Let's get one thing straight: We do not hate green cars. We like green cars. We like diesel. We like weirdness and engineering genius. Which is why we decided to conduct a fuel-economy experiment with a heavy right foot.
This is Flashback Friday, a recurring feature where we republish classic stories from the Jalopnik archives. Think of it as Jalopnik's 'Best Of' series. We chose this story because, above all, we really, really miss the Honda Civic i-CTDi. Even though we were never allowed to buy it. —Ed.
We'll admit it, we've been teases this week. Two forbidden diesels and nary a whisper of fuel economy. Well, today you get the goods. We aren't going to give you the standard "this is what we got in the city and this is what we got on the highway" spiel, because you can find that anywhere. Officially, the Civic does about 41/56, Q7 does 19/21. Booorrr-ing. What we're going to do is hypermile these cars. Although, much like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, we're not sure you can handle the truth. To be perfectly honest, we were shocked ourselves. Shocked and giddy, like a bunch of little girls splashing around in a pool of glistening diesel. Before you click through and watch the video, we need to lay down some facts. What we did can be repeated by anyone. There were no tricks, no cheats. Hell, we didn't even make that much of an effort. The footage you're about to enjoy isn't necessarily exciting, but from an engineering standpoint, it's smack-you-in-the-mouth amazing.
Stop! Stop the video right now. I know it's tempting to run it, but we need to tell you exactly what we did first, by the numbers, so you can fully grasp the dramatic results. On the way to and from the Chicago Auto Show—overlooking the comedic jackassery Ray provided—our mission was to see how high we could push the mileage on these cars while driving them in the manner of a your average skinflint consumer. We hacked nothing off the cars to reduce weight, and we added no special taping or streamlining to enhance the aerodynamics. In fact, we really didn't do nuthin' to enhance the mileage capabilities of these rides. As for go juice, the newly de rigeur low-sulfer diesel fuel, as sanctioned by the EPA, was used in all tests. Same stuff you get when you pull up to the pump.
The 2007 Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi was tested under what we considered a "normal use" situation, one occupant (myself), with a weekend suitcase and a computer bag. The 2007 Audi Q7 4.2 TDI was tested with myself as the driver and the same cargo setup, but with the addition of our esteemed videographer, Mr. Mark Arnold, and his gear. Again, we recognize we didn't subject these vehicles to precisely the same conditions, but to conditions we consider the average load for each.
The route to Chicago we chose testing the Civic was notably unexciting. We set aside a roughly 105 mile path between the easternmost convenience plaza after the I-69, Toll Road 80/90 interchange, and the Portage convenience plaza. For reasons of personal incompetence, the eastbound return trip occurred between the same Portage convenience plaza and the first northbound I-69 exit after the the 80/90 to I-69 interchange. The only techniques in play where a judicious use of the gas pedal, coasting (for the manual-transmissioned Civic), and drafting behind semis, which was done at a safe but useful two-to-three car lengths. Jalopnik and Gawker Media in no way endorse tailgating semis, so copy this experiment at your own risk.
Now, restart the video.
Yes, we know, 72.4 mpg is batshit cazy, but settle down, 'cause you haven't heard the Q7 numbers. Would you believe that a power plant capable of 550 lb.ft. of torque and a 6.4s 0-62 mph time, lugging around 5100 lbs and two svelte bloggers, returned 33.2 mpg? What was that about not handling the truth? Below are the conditions and calculations:
We are aware the gallons of fuel on the video for the Civic doesn't match with the calculation above, but we gave it a second squeeze and the final result was what you see. We have the goddamn receipts, skeptics. Soooo, the upshot? Here we have two stock vehicles you can't get in the US, delivering what everybody in their right mind would call impossible mileage, with little effort under less than ideal conditions. What does that mean to us? Well, it means all that bellyaching from automakers about unachievable CAFE targets and the less competitive, unsafe vehicles that would come from high targets is total, unadulterated bull-pucky. The solution to this pressing mileage-target legislation is an absolute no-brainer: Drop a diesel in everybody's lap and call it a day. 35 mpg from a passenger car should be child's play, if done right. This test only confirms—and frankly stokes—our burning desire for good, fun-to-drive, economical diesels on American roads. So where are they? They're elsewhere in the world. But here in the land of freedom and opportunity, the righteous and patriotic boosters of decent mileage numbers are forced to make do with runty gas-burners and do-gooder hybrids that don't exactly reward on the performance front. The times, they gotta change, and there's no reason they can't change like, um, right now.
Video production and voice over credit to Mark Arnold
This story originally appeared on Jalopnik on February 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM EST.