In this episode of Beetle Diaries, Nathan Adlen joins Tommy Mica, as to put the 1971 VW Super Beetle to a 21st century MPG test. Volkswagen used to claim in a series of old advertisements that the Beetle was good for an ‘Honest 25 MPG’. To put that claim to the test, we stuck Nathan (and Geoff, our giant teddy bear) in our long-term Volkswagen Alltrack. That gives us a basis to test VW’s advertisement and collect a modern-day reference point. Which car will emerge victorious in this classic old vs. new MPG challenge?
To test MPG, Tommy and Nathan set off on a 50-mile MPG loop around Boulder. We designed this route to feature a good mix of city driving, highway driving, and hilly backcountry roads to get the most realistic mix of driving conditions we can. Starting and ending at the gas pump, the loop itself covers almost exactly fifty miles.
We calculate MPG using the two click method. That method involves filling the car to the first click, waiting 30 seconds to let everything settle, then go until the pump clicks one more time. We do this to ensure that we get a more accurate measurement for each vehicle we test.
Now, down to the powerplants. Our 1971 Super Beetle has a 1600cc (or 1.6-liter) air-cooled four-cylinder engine. When it was new, the engine produced a whopping 60 horsepower. Unlike the modern-day Golf Alltrack, the Beetle is rear-engined, and that engine sends power to the rear wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission. Again, Volkswagen claims a respectable 25 mpg target for the old-timer in our MPG challenge.
While it is the “Beetle Diaries”, we thought we’d give Volkswagen’s icon a modern-day challenger. The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack makes use of a small, but much more modern, 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower. The Alltrack sends its power to all four wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. The EPA estimates 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, for a combined 24 mpg.
After Tommy and Nathan completed their route, they headed back to the pump to calculate their fuel economy. The Alltrack’s computer measured a remarkable 33.3 mpg after the 50-mile loop. What did the pump say? After employing the two-click method, Nathan managed to get 35.18 mpg. A better figure still from the modern-day contender.
As for the Bug? Naturally, being 47 years old, Tommy didn’t have a trip computer to show his fuel economy on the move. Instead, he had to jump out and do some math at the pump in stead. What were the numbers? Over used a total 49.6 miles, Tommy used 1.784 gallons of fuel. That equates to 27.8 MPG – 2.8 MPG better than Volkswagen’s ‘honest’ claim. Not too shabby, Felix, not too shabby.
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