Car Corner
Gas Mileage Comparison

February 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

A few months ago I went to the International Car & Truck Show. I attended that with my brother-in-law that owns an Acura 3.2TL. He would point out cars that were supposed to be economy cars with gas mileage ratings worse than his. I was not sure if he was bragging or if he was telling the truth. But I started to notice myself that a number of small cars with small engines got rather unimpressive gas mileage.

That lead me to do some digging to see if we were wrong, or if some cars just don't seem to fit. I am glad to report that we were not out of our minds. I found quite a few examples of cars that had mileage ratings that just didn't jive with their economical status.

Below is a table that shows some of the cars that really stand out as having mileage out of character for their mission in life.

Car Engine (liter, type) Horsepower Weight (lbs.) 0-60/1/4 mi. Mileage (City/Hwy)
Acura 3.2TL 3.2 V-6 225 3447 7.2/15.7 19/29
VW Beetle 2.0 I-4 115 2712 10.2/17.5 23/29
Lexus IS300 3.0 I-6 215 3270 7.0/15.3 18/23
93 Camaro 5.7 V-8 275 3400-3500 5.5-6.0/Low 14's 17/23
Chevrolet Corvette 5.7 V-8 345 3248 5.6/13.9 17/25
Chrysler 300M 3.5 V-6 253 3552 6.6/15.0 18/27
Toyota MR2 Spyder 1.8 I-4 138 2195 7.5/15.6 25/30

I listed the Acura first since it was going to be the starting point for comparisons. I distinctly remember seeing the VW Beetle at the car show and noticed its poor mileage. The Beetle weighs over 700 lbs less than the Acura, has 1/3 the engine size, about half the horsepower and significantly slower performance. Yet it manages to only get the same highway mileage as the Acura. I assume its weight advantage is the only reason in beat the Acura in city mileage.

Then I remembered seeing the Lexus IS300. I like this car, and so it took me by surprise to see its poor mileage. Since it is likely that this car would compete with the Acura, it is appalling that a light car with a smaller, less powerful engine would get 6 mpg less than its competition for such a small gain in performance

In fact, I thought I remembered it having a mileage rating close to the IS300's with my Camaro. The numbers listed here for my Camaro are from memory and could be wrong, so I decided to check the current Corvette's rating. That reassured my memory of my Camaro. The IS300 is lighter than my Z, has a smaller engine, newer technology, and is a fair amount slower. So why does it get the same gas mileage? Shame, shame Lexus!

I decided to see what one of my favorite sedans had to offer to compete with the outstanding mileage/performance of the Acura. Thank goodness the Chrysler 300M held its own. It is heavier than the Acura, with a larger more powerful engine. This results in better performance with a slight ding in mileage. As it should be.

Finally I decided to take a look at a really small car. It is amazing that the Toyota MR2 gets only 30 miles to the gallon on the highway. It weighs over 1000 pounds less than most of these cars, yet only managers to beat the Acura by 1 mile to the gallon at highway speed.

It looks like my brother-in-law and I were on the money when we saw some cars that should get good to great gas mileage doing so poorly. I guess we will all be buying gasoline for a long time to come.