rain, wind, or snow. It is a great car though, and I highly recommend the A4 quattro.

#3 Arrbee on 06.23.11 at 12:05 pm

How exactly did you drive that SX4? I’ve had one (manual JX AWD) for 4 years now, and my average mileage according to the car’s readout is 23.7 MPG.

32 MPG? I really doubt it.

#4 mpg-o-editor on 06.23.11 at 9:00 pm

@Arrbee – It all depends on how, when, and where you drive it. The next time you’re on an Interstate highway trip, try keeping your speed to 68 MPH or less, as conditions permit. Minimize lane changes and use the lightest foot possible.

#5 Kattmanduu on 08.05.12 at 5:16 pm

I drive a Subaru Outback, Impreza sport version and get about 25 to 30 mpg average, and I really drive this car fairly firm. Why don’t you even mention Subaru’s when you are talking about AWD vehicles? They are the best of this type vehicle made and cost is less overall too. I go as far as to say that Subaru is the benchmark for all others that have come along after them. In the snow they are second only to snowmobiles, sled dogs, Polar Bears and Yeti’s. I wish they would make a real functional pickup, I would get one. I love it, just like the ad says and I’ve been saying that for many years now. I live in the Rockies and have some tough roads to deal with too. My Subaru will beat that SX4 any day of the week with 3 dogs in the back, and twice on Sunday for recreation.

#6 mpg-o-editor on 08.05.12 at 5:39 pm

@Kattmanduu – Subarus are fantastic vehicles. I’m kicking myself for failing to mention them on this specific post when I wrote it way back in early 2009. My apologies for that … it was huge oversight!

I just road tested and reviewed the 2012 Subaru Impreza earlier this summer. It was positively splendid, with mileage that tops the charts. I’m hoping to test more Subarus this winter.

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