Ev­ery me­tre counts when you’re try­ing to drive as far as pos­si­ble on a litre of diesel, writes Richard Berry

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Consumer Report -

THE ren­dezvous point is Mel­bourne Air­port. The chal­lenge is sim­ple — drive as far as pos­si­ble on a sin­gle litre of diesel fuel. The re­sult will prove — or dis­prove— the ef­fi­ciency of Volk­swa­gen’s lat­est Polo 66 TDI tur­bod­iesel.

The course is set and is made up of 43.7km of var­i­ous roads, start­ing at the air­port car park and head­ing north into outer Mel­bourne be­fore loop­ing back to the Calder Free­way and re­turn­ing to the air­port.

Ed Or­dyn­ski, fuel econ­omy su­per­star and one of the cars­Guide team who named the Polo last year’s

cars­Guide Car of the Year, is avail­able for ad­vice as part of Volk­swa­gen’s Think Blue cam­paign to en­cour­age bet­ter fuel use among Aus­tralian driv­ers.

‘‘It’s an ed­u­ca­tion process all about un­der­stand­ing how to drive ef­fi­ciently and sym­pa­thet­i­cally,’’ Or­dyn­ski tells us. ‘‘It’s also about un­der­stand­ing the tech­nol­ogy you have pur­chased on your car.

‘‘Many of the tech­niques — such as look­ing far ahead and an­tic­i­pat­ing what is hap­pen­ing, giv­ing your­self dis­tance from other cars and leav­ing more room to slow down grad­u­ally— should be part of ba­sic driver ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘It’s not only fuel-efficient but also much safer and far kinder to your car, too. You win on ef­fi­ciency, safety and ve­hi­cle longevity.’’

Or­dyn­ski ex­plains that an av­er­age eco driver should get econ­omy of 4.7 litres/100km, which means 21.2km on a sin­gle litre.

But he has just driven VW’s 1-litre Chal­lenge and has some­how man­aged to travel 38.5km on a litre.

Or­dyn­ski will be tak­ing part with us, but he’s be­hind the wheel of a slightly hot­ted-up ver­sion of our Polo.

As an ex­tra in­cen­tive, we are told VW will do­nate $10 for ev­ery kilo­me­tre we travel to the Queens­land Flood Re­lief fund.

‘‘Re­mem­ber, just leav­ing the car park could have the big­gest im­pact on your fuel con­sump­tion,’’ Or­dyn­ski calls out.

Too true. An­other jour­nal­ist, cho­sen to lead the chal­lenge run, im­me­di­ately takes a wrong turn and, to­tally un­aware, heads back into the car park.

It’s my turn now and, still con­fi­dently chuck­ling to my­self about the first guy go­ing off in the wrong direc­tion, I man­age to stall the Polo on take­off, be­fore over-revving and putting my foot to the floor to get in front of the Sky­bus as I merge into the traf­fic. That is prob­a­bly my litre gone! Head­ing north the speed limit is 100km/h, so I choose a fuel-friendly 90km/h and pick up an un­friendly conga line of traf­fic.

Within five min­utes I’ve caught up to the first mo­tor­ing journo who is sitting on 70km/h while the third and fi­nal con­tes­tant has also set out and is some­where be­hind me also about to make a wrong turn.

Thank­fully, there is a VW road crew with a jer­rycan of diesel for when we all run out.

Win­dows down, stereo on, I sit be­hind the journo in front. Over­tak­ing some­body who left five min­utes ear­lier would surely be the end of my fuel.

It’s not long be­fore the road goes all coun­try on me with rick­ety wooden bridges and steep wind­ing hills.

The bloke in front is now get­ting in the way a bit be­cause I am try­ing to build up speed com­ing down the hill so I can climb the next one and that’s not what he is try­ing to do.

By the 30km mark we are trav­el­ling through farm­land and on the way back to the air­port.

I had ex­pected my Polo to run out of

It’s an ed­u­ca­tion process all about un­der­stand­ing how to drive ef­fi­ciently and sym­pa­thet­i­cally

juice about 10 kays ago. But it keeps go­ing. Now I see Or­dyn­ski in his red souped-up Polo gain­ing ground.

Pass­ing the 40km mark, I can see the air­port car park.

I am go­ing to make it, and I’m go­ing to over­take the journo in front.

But, just as I’m about to make fu­el­sav­ing his­tory . . . that was it, the Polo was done.

Out of diesel, I coasted to the side of the road and checked the trip com­puter: 41km.

Or­dyn­ski flies by. Then I get a honk from the journo who is in the Polo that set out af­ter me as he speeds past wear­ing a huge grin. He has run out 3.5km later go­ing up the on-ramp to the air­port. Or­dyn­ski will stop just be­fore him at the 42.6km mark.

The first Polo, though, the one driven the wrong way straight away, made it home — a full 43.7km and he even parked the car. Ac­tu­ally, count­ing his ad­ven­ture off into the car park his to­tal dis­tance came to 44km.

Avoid­ing the is­sue of me com­ing last, we have raised $1285 for the Queens­land Flood Re­lief. ‘‘I am very sur­prised,’’ Or­dyn­ski says. ‘‘Your group has taken it se­ri­ously and com­pet­i­tively, which ac­tu­ally makes it great fun too.

‘‘The dif­fer­ences be­tween you are small and prob­a­bly down to minute vari­a­tions in traf­fic flow and wind direc­tion.’’

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