Garage Love: Hyper-Miling is Not My Thing

by Per Schroeder

It takes a lot for me to admit that I’m not good at something. My inner-German just wants to attack, conquer and win at everything—work or play. I surreptitiously let my 5-year old win at Bey Blade and think to myself that I’m beating all of those other dads that are too competitive to let their sons gain confidence in life. I should probably talk to someone about this.

So it takes some effort to admit that I am bad at Hyper-Miling. I simply can’t get anywhere near the fuel economy figures that are typically seen for a given car model, especially ones that are fun to drive. The best I can seem to do is about 90 percent of the EPA highway rating—and that’s even with the more conservative modern ratings.


A 2014 Mazda3i Touring now resides in my driveway. It's an economy car, dammit! 

My commute involves about 100 miles of highway driving each day and I justified the purchase of a new Mazda3 to myself (and my wife) with the fact that it was rated at 40mpg. Over the course of a month that would save us about $90 bucks over the Subaru wagon that was rapidly degrading as the miles racked up. Of course, the fact that it’s a feisty little terrier that appears to enjoy being picked up and shaken by the scruff of the neck didn’t hurt the decision either.

The first few tanks were quite respectable as I let the Skyactiv 2.0 break in gently. I saw around 37mpg on a few days, but most trips were in the 36.5 range with some traffic on the highway. As the mileage broke 1000, however, I started really straying from the righteous path of MPG salvation. My commutes now see more throttle inputs, more trips to the upper reaches of the tachometer and a whole lot less soft-pedaling.


That fuel mileage gauge is the bane of my existence.  

I’m at about 1700 miles and my per-tank average is now dipping well into the 34mpg range on the same commuting schedule. While that’s still considerably better than the Subaru, it’s well off what I’d like to be seeing on the daily grind.

The SkyActiv’s 13:1 compression ratio and direct injection fuel delivery yields great mileage as it extracts every bit of energy from the gas it sips. A byproduct of this miserly technology is a healthy torque curve that is very reminiscent of Volkswagen’s 1.8T mills. It responds well to a heavy foot and a downshift to boot it out of corners. I even checked under the hood to see if “SkyActiv” actually meant “little turbo that was too small to actually mention in public.” Nope, there was just a gorgeous long-tube header packed in there next to the firewall.

I call my driving style “responsible hooliganism.” From a stop, I accelerate as fast as I can up to around—say 10 percent over—the speed limit and then hold it there with a soft upshift. I like to scoot in first and second gears, skip third and drop it into fourth to lope along from there. I get my jollies on the track or autocross course, but it’s still fun to regularly drop the hammer like a meth-fueled carpenter.

It doesn’t help that I like small-bore cars that really need to be thrashed about to extract their full potential. I’ve owned over 70 cars at this point in my life and I can only think of four that displaced more than 2.5 liters. I’m a big guy with little cars and a heavy foot—just like my idols from the early days of European stage rally. Not only am I good at being bad at fuel economy, as a track guy, I am also excellent at burning up tires and brake pads. I am a one-man EPA disaster.

That might be the reason for my gas-burning ways, but there has to be an external reason for my failure. I’m starting to think the blame really lies with those sneaky engineers at Mazda. They appear to have made a fuel-efficient car that’s fun to drive and doesn’t suck the soul out of you. That’s terrible. They should know that cars like this need to be as bland as toast and as much fun as a urinary infection.


Slap on some numbers, throw on another set of wheels and tires and voila—an autocrosser! 

I am going to write a letter to Mazda to express my displeasure with the car’s fuel mileage. I don’t think I’m going to get better than 33 on the next tankful. I’m headed to an autocross, so it’ll be loaded down with my race tires and gear. Simply unacceptable. 

