In this world of increasingly fuel efficient automobiles, the difference between the most and the least fuel-efficient in a particular car company’s lineup can be surprising. This is not so much a case of there being a large number of gas guzzlers out there on the market – rather, it is a testament to the ability of each brand’s engineers to squeeze out as many miles per tank of fuel as possible without sacrificing performance.
Let’s take a look at five major automakers and compare one of their most frugal fuel sippers with one of their least efficient automobiles, according to EPA ratings, and see how much of a difference there is between the two.
The 2011 Cadillac CTS represents Cadillac’s most affordable automobile, and also the most fuel-efficient. The entry-level Cadillac CTS sedan is outfitted with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine that provides 270 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque while retuning gas mileage ratings of 18-mpg in city driving and 27-mpg on the highway when matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Even more impressive is the fact that the available 3.6-liter V-6 matches the smaller motor’s rating for each respective measure, despite providing a heartier 306 horsepower and 50 additional lb-ft of torque. Opting for the available manual transmission knocks each engine’s fuel mileage down a few pegs, especially in city driving.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade – whether ordered in regular or extended ESV editions – comes in with a much lower fuel economy rating than the CTS: 13-mpg in the city and 18-mpg on the highway when ordered with optional all-wheel drive. The Escalade, however, brings a lot to the table that the CTS does not when it comes to providing passenger capacity and utility. The Cadillac full-size SUV can transport as many as eight passengers across three rows of seating, and it also offers 108.9 cubic feet of storage space with those same rows folded forward. In addition, the 2011 Cadillac Escalade’s 403 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 provides enough torque (417 lb-ft) to allow the SUV to tow as much as 8,300 lbs.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers better fuel mileage than any other vehicle wearing the Silver Star in the luxury brand’s North American lineup. The C300 sedan comes with a thrifty 18-mpg city and a 26-mpg highway rating to go along with the 228 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of toque produced by its 3.0-liter V-6 engine. Part of this fuel efficiency is due to the seven-speed automatic transmission that Mercedes-Benz packages with the C300, which offers one more cog than many other autoboxes available on the market. It also doesn’t hurt that the C300 is relatively compact in size, helping to keep its mass down and its fuel mileage up.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz G-Class is in many ways the antithesis of any other vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz stable. This throwback full-size SUV has evolved from its original role as a military transporter into a rugged, full-frame luxury chariot for buyers interested in a tough ride that stands out from the rest of the premium sport utility pack. The G-Class only manages to offer 11-mpg around town and 15-mpg on the highway in its most efficient trim level (the G550, which comes with a 382 horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8), but it also provides a level of off-road prowess that is rare in a civilian vehicle. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class comes with full-time four-wheel drive, three lockable differentials and a raft of luxury gear that keeps driver and passengers coddled no matter how far from civilization they might find themselves.
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is a unique entry into the world of ultra-fuel efficient cars. The car employs a 149 horsepower electric motor that makes use of an internal combustion engine exclusively to recharge its batteries, and not to motivate the automobile. The Volt can run for up to 35 miles on battery power alone, after which it offers an additional 340 miles of range with the gasoline engine active. The EPA rates the Chevrolet Volt at 93-mpg in combined driving when only the battery is in use, and 37-mpg in combined driving with the gasoline engine running. For its part, Chevrolet claims that running the Volt on electric power alone consumes only $1.50 worth of electricity a day.
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS certainly dwarfs the Chevrolet Volt in terms of power output, thanks to its 6.2-liter V-8 that churns out 426 ponies and 420 lb-ft of torque when matched with a six-speed manual transmission. The muscle car can’t keep up with the Volt’s fuel mileage, however – its 16-mpg city / 24-mpg rating, while impressive for such a high performance automobile, is left in the dust by the Volt’s lofty numbers. That being said, it is unlikely that there are any Camaro SS owners out there gazing longingly at the Volt while stopped at a red light – the Camaro’s five-second sprint to 60 miles per hour makes up for the huge fuel mileage gap quite handily.
The 2011 Infiniti G sedan enjoys a popular following among luxury performance car buyers, so it should be no surprise that Infiniti elected to build an entry-level version of the vehicle – the 2011 Infiniti G25 – that offers better fuel economy than the original model while still providing good power for its class. The Infiniti G25 comes with a 2.5-liter V-6 engine that is tuned to provide 218 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque. It also delivers fuel mileage of 20-mpg around town and 29-mpg during highway cruising, thanks in part to Infiniti’s seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shifting algorithms.
The 2011 Infiniti QX56 is an imposing full-size sport-utility vehicle aimed at an entirely different crowd than the drivers courted by the Infiniti G25. Instead of appealing to those looking at the first step of the luxury ladder, the Infiniti QX56 provides family shoppers and practical-minded luxury buyers with a utility-laden workhorse that can tow (8,500 lbs), haul (up to eight passengers or 112 cubic feet of gear) and abet itself well in rough weather conditions (thanks to available four-wheel drive). Fuel mileage for the QX56’s 400 horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8 is the same regardless of whether rear-wheel or four-wheel drive is selected: 14-mpg city and 20-mpg highway.
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h claims to be the most fuel-efficient luxury car on the market. The CT 200h borrows the same hybrid drivetrain found in the Toyota Prius and matches it with a livelier chassis that is intended to offer high levels of comfort and smoothness while also delivering a more enthusiast-oriented driving experience. The 2011 Lexus CT 200h derives 134 total horsepower from its 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and pair of battery-powered motors, and it returns fuel mileage of 43-mpg in stop and go driving and 40-mpg on the highway.
Once again, the most fuel hungry automobile in a luxury car company’s lineup turns out to be a full-size SUV – in this case, the 2011 Lexus LX 570. What many luxury sport-utility vehicle buyers aren’t aware of, however, is that the LX 570 wears the same bones as the vaunted Toyota Land Cruiser, a truck that is renowned around the world for its unstoppable off-road capabilities. Although the LX 570 dresses up the Land Cruiser platform with a long list of luxury features, it still offers the same equally extensive range of trail-friendly gear, including full-time four-wheel drive. The SUV’s 5.7-liter V-8 engine generates 383 horsepower and offers fuel mileage of 12-mpg in city driving and 18-mpg on the highway.