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Driving economically. The VW way

By Alex Inwood, 19 Jun 2013 Features

Volkswagen, Golf, Up!, test, fuel, economy, green, environment, think blue, challenge

What’s the most stressful way of driving a car? Weirdly, it's driving economically.

What’s the most stressful way of driving a car? At 300km/h through burning rings of fire, probably.

But on everyday roads, at everyday speeds, I doubt there’s a more draining, stressful, or complicated way of steering a car than driving…economically.

How do I know this? Because Wheels just spent an entire day driving Volkswagen’s as thriftily as possible.

And weirdly, it turns out we’re pretty good at it.

The day was all part of VW’s Think Blue. Challenge – an initiative designed to showcase the brand’s new range of Bluemotion technologies as well as pit a bunch of journalists, and Aussie rally champ and official VW coach Ed Ordynski, against each other to see who can use the least petrol.

The challenge was simple: drive two petrol VWs (Up! and Golf) and two diesels (Passat and Caddy) with a range of transmissions (manual and DSG) on an urban loop.

The driver with the lowest average fuel consumption across all four cars wins.

Not only is the challenge simple, but relevant. With rising fuel costs and the need to appear environmentally conscious, saving money at the pump is good for both your hip pocket and the birds and bees.

So how to drive economically? VW has eight rules to drink less fuel:

• Drive the modern way and think ahead

• Drive in the highest gear possible

• Use overrun fuel cutoff

• Use auxiliary equipment in moderation

• Check your tyre pressure

• Avoid short trips

• Cut aerodynamic drag

• Avoid unnecessary weight

Very wise advice, but it was Ordynski’s tips that I found most useful.

• Don’t let a turbo car get on boost

• Think of a diesel’s accelerator as being connected directly to the fuel pump (more throttle = more fuel)

• In a naturally aspirated petrol throttle use controls injection of petrol and air. Keeping the throttle wide open up a hill in a higher gear then, injects air and little petrol.

All these rules proved to work, with Wheels winning the day and even thrashing Ordynski’s numbers.

The rally champ, who says he studied driving economically for 30 years to use less petrol on rally transit stages, could only manage 4.9l/100km across the range.

Yet with very limited throttle use, particularly in the diesels, Wheels scored 4.4l/100km.

A win then, but a bloody stressful one.