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