Bookmark and Share
Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:16 PM
Could be worse; when I had my Evo, I'd average 15mpg :) I have found that following a moving land barge, er, SUV at a 1 second gap at freeway speeds tends to improve fuel consumption by ~10%. In LA, there's an abundance of Land Rovers to choose from to follow behind. And actually, if leaving a 1 second gap, there's a good chance a car will cut in between.
Friday, May 23, 2014 12:36 AM
Nice write-up! But I think you do quite well compared to the EPA numbers which are way more "realistic" than our Euro numbers which are generated in a Lab under ideal conditions that are not reachable in any way in the real world. Me being a german still living in Germany I think I know your "inner-german", that wants to come out here and then. But I accelerate the same way you do which mostly is hard with fast upshifts which is the best since you keep the engine at the point where its most efficient at that point instead of doing it like lots of people do accelerating with 40%-60% throttle. Also having to follow cars with an Auto-tranny it helps to watch the car not the brake lights since most of the
auto-drivers tent to stand on the brake more often due to lack of engine braking which can confuse stick-drivers. A tune might also help, since factory tunes are very conservative to be able to cope tolerances in fuel quality meaning mostly running a little rich.

Cheers! or in that case Prost!
Friday, May 23, 2014 1:36 AM
It really IS hard to drive efficiently with a fun car, eh :D

As a famous english guy, on a famous english car show said: "you bought the wrong car !"

Like every petrol head, you need a boring car to get high mileage. Since i sold my toyota supra and bought a crappy diesel citroen xantia, i get high mileage. OEM hydraulic suspensions make it an ultra smooth ride. crappy turbo diesel engine means it does not accelerate at first if i boot it, and since it is a diesel it chokes right after the turbo goes spinning. The only reasons i don't fall asleep while driving it are called "manual gearbox" and "no speed regulator".

It depresses me, mind you. Which is why i need my 11-15mpg e85 powered S13 on week ends to draw a big smile on my face, and forget all that reasonnable driving :)
Friday, May 23, 2014 5:43 AM
My daily driver is a 2000 Honda Insight. I've actually found that I get best fuel economy by going full throttle until I hit my cruising speed and then shifting to 4th (in almost any condition) and just cruising there. Now that summer is here, 60mpg is the minimum I'll get.
Friday, May 23, 2014 6:25 AM

In your case specifically, you have a hybrid car. Full acceleration to cruising speed will make full use of your electric motor where it is best. Instant tq. and acceleration. Once you hit cruising your engine can just hum along sipping fuel. Unfortunately this scenario is not true for gasoline engines.
Friday, May 23, 2014 6:55 AM
I wish I had some helpful advice for you. I don't get nearly the "advertised fuel economy" in my 350Z. I think I actually drive reasonably and "hypermile" when on long city streets. But the engine sounds so good, you just want to hear it more and put you back into your seat. I think every car guy needs a beater car that's ugly, slow, and sips fuel like a cougar at a martini bar. You can go full speed over speed bumps, go weeks without washing it, and put the cheapest fuel you can find into it. Not to mention, small skinny tires are cheap and help with fuel economy. Their soul sucking nature will then be cured when you hop into your "real" car and refresh your senses on the weekend or at the track :)
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Friday, May 23, 2014 7:57 AM
I've been eying those new Mazda 3 hatches with the 2.5L. I haven't test driven one yet because I've read so many articles talking about how great they are that I know I'd walk out of the dealer $25,000 poorer.
Friday, May 23, 2014 10:25 AM
Crousti, I'm in a similar situation to you. My daily driver is a hybrid with a CVT tranny. I was afraid with the CVT I would get bored driving, but with the hybrid, I play the game of trying to maximize economy by tricking the engine to shut off and go into electric mode, keep the engine speed at max BSFC point, etc. So it keeps me engaged that way. 0-60 in about 11 seconds, so yeah..... slow. I do get 43-44mpg in it. Then on the weekends, I take the S2000 out and drive the absolute piss out of it, the way it was meant to be driven.
Friday, May 23, 2014 12:31 PM
This problem is especially highlighted when driving a turbo car with considerable lag. Sure I can accelerate while out of boost and keep pace with traffic just fine... but if i keep my foot in it a second longer i get another 150hp. Too hard of a call to make every day.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Friday, May 23, 2014 6:46 PM
I think if you REALLY wanted to get EPA numbers, you'd pull it off. I have ALMOST beat the EPA on all of my cars. I say ALMOST because I had a cammed GTO and a G35 coupe that both just couldn't beat the numbers even when I tried. In fact, the poor fuel economy and a check engine light is what led me and the dealer to discover the GTO was cammed and the dealer hadn't done their due diligence.

