As if to prove that hybrids and electric cars are not the only way to get around efficiently within environmentally conscientious parameters, Volkswagen of America has announced that a 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel car set a new Guinness World Record for having the “lowest fuel consumption—48 U.S. contiguous States for a non-hybrid car” with a staggering 81.17 miles per gallon.
Over the course of 16 days, the peppy little turbo-diesel five-door you see here traveled 8,233.5 miles, sipped $294.98 worth of diesel fuel, and trounced the hybrid vehicle record of 74.34, by getting more than 6 extra miles out of each gallon. Considering that places like Colorado and parts of West Virginia are mountainous as all hell, this is no small feat; after departing from Volkswagen of America’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., on June 22, the little car returned to its starting point on July 7, having visited all 48 contiguous states without incident.
Piloted by Wayne Gerdes (automotive journalist and founder of cleanmpg.com) and co-driver Bob Winger, this little jaunt around the lower 48 was just another day at the office for these two. Gerdes is what you would call a “Jedi-level hypermiler,” meaning he’s set numerous mileage records in more than 100 vehicles over the years. On this trip, he broke the previous Guinness World Record that he set in a TDI Passat back in 2013. “Volkswagen’s TDI Clean Diesel engines are just amazing,” he said. “I don’t think people realize the potential mileage you can get from them. In our experience, it is possible to get truly impressive mileage results by using just a few simple fuel-saving techniques.”
The 2015 Golf TDI uses a highly advanced turbocharged Clean Diesel engine with direct-injection to get an EPA estimated highway fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon when paired with a six-speed manual transmission, a far cry from the 81.17 miles per gallon logged on the trip. To get that kind of extreme efficiency, you need more than just a clever engine and some well-timed downshifts to keep your car ahead of the curve, so Volkswagen opted to ask for a little outside help.
Like a winning sports car team, Gerdes and Volkswagen received assistance from a group of pre-chosen sponsors in order to make this slow-pace race a resounding success. While Shell took care of the team with its ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, Goodyear hooked the car up with a set of Assurance Fuel Max tires that feature a fuel-saving tread compound which helps increase fuel efficiency by lowering rolling resistance. On the tech side of things, LG, Garmin, and Linear-Logic measured fuel economy, tracked daily progress, monitored speeds, and kept the guys over at Guinness World Records in the loop 24/7.
There’s no tricked-out high-flow exhaust system, hacked ECU, or other modifications that limit fuel pressure and tweak timing. Just some smart driving techniques, a set of fuel-efficient Goodyears, a slew of tracking devices, and $294.98 in Shell diesel fuel.
One of our favorite things about the Golf TDI is that it remains fun when you want it to be, unlike most hybrids. Turbo-diesel engines are famously torque-rich, and since Volkswagen’s offering doesn’t weigh a lot to begin with, that torque goes a long way. Michael Horn, president and CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America, maybe said it best by claiming that “The great mileage and long range of our TDI models is a pure convenience factor that few other vehicles on sale can match. It’s a simple formula: Less Stop, More Go!”