Article and pictures by Juha Koski and Juha Peltonen, Auto Bild Suomi
American cars are traditionally known for their large engines and high consumption. We decided to find out what kind of fuel consumption can be achieved with modern American cars. The four-car convoy was to navigate from Helsinki to the Arctic Circle as economically as possible.
One strong motivation for our consumption test was the low average
consumption readings achieved by the British couple John and Helen Taylor in a Jeep
Patriot and a Jeep Compass from the British Isles to Berlin. On the roads of
continental Europe they achieved the excellent consumption rates of 4.18 and 4.25 litres in their compact SUVs.
We wanted to test the Americans’ performance in
the more challenging conditions of the Finnish winter, so we chose the
Arctic Circle north of Rovaniemi as our destination. The test in Finland became even more colorful than expected, because the fleet included
three cars with manual transmission and one dual-clutch transmission vehicle; the power
source in three cases was a 2-litre Volkswagen-based turbodiesel, while one was powered by a
2-litre petrol engine. Both the manual and the dual-clutch transmission
cars had six gears.
The petrol engine was a so-called "world engine", built in
partnership with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. This 2-litre 16-valve motor used Dual VVT technology, meaning the timing of the intake and exhaust valves is controlled electronically.
The manual transmission has five gears, in which the ratio of the highest
gear is long.
A particularly spicy point is that all four American cars are robust
in terms of mass, a feature that adds real challenges to the competition. A lot of people probably have confused ideas about the driving economy of American
cars, so we decided to find out what consumption rates could ideally be achieved
with this trio of marques.
Before setting out, we asked our advisor, the champion of economical driving Markku Lehisto, about the basics of driving economically. The clear guidelines
of Markku's advice were fresh in our memories during the drive. Our test
squad consisted of this magazine’s editorial team members Juha Koski and Juha
Peltonen plus Timo Kokkonen and Osmo Hagelberg from Chrysler Finland Oy.
None of the test squad had had previous training from anything like
economical driving courses or any experience worth mentioning in tests of
economical driving. Koski and Peltonen did drive from Helsinki to North Cape
in autumn 2004, also with the aim of minimising fuel consumption. At that
time, an Audi A8 4.0 V8 TDI achieved a consumption rate of 6.82 litres.
In addition to the drivers, the cars were also prepared for the consumption
test. Let's start the examination with the engine oil, for which all the
test vehicles used Mobil 1 ESP Formula, viscosity 5W/30. This is a capable,
low-friction oil precisely for the conditions required for economical
driving, for example. Before the test, each car was fitted with a new, standard model air filter, as the individual cars already had some kilometres behind them. The tire pressure was then increased to precisely 3.0 bar (43.5 psi). This is about 0.5 bar more than the recommendation for snow tires in normal use. The brakes were serviced to make them more sensitive. This is an operation that should be performed in general at intervals of one year or 30,000 km to prevent the brakes from dragging.
The car’s wheel alignment was adjusted or inspected to make sure
that the toe ins were as close to zero as possible. In this respect as in
others, we stuck to the advisory figures supplied by the manufacturer. The tires
used on all cars were low roll-resistance and thus economical Nokian
Hakkapeliitta R studless wintertires, the size according to type for each car, with 17-inch wheel size for all.
The first fueling-up was at 07.15 in the morning at the Shell station in
Konala, after which we made an urgent warm-up route to the Neste fuel station in Malmi. This involved an extremely slow and meticulous filling-up all the way to the filler tube, which took several minutes per car. Slow filling is essential to make sure that the tank is filled to the brim, avoiding air
pockets. How arduous this is varies according to the car and the fuel.
With an eye to economical driving, we also made other inspections. Heater blower speed was set to minimum for the duration of the test and the
fuel-guzzling air-conditioning was turned off. In dry, frosty weather, the windows stayed clear easily. The radio was played at a moderate volume so that the high-powered amplifiers would not boost consumption needlessly.
Near the city of Lahti, Orimattila, the Avenger typically ran at 1500 revolutions/min. A great thing about this car’s DCT-dual-clutch transmission was using manual sixth gear to dodge the consumption-boosting ruts in the road. The speed was an economical 75-80 km/h (47-50 mph). The slightly higher tire pressures were barely noticeable on the road in the Avenger or the others. At city of Järvenpää, according to the average economy display at vehicle information center, we hit 4.9 l/100 km (48 mpg) and by city of Mäntsälä we were at 4.8 l/100km, and soon after 4.7 l/100km. The consumption at the start for the Avenger was over 6 litres at a hundred, but before Lahti the Avenger’s consumption had already dropped to 4.5 litres (52.3 mpg).
On the Helsinki-Lahti stretch there is a slight rise nearly the whole way, towards Salpausselkä. Fortunately, though, there was also a few good downhill stretches. The road surface was dry and the driving conditions were good. The navigator’s TMC system has no problems to announce along the route other than a couple of roadworks. There were heavy clouds and the sky was grey.
As we reached Lahti, the Avenger passed 4.4 l/100 km (53.4 mpg) according to the
drive computer. Immediately after Lahti, we carried out a test with the cruise
control on the Avenger: would consumption drop with this to 4.3 litres per hundred? But driving with cruise control on raised consumption to 4.5 litres in this case. We turned it off to be on the safe side.