Khiem - Do you freaking own a PRIUS!? My CRZ could get in that 40-42 zone on the interstate and it had a 6 speed. That CRZ or the upcoming 918 are about as hybrid as I ever wanted, outside of a diesel hybrid. This CVT comment has me worried. :-/
Friday, May 23, 2014 8:31 PM
I have to agree, owning "only" 20ish cars so far about 90% have been under 2.0l with a few hovering at 1.3...

Its odd though, the Rx-8 is rated at 15/18 but i get 19ish if i beat the hell out of it. With a carbon clutch you cant take off below 2.5k and 6k shifts are barely 2/3 of the rev limit. However, even without the freeway miles it never changes from 19 mpg.

The EPA is full of it.
Saturday, May 24, 2014 1:21 AM
I have managed 25mpg in a stock R35 and 28mpg in a stock GR STi. I drove 65mph all the way from Orange County to LA Country. Staying in the slow lanes and almost never had to to break for 45+ miles. It was at night so no traffic. And yes, it was boring. Just wanted to see the best I could get.

Did it on several occasions in the STi back and forth to make sure it was not a fluke. My normal weekly mixed city/highway was about 17-19mpg. Try as I might, I cannot get the R35 to reproduce the mpg. I think it has something to do with driving a GT-R at night on a lightly populated freeway. Its complex ECU does not let you drive "65mph" in those conditions...
Saturday, May 24, 2014 9:44 PM
Der, no Prius, but something that has the same power/drivetrain in a significantly better handling package. Yeah, the MIQ guys give me a lot of shit for it, but I saved $1400 in gas last year and that's mod money for Project S2k!

I've for the most part been able to meet or beat EPA. I was a little off in my 2005 Evo with only 17 city vs. 19 city EPA, but matched the 26 hwy. I actually got basically the same MPG in a 2006 G35 which has the same EPA as the Evo.

In my current DD, I average 43-44 where the EPA is 42city/40hwy. The computer actually says I've ave 46.2mpg but I've hand calculated it many times and the computer reads about 5% high.

In city traffic, part of saving fuel is the slower acceleration. But another big part of it is coasting up to red lights from as far back as possible. If you time it right, you don't even have to use the brakes and you blow right by all the cars that had rushed up to the red light only to get stuck. And with good timing, the light turns green and you're still doing ~15mph and go right by all those other cars. So burn less fuel and have less wear on the tires and brakes and you get to your destination in basically the same time. In city traffic with lights, well, try as you might the red lights will stop you unless you're accelerating very hard and obscenely above the speed limit to make the light. Rush hour highway traffic is basically the same. I've done this experiment a couple times out here in LA driving the 405 south in rush hour. I'll be in the third to left most lane with the left most being the car pool and the 2nd most the fast/passing lane. Of course, it's rush hour so there's nothing fast about it. So everyone knows the accordion action where all the cars accelerate hard for about 1/4 mile and slam on the brakes as traffic comes to a stop again. The cycle repeats, accelerate/stop/accelerate/stop for miles and miles. So I'm in my lane and I try to minimize the accelerating and braking. I can usually eliminate coming to a complete stop about 4-5 times compared to the other lane. So while all the other cars accelerate hard, I accelerate slow and let the gap in front of me get big; call it 50-100m depending on the average speed of traffic. And then a 1/4 mile down the hwy when all the cars come to a complete stop again, I'm coasting and using that gap I built to prevent from having to come to a stop. Once I did this with a marker car next to me doing the accel/stop/accel/stop thing for about 30 miles; from Torrance to Costa Mesa for you LA folk. We passed each other back and forth probably about 100 times, I went the same distance he did in the same time, and burned way less fuel and brake/tire wear.

