Fuel economy is all the rage in the new car market, and an attribute that’s becoming more a part of the purchase decision than ever before. Some rides go a step further than just saving fuel, doing it in a way that manages to deliver a fantastic driving experience through compromise-free performance.
Here’s a look at a few of the best fuel-saving technologies available right now, the cars using them, how they work and why you should test-drive one.
Hyundai Sonata Bluedrive Hybrid
How it Saves Fuel: This is a hybrid version of the standard Sonata that claims fame via it’s cutting-edge lithium polymer battery technology. Hyundai engineers say it has more energy density and capacity than the lithium ion batteries used in most hybrid cars. Extended “electric-only” driving range is one of the key benefits.
Why Test Drive: You can see and feel the fuel-saving hybrid system working every time you drive this car — especially when it kicks into fully electric “EV” mode at highway speeds. (Most hybrids can operate solely on voltage at parking lot speeds). Despite the extended electric-driving capabilities, a six-speed automatic transmission maintains a conventional driving feel.
Volkswagen Jetta TDI
How it Saves Fuel: Diesel contains about a third more energy per unit than gasoline, so fuel savings here come from the fuel itself, rather than the addition of a hybrid system. Jetta TDI further maximizes mileage with an available high-efficiency Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG.
Why Test Drive: Along with delivering great mileage without changing driving habits, the Jetta TDI is torquey as all heck — meaning it hauls along with authority when you give it the boots. It’s also smooth, very refined, and very quiet. The DSG gearbox furthers all of this with instant, lightning-fast and imperceptible gearshifts. Going 180 kilometres or more before the fuel gauge drops from full is nice, too.
Nissan Altima Coupe
How it Saves Fuel: Lightweight engine construction, variable valve timing and a CVT transmission team up to make this one of the most fuel-efficient fun-coupes I’ve ever driven.
Why Test Drive: This is how a CVT transmission should be set up: rather than groaning along, it provides a never-ending wave of acceleration, instant access to the V6 engine’s power curve, and can even make pretend gear shifts to make you feel like you’re just driving a really responsive automatic. I left the Altima Coupe impressed with overall mileage and fun-factor.
How it Saves Fuel: The A7 is one of a slew of cars using a small-displacement, forced-induction engine in place of a larger, thirstier powerplant. A three-litre, direct-injected V6 and supercharger serve up 310 horsepower and even more torque.
Why Test Drive: Using a supercharger instead of a turbocharger, engineers managed to create absolutely lag-free access to power output on par with a V8 — though you’ll put away less than 7L/100km cruising the highway in no rush. Beats feeding a bigger, thirstier, heavier engine all the time.
Justin Pritchard is an automotive journalist and consultant who resides in Sudbury.