After Lahti, there were the beginnings of a little slush on the road. The 50 km stretch before Joutsa is a roadwork section. We reached Joutsa on the first day on the road at 11 am. From Joutsa
north towards Jyväskylä we could see snowy trees and handsome forest scenery, like
there used to be on the Finnish Fazer chocolate box lid. The dry road surface made
for fine driving.
Before Viitasaari, we wondered if all four cars would have enough range to reach the Arctic Circle. On the Sebring, for instance, the range still had 780 km left and the Journey had 1,100 km. On the Viitasaari-Oulu stretch Journey’s consumption was shown on the drive computer’s display as 5.3 litres per
hundred (44.4 mpg).
Towards Rovaniemi. After a break for the night, we started out from Oulu towards the Arctic Circle, the ending point for the test. The Oulu-Kemi stretch starts as a motorway, soon taking us over the Oulujoki River. The weather was still dry, so the driving was nice but we still had heavy cloud and the northern twilight was strongly with us. Towards Kemi the motorway gave way to a wide-lane road, where it was good to let others pass. Dusty snow rose from the road surface but not so much as to be a nuisance.
Towards Kemi a long, lethal uphill stretch begins, so now we were really
excited to see if the Patriot in sixth gear was able to keep to a 4.9 l/100
km average reading. At last, as Rovaniemi approaches, consumption dropped to 4.8
l/100 km on the drive computer screen, in spite of the tough hills just
The convoy drove over the very wide and fast-flowing Kemijoki River. If you’re in these parts and fancy a snack, you should try out the exotic at least from the Southern Finnish viewpoint reindeer burgers or reindeer pizzas.
We arrived in the city centre of Rovaniemi and stopped at two red traffic
lights. After crossing the river, the road began to rise towards the Arctic Circle. The rise is long and sharp enough and the drive computer’s average consumption rose again after falling a couple of decilitres on the last Kemi-Rovaniemi leg.
We turned into the Shell station on the Arctic Circle after driving
841.4 kilometres and begin refilling our tanks in a state of excitement. Once
again, we filled our cars all the way at a gentle pace. We drove a short way and
continued filling to make sure we have filled the filler tube, just as we did
at the start. The Avenger swallowed another 1.5 and the Journey 2.5 litres.
We began to count up our consumption rates.
The most economical of the squad
achieved a result of 4.07 litres. The vehicle is the Dodge Avenger.
place in the economy drive was the Jeep Patriot with consumption of 4.54 litres.
third place came the third diesel, the Dodge Journey, with a result of 5.3 litres.
In addition to the Avenger’s performance, another surprise in the squad came from the
petrol-burning Chrysler Sebring, which managed on a meager 5.53 litres, a respectable accompaniment to its diesel-powered teammates.
We considered the results. The figures achieved with these cars: two average
consumption readings beginning with 4 and two with 5 ? makes you think. They
indicate the formidable potential for economy of the modern engine and car
technology. These interesting results were achieved in spite of the fact
that the cars used were not eco-friendly versions specially tuned for economy.
The fact that the results were obtained with relatively sizeable American cars,
among them a seven-seater people carrier and 4-wheel-drive small SUV, further
shows that the image of American cars merely as gas-guzzlers is overdue for
All engines displaced 2 liters. The diesel engines in the Avenger, Journey, and Sebring were Volkswagen-based with 1968 cc inline four-cylinder engines, with a 140 hp (103 kW) rated peak output at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 229 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm. The gas engine in the Patriot was the 1998 cc “World Engine” with a peak 156 hp (115 kW) at 6,300 rpm and peak torque of 140 lb-ft (190 Nm) at 5,100 rpm.
Total driving time 12:03:19 h, average speed 70.11 km/h
For the duration of the test, we raised the pressure in the Nokian R studless
winter tires to 3.0 bar. The marking, ultra low rolling resistance, on the sides of
the tires indicates they are just the thing for economical driving.
We went to see Santa Claus in his den. Left to right: Auto Bild Suomi’s Juha
Koski, Santa Claus, Auto Bild’s Juha Peltonen, and Chrysler Finland’s Osmo
Hagelberg and Timo Kokkonen.
1. Accelerate briskly to the speed you want. Upshift by the time you reach the engine’s peak torque.
2. Use a high enough gear. With modern engines, the torque zone begins
at low revs.
3. Drive at a steady speed.
4. Anticipate traffic conditions. Avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking.
5. You can use cruise control on even sections of road.
6. Avoid ruts and uneven areas on roads.
7. Use engine inertia for braking. This cuts the fuel feed [with manual and dual-clutch transmissions - ed.].
8. If you have to stop for more than half a minute, stop the engine.
9. You can negotiate small uphill sections most economically by letting the
speed fall a little.
10. For larger and longer uphill sections, it’s good to accelerate in
Thanks to Juha Koski and Juha Peltonen, Auto Bild Suomi and to Timo Kokkonen for this well-researched article and for providing us with permission to reprint it.
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