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Old 01-26-2006, 12:07 AM   #1
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Rental Car Fleet Analysis

While driving a lonely stretch of a Mississippi highway for quite some time, I came to a realization: I rent probably at least 75 cars a year for my job. These vehicles range from sub-compact to full-size SUV, depending upon availability. Given this range of vehicle variety and number of miles driven, I immediately decided to use the data gained from these experiences to provide a real-life picture into various model's specific fuel economy and compare it to EPA estimates. I welcome the same kind of testing in this post if you drive a vehicle that's not your regular driver. The goal is to provide data to potential buyers, renters, or to evaluate the EPA's current testing methods.

The following will be provided:

* Vehicle Make, Model, Engine, Transmission, Trim Level, and vehicle size class
* A Photo of the vehicle will be taken from Edmunds.com or Intellichoice.com (where additional information and reviews can be viewed).
* The ratio of Highway vs. City driving and top cruising speed.
* The EPA City/Highway/Combined Cycle mileage provided to the public.
* Driving Style: Economy, Average, or Inefficient ("Hurried")
* Location and Weather Conditions
* If vehicle came with automatically calculated mileage

OK, for the first entry:



2006 Chrysler Sebring Base Model: Midsize Sedan
2.4L 4-Cyl., 4-Speed Automatic
Ratio: 90% Highway, 10% City; 65 mph max cruise
Driving Style: Economy;
Location/Weather: North-Central Mississippi. Mild at 35-60F.
EPA Estimates: 22 City, 30 Highway, 25 Combined
Actual Mileage: 214 Miles per 7.781 gallons = 27.50 mpg

Conclusion: Mileage close to actual EPA estimates.

RH77



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Old 01-26-2006, 08:33 AM   #2
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So you're renting 1.5 cars

So you're renting 1.5 cars per week? That's pretty crazy, awesome idea though.
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Old 01-26-2006, 08:52 AM   #3
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Re: So you're renting 1.5 cars

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Originally Posted by SVOboy
So you're renting 1.5 cars per week? That's pretty crazy, awesome idea though.
Thanks. But unfortunately, yes, I do travel extensively for my job, and sometimes I'm in 4 different cars in one week. Some weeks, just 1 if I'm in the same region.

RH77
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Old 01-26-2006, 01:45 PM   #4
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this is a neat thread. i

this is a neat thread. i don't drive different cars much lately, but it would be cool to see your experiences if you want to post them.

please post the EPA numbers too when you do it. all the other info you listed is primo. the average joe doesn't account for things like weather & temp, for example, when talking about fuel consumption.

good stuff.

btw, my personal experience is i have never met a vehicle whose EPA/NRCan estimates i could not beat consistently with good driving in average weather conditions... from mazda miata, to vw passat turbo, to cadillac seville, to honda accord, to e320, to firefly. some of the ratings i could spank easily, others took much more effort.
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Old 01-26-2006, 02:39 PM   #5
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Re: this is a neat thread. i

Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG
this is a neat thread. i don't drive different cars much lately, but it would be cool to see your experiences if you want to post them.

please post the EPA numbers too when you do it. all the other info you listed is primo. the average joe doesn't account for things like weather & temp, for example, when talking about fuel consumption.

good stuff.
Thanks! The EPA values listed in the post are taken from the EPA's raw data file, which is great for data-oriented folks. It's less user-friendly than the "booklet" everyone knows about, but it gives detailed transmission type, combined cycle mileage, and more specifics:

EPA Raw Data -- just select the year you're interested in under the "Datafile" column.

RH77
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Old 01-26-2006, 04:38 PM   #6
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cool link - thanks. that'll

cool link - thanks. that'll be useful.
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Old 02-02-2006, 09:58 PM   #7
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Chevolet HHR, LT

Well, it's that time again to report on this week's rental.

Since my rental car agency lets me choose a vehicle from a lineup, I thought I'd go "Retro" and give the new HHR a try -- otherwise, it was minivan central -- not that there's anything wrong with that, but I didn't need that big of a vehicle to cart me and my suitcase around town...



Chevrolet HHR
Trim Level: "1LT"
EPA Vehicle Class: Special-Purpose Vehicle, SUV/2-Wheel Drive, Front-Wheel Drive
Engine: 2.2L, 4-Cylinder rated at 143 Horsepower
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with Torque Converter
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 23/30/25
Test Loop: 80% City, 20% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 60 mph
Weather Conditions over 3-days: Gray with a temp range of 30-50F. Light rain, overcast skies, and heavy rain were experienced on each day respectively.
Driving Style: Average
Location Test: Urban Indianapolis
Vehicle Computer Average Speed = 29 mph
Vehicle Computer MPG = 24.2 MPG
Actual Calculation = 93 miles per 4.869 gallons (First Click Fill) = 19.1 MPG

Conclusion: The variance in calculated actual vs. vehicle-represented mileage issues a concern. 2 Theories: The tank wasn't entirely full when receiving the car (the guage showed past the F-mark upon taking delivery, though) and/or the MPG calculator on the vehicle is overly optomistic. Taking the mean of these two figures yields 21.7 MPG, which falls short of the EPA estimate for City, even though some Interstate/Highway miles were driven. Also take into consideration that heavy traffic and long idle-times were a factor.

