I appreciated Gary Heller's one word (wow!) review last Thursday on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. I own a "regular" Lancer, and am just as enthusiastic about it, but for a very different main reason.

Gary noted that this "street legal racecar" with the tiny 2.0 liter engine rated 289 h.p., is ranked at or near the top of the fastest production cars made. Upon checking, the actual horsepower is closer to 340. In spite of this roaring power, the Evo gets 19 city and 25 highway miles per gallon.

When gas prices first shot up, I purchased our 5-speed Lancer to replace our minivan, and cut my daily mountainous commute, Sunbury to Catawissa, from 17 to 32 mpg.

I began experimenting with different types of driving. I've increased my mileage another 14 mpg, and now average 37, tank to tank. On one recent mountainous-road 360 mile trip, hauling 2 passengers comfortably and their gear, I got 43.7 mpg. So, from the same car model, we seem to have the fastest, economical, and comfortable for 4 going.

These are the driving corrections I've made:

n Drive in a way that minimizes braking: "Stop" driving wastes far more gas than "Go" driving. When you accelerate, mileage results. However, when you step on the brakes, any physics major (or trucker) will tell you -- 100 percent loss. You've now thrown away all the dimes you've just spent holding down the gas to get the car to that speed! The main trick to minimize braking is "don't tailgate!" I will speculate that tailgating is the single greatest driver-controlled waster of gas. By keeping enough distance between me and the car ahead, I smooth-out their bad driving habits (often resulting from them tailgating), giving me enough reaction time to cut power to the drive train, slowing down naturally, often avoiding any need to brake. Similarly, cut power immediately as soon as you spot traffic ahead that seems like it might slow down. By slowing naturally, you give yourself more of a window that traffic flow will resume before you reach the backlog, so you don't lose as much momentum (that you've already paid for. Added benefits are that it will likely save you from a terrible accident at some point, and keep your insurance and fines down to boot.

n Stay alert for traffic & road conditions ahead and traffic behind: If I know I won't inconvenience anyone behind, then when approaching a steep incline, I've found it's better to slow as much as possible by cutting power, and braking (only if necessary) near the crest of a hill rather than waiting until going down the hill. Slowing at the top greatly reduces your accumulated speed at the bottom, which you'd then need to brake much harder for. Remember, harder braking equals more gas thrown away.

n Minimize the use of 5th gear to accelerate: Drop down to 4th where the engine-burn is more efficient, and use uphills to do most of your accelerating, since you must often downshift for them anyhow.

n Minimize running the engine when not moving: It's all gallons, and no miles. I take my daughter to the bus stop. Since she and the car are already warm once there, the car gets shut off. All else at that stop leave their engines running.

n Minimize A/C use: Despite arguments that you should run Air Conditioning because leaving your windows shut *saves* gas, don't believe it. My numbers show otherwise in the extreme. Also, you can simply "tell" it's not true, if you've ever gone up a steep hill with and without A/C. I sometimes must run A/C, but whenever I do, my mpg numbers take a huge hit, greater than 15%.

n Avoid using gas downhill: You don't need to -- the hill will accelerate you. I won't recommend you coast, but I will say this. Not being true rotary, piston engines are inherently inefficient due to upstroke-losses. So, the fewer rpm's the engine makes on a trip, the more gas you'll save. Coasting down a hill in 5th gear typically puts your RPM's in the 2300 range. "Coasting for real" (i.e., idling) drops them to around 700. That means you've just cut 70 percent off the engine cycles. Those who enter the mpg challenges, which desperately need to become more popular than NASCAR, realize that "burst driving" (accelerating, then coasting) is far more efficient than continuous acceleration. I suspect the upstroke-problem is the reason for that.

Ross Garside,


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