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Volkswagen 2015 Golf TDI diesel tours all lower 48 states on 101.43 gallons; 81.17 mpg

A 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel has set a new Guinness World Records achievement for the “lowest fuel consumption—48 US contiguous States for a non-hybrid car” with an 81.17 mpg (2.9 l/100 km) performance. Traveling 8,233.5 miles (13,251 km) around the US in 16 days on $294.98 of Shell Diesel fuel, the Golf beat the previous mark of 77.99 mpg (3.01 l/100 km) by more than 3 mpg, and also beat the hybrid vehicle record of 74.34 mpg (3.16 l/10 km) by more than 6 mpg. The 2015 Golf TDI carries an EPA-estimated highway fuel economy rating of 45 mpg (5.22 l/100 km).

The record-setting Golf TDI, sporting Volkswagen of America’s 60th anniversary emblem, as well as logos from sponsors Shell, Goodyear, LG, Garmin and Linear-Logic, departed from Volkswagen of America’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., on 22 June. It returned on 7 July, having visited all 48 contiguous states.


Wayne Gerdes, automotive journalist and founder of, was the primary driver. His co-driver was Bob Winger, an electronics engineer long involved in energy and conservation projects. Gerdes is an expert hypermiler who has set mileage records in more than 100 vehicles. In 2013, Gerdes set the prior Guinness World Records title for “lowest fuel consumption—48 US states for a non-hybrid car” in a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI, with 77.99 mpg.

For the attempt, the Golf TDI used Shell ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires which feature a fuel-saving tread compound to help increase fuel efficiency. The record-setting Golf TDI was also equipped with a Linear Logic ScanGauge II to precisely measure fuel economy, G4 smartphones by LG and a Garmin nüvi 57 LM GPS navigator to meet Guinness World Records tracking requirements.

The 2015 Golf TDI features Volkswagen’s EA288 diesel engine. The EA288 is based on the Volkswagen MDB, its modular diesel engine toolkit (Modularen Diesel Baukasten) (earlier post).


The EA288 in the Golf is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injection diesel engine, a thorough update from the powerplant in the previous Golf. Despite the similarity in basic specifications, the only aspect that carries over from the previous EA189 unit is the cylinder bore spacing.

The new engine produces 150 hp—10 more than before—at 3,500 rpm, as well as 236 lb-ft (320 N·m) of torque at 1,750 rpm. The engine, when combined with the manual transmission, carries an EPA estimated rating of 30 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway (combined 36 mpg/6.53 l/100 km), an improvement of 1 mpg in the city and 3 mpg on the highway over the previous EPA numbers.

The compact EA288 engine has the intercooler for its turbocharger system integrated directly into the intake manifold, which serves a two-fold purpose of increasing throttle response and performance as well as helping lower emissions.

The engine block is cast iron, with a forged steel crankshaft that runs in five main bearings and has four counterweights. In order to counteract engine vibration and maintain smooth operation, the EA288’s crankshaft is connected to two gear-driven counter-rotating balancer shafts that spin at twice engine speed. Friction has been reduced by about 15% in the engine, through the use of roller bearings for the drivetrain side camshaft, increased piston-to-wall clearance, and lower piston-ring tension, among other measures.

The aluminum-alloy crossflow cylinder head has a number of unique features. First, the camshafts are integrated into a separate housing by a thermal joining process, ensuring a very rigid camshaft bearing while keeping the weight low. Second, each overhead camshaft operates one intake valve and one exhaust valve per cylinder (as opposed to one camshaft for intake valves only and one for exhaust), allowing for greater air delivery and swirl. The engine features variable cam phasing on the intake and exhaust valves.

The EA288 Clean Diesel TDI engine places strong emphasis on thermal management, which is evident in the cylinder head’s two-section coolant jacket, as well as a three-part cooling circuit and switchable coolant pump. Compared to the previous engine, emissions are reduced by up to 40%, helped by siting the exhaust after-treatment module close to the engine and by the use of a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation system.



A 100 mpg ICEVs could become a reality with less weight, less drag and Rolling resistance?

PHEVs could do even better?

Thomas Pedersen

In Europe we have the choice of a 1.6 litre 110 hp TDI with some ~10% better fuel economy than this one. Assuming their record setting effort rarely broke 70 mph, the 1.6 should have a definitive advantage and could have gotten even further.

The article could do with a little more info, such as average speed, typical cruising speed, use of AC (I suppose not in cold/moderate climate), etc.


I also wanted some more information on average cruising speed. Were they able to basically keep up with traffic to achieve this or were they a rolling traffic hazard?


