£500 Chal­lenge

Ford Puma fuel chal­lenge

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 361 To­tal mileage 57,385 What’s gone wrong The boot lock’s play­ing up

DAVID SIMIS­TER It was just af­ter Cor­ley Ser­vices when I reckon that the Puma came clos­est to conk­ing out. I’d boldly ac­cepted a chal­lenge to see how far it would go on a sin­gle tank of fuel – but with just over a quar­ter of a tank left and an­other 63 miles still to go, I wasn’t fan­cy­ing my chances.

It had all seemed like such a good idea back in the of­fice. We’d no­ticed af­ter our Christ­mas shop­ping chal­lenge ( CCW, 14 De­cem­ber 2016), that X147 OBV had not only lost to that pesky MG ZR, but re­turned a fairly dis­mal 34mpg in the process.

So it fell to the chap who man­aged to coax 29mpg out of an S-class (me) to re­store the Puma’s rep­u­ta­tion. To wit, we found a great road in North Wales that’s within our Ford’s reach, but only just. To make it there and back again – and still have enough left over to en­joy the des­ti­na­tion – it would have to re­turn rather a lot more than 34 to the gal­lon.

Which is why I found my­self at Peter­bor­ough Ser­vices at the crack of dawn, check­ing the Ford’s tyre pres­sures and mak­ing sure that there was no junk in the boot to weigh the car down. I honestly thought that our Puma could stick its fin­gers up at its crit­ics, but it wasn’t go­ing to be easy.

Ek­ing those ex­tra miles from the Puma’s range de­mands fo­cus, re­sist­ing the urge to over­take and steer­ing clear of all the rev-happy stuff it nor­mally thrives on. Mak­ing the most of one tank meant stay­ing at a steady 60mph, keep­ing it be­low 3000rpm, leav­ing the win­dows closed and the air con switched off. Oh, and avoid­ing traf­fic – the M6 Toll might be pricier than crawl­ing through Birm­ing­ham, but it does won­ders for your mpg.

By the time we reached the pic­turesque town of Llan­gollen in North Wales, the Puma had only sipped its way through a third of a tank, which meant that I could fi­nally let the Puma off its leash af­ter hours of steady-as-she-goes stuff. The Horse­shoe Pass wiggles its way 1368ft up into the Den­bighshire hills – and the café at the top, the Pon­derosa, has long been a hit with bik­ers and clas­sic fans alike. Up there it felt su­perb – but the won­der­ful Zetec en­gine would have to be on its best be­haviour if it was go­ing to make it home in one hit.

Con­di­tions weren’t help­ing, ei­ther – road­works on the A483 cre­ated tail­back af­ter tail­back and it was the hottest day of the year to date. So it was a case of ei­ther slowly melt­ing, or jeop­ar­dis­ing the fuel econ­omy game by low­er­ing the win­dows. As the tem­per­a­ture soared past 22 de­grees, I went for the lat­ter. So by the time I’d reached Cor­ley the Puma’s fuel gauge nee­dle had taken a tum­ble, and there was a very real chance that it wouldn’t make it back to Peter­bor­ough. Nat­u­rally I’d taken pre­cau­tions and brought an emer­gency fuel can with me – but the Puma’s boot lock had de­cided to play up, lock­ing it in the boot with no other way of reach­ing it.

Yet the Puma just kept go­ing – in fact I be­gan to won­der whether there was a pixie be­hind the dash­board hold­ing the fuel gauge nee­dle in place. As it fi­nally saun­tered back into Peter­bor­ough Ser­vices with­out so much as a cough or mis­fire, it still had an eighth of a tank left.

The real shock came when I whipped the cal­cu­la­tor out and did the maths. I reck­oned I could bring our Ford’s fuel econ­omy into the early for­ties, but in fact it man­aged a stag­ger­ing 51mpg av­er­age, with petrol to spare.

There is a se­ri­ous point to all this – chang­ing your driv­ing style might not per­suade a sporty coupé to pull out diesel-es­que fuel econ­omy fig­ures, but just might make Tri­umph Stag or V12 Jaguar own­er­ship af­ford­able.

In fact, I’d love to see how far I can take an XJ- S on a sin­gle tank. Any­one fancy lend­ing us one?

Made it! The £500 Chal­lenge Puma ar­rives at bik­ers’ favourite, The Pon­derosa café.

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