Owner Story: Economic Driving Tips

I should start this writeup by saying that this report is mostly relevant to drivers of the 3.6L V6 Saturn Aura XR with the 6-speed automatic transmission.  I have been having a great couple of weeks, folks. I reset the average miles per gallon (MPG) calculator on my DashHawk at the beginning of July and looked down today to discover an average all city fuel economy of 28.9 MPG. Yes, that's right. My driver information center (DIC) shows an average speed of 36mph. The fastest speed limit on my 2 mile (one-way) commute is 40mph.  If "stop and go" is the enemy of MPG, then the five stop lights in that 2 mile distance should mean I am throwing my money away.

So I figured that there may be a few people on this board who would be interested in how I don't. First off, go skim (do not take everything to heart) CleanMPG.com - a website by a guy who has coined the phrase "hyper-miling" and gets 70+ MPG out of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. He's set the record in an Insight where they achieved something like 109 MPG. There are only a few things I actually practice from this site:

  1. DWB - "Drive without braking" or "driving with buffers." This is likely the single most effective gas-saving technique you could use. The site outlines it.
  2. "Roller Coaster" acceleration. I don't know what the site calls it specifically, but it pretty much means you accelerate when going down hills, and let off the gas, or only tap it, when going up them. In reality this is the exact opposite of what most drivers do
  3. When you think about it, this concept is pretty well physics 101 - conservation of energy. You are using gravity to your advantage by allowing it to help you accelerate down the hill, so you're using less gas to get to the speed you arrive at than you would on a straight, or especially upward, road. Then you let that momentum carry you up the hill - just like a roller coaster.
  4. "Rabbit hopping" or something to that effect. It's basically letting other cars "trip" the stop lights for you, before you get there - so that you don't have to stop for them.

If you combine those two techniques with a couple other points I've found out on the Aura, you can get some really good gas mileage, even in the city. Here are some Aura-specific points:

  1. Get yourself to ~33mph quickly. This is probably the single biggest gas-saver. And if you think about it, 33mph isn't that much faster than any posted inner-city speed limit (in MN if one's not posted, it's 30mph). I let the engine wrap up to about 3k RPMs on my way there, then let off completely. The key here is this is the shift point for 5th gear (bear in mind I have had the trans reflash done on my '07 XR). Yes, at only 33mph, you are in the 2nd to last gear on the car.
  2. If you're cruising below that, use Manual mode to always make sure you're in the highest possible gear - sometimes you may have to "fight" it (keep tapping + because you get automagically downshifted) but it'll help the mileage while you are putzing around.
  3. Maintain speeds by tapping the gas only. Avoid "leaving" your foot in the gas pedal - it's especially unnecessary on the aura w/ how "loose" the transmission is. If you do have to leave your foot in the gas, pay attention to just how much (or little, as you'll find) you actually have to push to maintain a speed. I've seen my aura maintain 34-36mph in the city while my DashHawk is registering anywhere from 31-37 MPG.
  4. Shift into neutral during short stops. Incidentally - in the latest issue of Saturn Signatures magazine, they showcased how the new Astra's automatic transmission actually does this automatically to save gas.
  5. We all know our commute. You know when you're at a light that stays red for a long time. If you are coming up to it, and can tell how much longer it's going to stay red, shut the car off. I actually shut it off while coasting up to the light. NOTE the aura DOES lose steering as soon as you turn the key off. So be mindful of that. It does not, however, lose braking capability (in the short distances that I've used this technique)
  6. Look ahead. If you see a few blocks up that the light is red - why maintain your speed? slow down, who cares if others pass you, they'll be stopped while you roll on by.
  7. Watch your highway speeds. I recently took a trip down to my hometown - 160mi away. There are two main ways to get there - one way is 70mph interstate the entire way down, then 55mph highway for about 50 miles. The other is 65mph state highway for half the way, then 55mph highway for the other half.

I drove the "slower" route once, never going more then 3mph over the posted speed, and my Aura achieved a braggable 34.7 MPG on the highway. This was before I started incorporating they "hyper-miling" techniques I have already talked about. I am anxious to drive the same route again and give them a shot.

Driving the "faster" route, I nearly always get in the upper 20's (27-29 MPG) with occasionally averaging barely into the 30's. Again never going more than 73mph.
I want to use my DH some time to log different RPMs and Speeds against the instantaneous MPGs to try and find the exact highway efficiency speed. Rest assured I'll post what I find.

At any rate, hopefully this can help some of you squeeze the distance out of every drop of gas you're paying (so much) for nowadays. I would encourage all of you to sit down and do a bit of math some day. Figure out just how much time you're (really not) saving by speeding. Perhaps it'll be just the thing to show you that slow and steady helps the budget

Your mileage may vary. Always use your best judgment and obey all traffic laws in your area. I do not recommend incorporating these for the first time on a morning rush hour commute when you're late to a meeting with the CEO.

Source: bc3tech

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