@Thomas Pedersen,
Agree! The 1.6 BlueMotion would have used significantly less fuel. However, it is not available in the USA. Perhaps VW thinks that power is more important than fuel economy in the USA. Looking further on the horizon, a 3-cylinder version could easily achieve 110 hp, i.e. same as the 1.6-liter engine. Combine that with a simple and cost-effective 48 V mild hybrid system and the 100 mpg barrier would be broken (in this type of “test”).

Christopher Miles

Pardon if this has ben answered elsewhere- Anyone have an idea of how much the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires save?


We have a 1.4l cruze gas engine which does quite well on the highway. I don't want to lose the actual donut tire (The eco uses fix a flat) and I can't change the aero obviously - But I CAN change the tires from the OEM Firestones if it would be worth it. Do they last as long, etc


Thomas Pedersen

@ Peter XX,
3-cyl engines are all the rage now, and quite understandably so. Cutting a cylinder and 1/4 of the displacement immediately cuts 1/4 of heat losses and increases mean cylinder pressure.

BMW have shown the way with their 0.5 liter-per-cylinder 3-cyl petrol and diesel engines. And VW themselves have replaced their (nice) 1.2 4-cyl with a more efficient 3-cyl 1.0 with the same power output.

I bet your 3-cyl diesel is coming before long.

Also agree on the mild hybrid solution with beefed-up starter/generator to supply boost power for short duration increases in power demand (passing other vehicles, or climbing over the top of a small hill in high gear).


@Thomas Pedersen,
Something that surprises me is that BMW has not yet introduced a “high-power” version of the triple. The modular engine (3, 4 & 6) can give ~60 hp/cylinder, which would yield some ~180 hp for the triple. This engine could replace the lower power versions of the 4-cylinder engine. Perhaps the 3-cylinder hype is not that big after all.

Thomas Pedersen

@Peter XX,
Not sure what the reason is, but BMW would be cannibalizing their 4-cyl range of engines, which are quite successful and popular.

I noticed that the BMW 325D and 330D have similar fuel economy, where the 54-hp-per-cyl 4-cyl engine is not much more fuel efficiency than their 43-hp-per-cyl 6-cyl engine. I must confess I only know what I can read from their public website.

I wonder whether a high degree of boosting reaches a point with diminishing returns in terms of energy efficiency and increased cost and complexity. Those 60-hp-per-cyl have some kind of double boost (VW 240 hp 2.0 TDI as well), which is complicated and expensive.

Here is another possible reason; BMW fears that their customers are too conservative to welcome a double-boost 3-cyl to replace the highly popular 2.0d engine, which is their main bread-winner in the European market.


Quote: "Gerdes is an expert hypermiler". Enough said. It's not just the car, it's the annoying driver. There is no way that car kept up with traffic. Hypermile driving is so incredibly annoying to others. It's fine if alone on the road, but not in daily traffic. Hypermilers typically cruise at the most efficient speed (read 42 MPH) and "lift" throttle and even shut the engine off, 3200 to 3700 feet before every stop. They are annoying beyond belief.

Thomas Pedersen


Why on Earth would you keep the foot on the gas coming up to a stop where you know you have to brake?!? The only thing gained from that is higher fuel consumption and more brake wear.

A second advantage of taking your foot off the gas in advantage is that it increases you chances of not having to stop at all because the light turned green in the mean time.

Few things make as furious a taking the foot off the gas in order to time my arrival at the intersection such that I do not have to stop, but then someone else cuts in from of me, and has to brake to a full stop before the light turns green. And then I have to come to a full stop too. And it's not like I go slow on the straights - on the contrary. So there was no real reason for the other person to pass me.


If they drive like the average guy drives, they won't get anywhere near that mileage. They use professional drivers schooled to get every possible mile squeezed out of a gallon. These averages mean nothing.


Quote Thomas Pederson: "cujet,

Why on Earth would you keep the foot on the gas coming up to a stop where you know you have to brake?!? The only thing gained from that is higher fuel consumption and more brake wear."

For practical reasons, that's why. On urban surface streets, coasting from a "hypermile" speed of 42MPH to zero, timed exactly to recover 100% of the energy takes time. With much of that time spent slowing to a crawl, often in neutral with engine off. VW TDI cars on LRR tires coast like crazy.

Hypermile driving is fun, when nobody is being inconvenienced. This is not the case here. The last thing I want to do is intentionally annoy my fellow Americans. That's simply rude and inconsiderate of their needs and wants.


Why don;t they have a "hypermileing mode" on cars?
You could have a rear view camera and only do it when noone was behind you?
If it was an official mode, you could specify the max and min speeds and let the computer do the rest.
You could specify 60 and 55 as the limits and go for it.
(or at night, if you really wanted, and noone was around, 40 and 45)
It strikes me that it would be trivial to do as an "official" mode (or even an "easter egg" hidden mode).

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