Editor's Notes: This is a new model for 2006. Based on the Cobalt Chassis (next generation Cavalier), this vehicle's dynamics in handling and acceleration were more like a "tall car" than an SUV. Styling is definitely boxy, with poor aerodynamic features for high-speed driving. Since it is marketed as a "Crossover-Utility Vehicle", it competes with the likes of the Scion xB, Daimler-Chrysler PT Cruiser, and the Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix -- and can be bought on the cheap. Due to the fact that it has a flat loading floor with fold-flat seats, it is not considered a car by EPA standards and does not have to comply with the car-based CAFE standards, but rather the truck-based requirements. Despite this allowance for lower economy, the decision to use the 2.2L "Eco-Tech" 4-cylinder was a wise choice (instead of a pushrod V-6 in GM parts bin). Although acceleration wasn't a highlight, a cycle of mostly urban stop-and-go driving yielded a figure in the low-20's -- a good balance between power and economy, perhaps. Such vehicles may be a good choice if cubic feet of cargo space (63 cubes total) and ride height is on the top your list in buying or renting. A 2.4L, 173-hp engine is also available (but strangely enough it's rated with the exact same mileage by the EPA as the smaller engine). Reliability is too early to tell, but given the engine/transmission choice, a "Marginal" rating is expected based on reported problems in similar vehicles (based on Consumer Reports responses).

Bottom line: The car-based crossover segment is much better than Frame-on-Body SUVs in terms of economy and handling, if you don't want a "Wagon" or Minivan.

See you next time on rental row...

RH77
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Old 02-20-2006, 08:38 PM   #8
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Buick LaCrosse CXL



Buick LaCrosse (no offense to our French-Canadian friends)
Trim Level: "CXL"
EPA Vehicle Class: Midsize Car
Engine: 3.8L, OHV V6, rated at 200 Horsepower
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with Torque Converter
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 20/30/23
Test Loop: 5% City, 95% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 75 mph
Weather Conditions over 2-days:
* Day 1 -- 60-80F, Heavy Crosswinds, some A/C use
* Day 2 -- 60F turning to 28F; Heavy Headwinds through Cold Front
Driving Style: Average, with high speed limits (65-75mph)
Location Test: Little Rock - Tulsa - Kansas City
Vehicle Computer Average Speed Tank 1 = 62 mph
Vehicle Computer MPG Tank 1 = 28.3 MPG
Actual Calculation = 335 miles per 12.743 gallons (First Click Fill) = 26.3 MPG
Vehicle Computer Average Speed Tank 2= 60 mph
Vehicle Computer MPG Tank 2 = 24.7 MPG
Actual Calculation Tank 2 = 225 miles per 9.188 gallons (First Click Fill) = 24.5 MPG

Conclusion: As expected, this vehicle is designed to get its advertised 30 mpg-highway at 55 mph down to 45. The ancient pushrod "3800 Series III" 3.8L V-6 creates gobs of torque down low. The tach registered 1500 rpm at 55 mph. It was possible to get it down to 1200-1300 rpm under light throttle. This is the secret to getting good mpg in this car. Combine higher speeds, heavy wind, and higher engine speeds resulted in an economy figure much lower than advertised. Interestingly, the vehicle's calculated MPG was close to my calculated MPG when I filled it up myself. This leads me to believe that many rentals aren't delivered truly full. Either way, 30 mpg wasn't achieved.

Editor's Notes: One has mixed feelings when driving this car. You expect this mid-level model to be a good highway cruiser with heated leather seats and decent power, side-airbags, "quiet tuning", soft suspension, etc. The seats were flat and uncomfortable, but the interior noise level was very quiet, even with the high winds. The drag coefficient looks to be pretty efficient, but the styling opinion is in the eye of the beholder -- many have dubbed it the "Buick Taurus". You'll find this car in the garages of the 55+ crowd and the rental lot, as it replaces the Century and semi-sporty Regal.
The biggest complaint was keeping the car straight. Hit a bump or dip and the soft suspension absorbs the pressure but tosses the steering around. There is near-zero feedback from the wheel, and it required a HUGE number of steering inputs to keep the car straight out on the highway. It was very tiring after a few hundred miles. The dead-spot in the center was horrendous. You could turn the wheel a 1/4-turn in each direction back and forth and get almost nothing. It did have good power on tap, but a 5th gear could've been a good investment. I really tried to like this car, as I've rented it before (mostly city driving), but came away tired and disappointed.
Final note about automatic climate control systems: It seems like every time you set the "Auto" climate control in GM's, even if it's 30F outside, the A/C is engaged. It took turning the A/C button off several times to cure this. It's almost like it was trying to get you use the A/C even though you didn't want to. Most imports I've driven remember your previous A/C selection. I did use the A/C when it got close to 80F, though.

Coming up next: the 2006 Nissan Maxima SE (oh, so much fun, but so thirsty)
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Old 02-20-2006, 09:07 PM   #9
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cool review. i like these

cool review. i like these reports. imagine if you could read MPG-focused car reviews in the mainstream media?
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Old 02-21-2006, 04:25 PM   #10
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Re: cool review. i like these

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cool review. i like these reports. imagine if you could read MPG-focused car reviews in the mainstream media?
Thanks! I was wondering if anyone was really reading this. I agree -- I think Consumer Reports did a piece not too long ago that revealed the biggest offenders in real-world vs. EPA tests. I certainly hope that next year's EPA standards live up to the "real world" with their new testing procedures.

My dream job would be to write car reviews, which I'm kinda doing now with this thread in the "Editor's Comments" section. This way, some opinion gets thrown-in with real data, and all I have to do is record a few extra numbers and do a write-up, since I rent different cars weekly anyway. It's actually rather enjoyable...

RH77
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