Open free flowing highway, I just do the 1 second gap for the ~10% gain.
Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Sunday, May 25, 2014 8:14 AM
One of the ways my Miata was not better than my E36 was fuel economy, much to my surprise. ~23.5 average and ~28 driving to Thunderhill on I-5. Virtually identical. Except it drinks 87 octane. My Outback is only getting about 19. Good thing my commute is now 2.7 miles...
Sunday, May 25, 2014 11:40 PM
TDI: I don't do anything really to get great mileage. Lead foot, 75-80mph on the freeway, no short shifting, etc. torque is so abundant, you stop downshifting and just ride ze torque.

Worst tank ever was 42mpg in that car. Most are 45-48. Need to write an update, huh? :)
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 5:31 AM
Ummmm....I typically pull 19 city, 25-28 hwy in my IS300, which is about on par for city and well above for hwy. I actually just drove to Phoenix (driving back to SD in a week) and I managed to get 27+ on each tank here doing about 80 the whole way....although, on my approximately 19 hour drive I would be lying if for the last 3+ hours I didnt occasionally see 90+....And around town I utterly beat the heck out of my car....

This all begs the question then, how do you manage to get such poor numbers? I am very hard on my car and still manage to get decent numbers.
Mazda Phil
Mazda Phillink
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 6:43 AM
When I had to give up my Miata due to an expanding family, I test drove several cars. At that time, the idea of driving a dumpy little hatchback was thoroughly depressing, until I saw in a Mazda 3. It wasn't a Miata, but it felt like a Mazda, got great gas mileage (I was spoiled by 29 mpg highway in my Miata, get the same in my 3), and I could fit my daughter's car seat without strapping it to the roll bar (mama would've killed me.) Great little cars, if you can resist that skinny pedal on the right.

If you're planning to autocross, I'll look forward to this addition to the garage. The 1st gens were reasonably competitive, and always fun to drive. I hope the 2014's are more of the same.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 3:20 PM
I'm surprised how many readers have efficient daily drivers and weekend toys. I myself am moving in this direction. Given the poor gas mileage of my STI and the fact that I've finally realized that you can't really make a combined daily driver and track car, I'm looking to sell the one and buy two cars. My goal is to find a DD that is fun and economical, something like a Fiesta ST or GTD (if only VW would get their shit together.) And then purchase a weekend car, current thoughts are on S2000 or E36 M3.

Who else has come to this conclusion and how did you cope?
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 9:29 PM
I might get 17mpg out of this tank in my M3. Maybe. I also run -3.2 degrees of camber and have even tire wear, so that tells me that perhaps my daily run to work may involve a bit more throttle than most. Most tanks are about 19mpg; I have a 7mi drive to work if I take the boring, straight way- 8mi if I take the twisty way.

My other daily is a Range Rover Classic, which gets about 8mpg regardless of whether or not I'm wringing all 180 horsepower (honestly, I think a few have not returned to the stable) out of its 3.9L mill or putting along like my grandmother. At least I feel like I look British and dignified, even though I actually look like a hoon driving a Brit box on its doorhandles with the 235/85s leaned all the way over and howling.

My old E36 325iS with S50 cams, head work, etc was capable of 33+ mpg when driven at speeds no higher than 65mph with very careful attention to throttle position. God, that sucked- it had a debaffled Dinan exhaust that sounded absolutely glorious at 6k plus, so to limit myself to only one redline run per week was akin to having a celibate relationship with *insert attractive celebrity of your choosing here.*

I remember the days when my track car got 34mpg (not accounting for speedo/odo error due to a shorter tire than stock) on the back roads coming back from a Vegas Drift event, and that was with everything I brought with me.

My Miata, try as I might, never broke 25mpg. I blame... something. Maybe the fact that it was slow and underwhelming, never living up to expectations?

