On October 3rd 2010 The Sunday Times Ingear supplement published an article describing how Gavin Conway had achieved a new distance driving record in a Volkswagen Passat by driving 1520 miles on 77 litres of diesel by running at a constant 50mpg on the French autoroutes.
The article caught my eye because it referred to the previous record holders. An Australian couple, John and Helen Taylor, had set the record in 2002 in a Peugeot 406HDi on a tankful of diesel. I bought my 406 HDi because I needed a very economical 5 seater and the 406 ticked all the boxes – near 50mpg, cheap. comfy for a tall driver, and cheap. But it was a revelation to me that it could achieve over 90mpg.
Now two things struck me as odd about the Sunday Times claim. Firstly, Conway made no reference to a passenger during his epic drive. Secondly, while he had forced 77 litres into the Passat my experience of running my 406 out of fuel a couple of times told me that 72 litres was the maximum it could take.
I wrote to the Sunday Times:
Sir, While Gavin Conway must be applauded for sitting on the the autoroute listening to Sonny and Cher for two days, I can’t help but think that all of the Passat’s eco-tweaks gained it a measly 72 miles over the Taylors’ 2002 record which was set in a standard Peugeot 406 HDi, designed in 1999, with the added weight of a passenger as Helen and John shared the driving. The 406 also has a 70 litre tank, but the extra 7 litres squeezed into the Passat might have gained it those precious extra miles.
The bold section was mysteriously edited out of the published letter. The Times responded that Conway did indeed carry a photographer as a passenger for the full journey.
Meanwhile I contacted the Taylors at FuelAcademy.com. Sue Ming, their PA, tells me that they actually only used 69 litres to complete their journey! With 77 litres they would have gone a further 100 miles than the Passat!
I’ll be adding more to this story. Or will News International pay me to keep quiet?
The eco warriors will say that the Peugeot would have been chucking out more CO2 than the newer Passat but it brings me on to another point. My ’99 HDi just does 50mpg however hard I drive its 2.0 litre 8 valve turbo because I don’t drive at 50 mph all day. I’ve driven Citroen C5’s and C4’s with the later, greener, 2.0 and 1.6 16 valve engines. They’re great to drive, just like petrol cars, but the economy meters are showing less than 40mpg overall.
In my non-scientific opinion these newer greener cars may actually be thirstier in the real World than my car that was old enough for the government’s scrappage scheme. The 16 valve engines encourage more spirited driving than the older cars so as to make the driver use more fuel.
As an update, sadly News Corporation have had bigger problems than my letter to deal with over the last few years, but I’ve now joined the 16 valve HDi brigade. I’ve had it remapped but mpg remains resolutely less than 45mpg. Much more fun than the 406 though!