‘Clean’ cars are cruising through the Vail Valley
March 12, 2014
Your next ride
The annual “Green Car Convoy,” sponsored by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, usually hits the road in the weeks before the annual Denver Auto Show, which fills the Colorado Convention Center in Denver with cars ranging from frugal to flamboyant. This year’s show is April 9-13. To learn more, go to http://www.DenverAutoShow.com.
EAGLE-VAIL — George Billings doesn't want to give up the pickup he was driving Tuesday.
Now, a lot of people feel about their pickup trucks the same way gun enthusiasts feel about their firearms — "attachment" is far too weak a word. But with the price of gas again at or near $4 per gallon in the high country, feeding the pickup truck habit can be expensive. That's why Billings was so happy.
Billings, the program coordinator for the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association's Clear the Air foundation, was driving a new Ford F-150 pickup with the company's EcoBoost technology. That technology replaces bigger, more thirsty engines in cars and trucks with smaller but turbocharged engines. The idea is that the smaller engine will use less fuel in everyday driving, while still providing power when needed.
REMARKABLE GAS ECONOMY
The pickup Billings was driving on the Auto Dealers' annual Green Car Convoy this week was posting highway fuel economy numbers in the 20s. That's remarkable economy for a pickup that will tow a good-sized camper or horse trailer when needed.
Tim Jackson, the president of the dealers' group, brought his personal Jeep Grand Cherokee on the tour. Again, that's a vehicle few would associate with good gas mileage. But this Jeep doesn't use gas, it uses diesel fuel. That $4,500 option boosts the Jeep's fuel economy to the high 20s. For a vehicle with a tow rating near 7,500 pounds — again, enough for a decent-sized camper or horse trailer — it's remarkable.
That's the idea of the tour, Jackson said. It gives auto dealers a chance to show people that they can have decent, or sometimes great, fuel economy in a vehicle that suits their needs.
Visa Auto Group, of Silverthorne, added to the mountain leg of the convoy with a Subaru Crosstrek (really an Imprezza) powered by the company's first gas-electric hybrid powertrain. That option helps sqeeze a few more miles from a gallon on the Environmental Protection Agency's city fuel-economy ratings for the car.
One of the real surprises, though, came from Toyota. Although that company's Prius family of gas-electric hybrids is well known for being miserly with a gallon of gas, the company put into a convoy a new version of its bread-and-butter Corolla small car. This one, though, is the LE Eco model that the EPA believes will get up to 42 miles per gallon on the highway. That's five mpg better than the Corolla with its standard engine and a manual transmission.
The Corolla is nobody's idea of an excitement machine, but Front Range-based auto journalist Don Bain said he was impressed with the Toyota on a drive between Denver and Frisco.
The car kept up with traffic climbing into the mountains and provided a comfortable ride with heated seats and other amenities. Bain said the Toyota got 27 mpg when flogged hard up the hills but returned mileage in the high 30s on a Front Range tour this past week.
Bain said the Toyota is rolling proof that newer, more expensive technologies aren't always essential to get the most out of a gallon of gas. In fact, after more than a century of being the most-popular way to move a vehicle and passengers, the gasoline engine still isn't as efficient as it can be.
"We've still got a long way to go," he said.