All of that being said, I understand driving a car that gets great mileage. Oil is a finite resource, and for the majority of us, so is money. I just can't get behind the American options- where is my 2-door Mazda 2 with Skyactiv-G 1.3, or my 2-door Fiesta with Ecoboost 1.0? Why can't I import a Peugeot 205 STDT/Dturbo?
Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:00 PM
Kyle, IMO, you can have a fun daily that can be fun on the track. But the moment you decide you want to go really fast on the track, it's time for a dedicated track car because the things that make a very capable track car make for a lousy street car.

When I made the decision to take Project S2000 into Phase II, dedicated fun car, I did the lightweight flywheel, engine mounts, and dialed the suspension permanently to my stiff/track setting. The flywheel makes it tough on uphill starts, the engine mounts significantly increases the noise level, and the suspension is so stiff now I can't even think of taking a drink out of a bottle of Gatorade while driving on the 405 as the car moves with ever bump. Of course, there is the aspect of wearing out very expensive sticky tires and suspension doing exactly what they are NOT designed for which was commuting. I was spending 98% of my time wearing them out on the street just commuting instead of what they were intended for which was to go fast.

So, I bought a daily driver that was comfortable, easy to drive in traffic, and got excellent gas mileage to handle the boring A-to-B commuting. Now each and every time I take out the S2k, I drive it very hard, the way it should be.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:25 AM
And that's what I'll probably do--pick up a Miata or MR2 and just use that as the daily. I wrote the column thinking that it's a good thing there isn't regular hypermiling competitions like there are track days or autocross--as I'd suck!

Thanks for the comments--my editorial is aimed at starting a conversation.
Thursday, May 29, 2014 3:14 PM

I'm an ME as well, and thinking analytically in traffic, I've noticed the 'accordion' effect in highway rush hour traffic as well but I've termed it "The Inchworm" and developed a couple of basic methods to take advantage of it. First method, is exactly what you describe in your post which I'll term "The Inchworm Gas Saver", the other more fun, but obviously more dangerous method is "The Inchworm Time Saver" method. These methods generally work best in the lanes adjacent to the exit ramps, from what I've noticed.

The Inchworm Gas Saver Method effectively operates on the principle of staying in the highest gear allowable while maintaing constant motion. This takes advantage of the kinetic energy of the vehicle and the fact that energy is proportional to the square of velocity. Ideally you would move through traffic at the highest gear allowable, while maintaing constant speed. Just like you said, in order to do this, you must maintain a gap that is in proportion to the speed you keep.

The Inchworm Time Saver Method operates on the principle that 'no two lanes are perfectly synced'. This essentially means that while one lane is moving ahead, another is stalled. To actually maintain flow through traffic you must 'weave' through the worm. This is obviously pretty dangerous and not generally recommended unless you have a beat up car with decent power. The basic principle is that when you see a gap you take it, immediately without hesitation, as one lane moves forward there almost always seems to be one guy who is too slow to react (maybe he's on the cell, I never am in the car), so you pull ahead of him/her. Watch the brakelights and 'offset' your position in the lane so you can see ahead and anticipate movement.

I swear to god both of these methods work wonders in rush hour traffic, but you need to be vigilant, and like a good racer, when you see a gap->take it!
Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:06 PM
Not to take away from any of the ideas here but it should be noted that while both of the rush hour traffic ideas work to save on gas milage, neither actually gets you to the final destination much faster.

My mother drives 80+ everywhere she goes and now that I usually drive a minivan full of kids (my own, nothing creepy) when I am on the freeway I rarely get above 67 (right lane. No holding up traffic here).

Despite 13 mph difference she rarely gets to out destination more than abou 2-3 minutes earlier (1.5 hour drive). On an empty freeway this might have an effect but traffic lights and the 405 pretty much are the bane of fast driving and good gas milage.
Post Comment Login or register to post a comment.

MotoIQ Proudly Presents Our Partners:

© 2018 MotoIQ.com