Is it possible to drive a Jeep on the cheap?

Discussion in 'Fuel Economy' started by MaxxMPG, May 22, 2022.

  1. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    JEEP - Just Empty Every Pocket. Is it possible to daily drive one of these things without going broke?

    Prowling the suburbs by the millions, the 5000 pound 4x4 is today's ubiquitous family car

    Another CleanMPG success story in the making. Let's see how hypermiling techniques can be used even with the big thirsty monsters. We will find out that doing exactly that can offer rather large mpg gains, if you are measuring in terms of percentage.

    As we already know, vehicles in the SUV/CUV vehicle class have been the default choice for Family Truckster for some time now. Advertising declares the urgent need for the sure-footed traction of heavy - and costly - sophisticated AWD systems, even in markets that see little winter precipitation. The Jeep brand has been growing throughout the SUV craze, selling the name and the cars that wear it as a go-anywhere most-capable-ever most-awarded-ever Swiss Army Knife on wheels. Ads show healthy and vibrant young models - that the audience should identify with - as they take their Jeep rock crawling, driving through streams, catching some air by blasting through snow banks, and of course concluding their day with the "everyone does this at least once a week" romantic mountaintop barbecue against the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset. Head to your local Jeep retailer and what you are really shopping for is the promise that you too can evade bridge tolls by driving through the local river instead of over it, and then crawl over those pesky post-apocalyptic piles of rubble that seem to litter inner cities these days. What the ads never seem to show is the product parked next to Pump Number Three for another twenty gallons of liquid gold that won't even last a week.

    We all know somebody - if not "manybodies" (lots of people) - who saw the ads on TV, or read the drooling deliria of the mainstream automotive press, and decided to sign the note for a new SUV. "I don't drive too far", they say. And the sales rep assures them, "It's not that bad on gas - only a few extra bucks a week". As they say this, their wrinkled nose and furrowed brow tell you they're thinking, "What kind of loser can't afford a few extra bucks a week?!" Go ahead - sign here and you will be on your way.

    So today, let's check in with a real-world owner, and compare the ads and the magazine fantasies with how these vehicles are used every day by typical families.

    First, let's roll the opening credits. Sing along...


    (dutt dah dutt dah dut DUTT)

    Here's the sto-ry of a love-ly la-dy,
    Who had leased her-self a new fuel suck-ing pig.
    Pow-ered by a Pent-a-star 'n eight speed Z-F,
    It's quite a thir-sty rig.

    ...I should stop now so I don't get sued by Paramount.

    The special guest star on today's episode is a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4x4 V6.

    Parked on a paved street, far away from boulders and streams. No need for "Trail Rated" in daily use.

    The window sticker shows EPA ratings of 18 city and 25 highway. We know that EPA "city" represents driving slowly (accelerating 0 to 30 in ten seconds) in a theoretical city that is forever stuck in the year 1975, paved with velvet smooth roads that are perfectly level, with absolutely no air movement and an eternal temperature of 70 degrees F, dotted with gas stations that sell only 100% gasoline. We know that the EPA "highway" is a perfectly flat, smooth and dry road surface, laid beneath 70 degree motionless air, provided for your motoring pleasure at roughly 48mph.

    And then your alarm sounds and you wake up.

    Back in reality, the great majority of owners on the road rarely see fuel economy anywhere near the EPA ratings. And the unadjusted dynamometer numbers? Even if owners knew what they were or where to find them, they would be laughed off as pure fantasy. It's far easier to dismiss them with a hearty guffaw than to look at your own behavior and start to ask why you aren't at least getting close to the dyno figures - at least when driving conditions are reasonably close to the EPA's utopia.

    Here, we see the EPA numbers and dynamometer test results for our study subject.


    Anyone spending time here at CleanMPG knows that the EPA estimates appearing on the Monroney sticker represent a figure roughly 2/3 of what we can actually get out of any given vehicle. Who among us doesn't see a "30" on the sticker and think of it as "45"?

    Let's see what today's special guest star is currently offering, and its basic "as we found it" setup and test environment:
    • Outside temperature: 62 degrees F <--- And a torrential thunderstorm for much of the drive.
    • Tire pressure (cold): 39, 39, 38, 36 <--- Not where we usually set it but not bad readings for a car owned by the average Joe(sephine).
    • Day/Time: Friday afternoon, 5:50pm to 6:50pm <--- still the height of drive-time traffic.
    • Route: I wanted to choose a drive covering roughly half of the daily commute. I chose what I judged to be the worse of the two halves.

    This drive is located in the near suburbs of New York City, and the density of traffic lights and the volume of cars on the road make a hybrid vehicle the only practical choice. Those with conventional gasoline engine vehicles - like yours truly - can mitigate the damage done by the road and traffic conditions, but there's no getting around the fact that it's a daily war we commuters fight every day. And in any war, you will win some battles and you will lose some.

    I told our lovely lady that I chose a route specifically to represent the worst possible drive. And nature added another layer of "worst-possible" by sending a wild thunderstorm while we were out driving. And both factors were exactly what I wanted. If I cherry-picked a really easy route on a cool calm sunny weekend day, she'd get some wild mpg numbers. And then the next day, alone in her daily drive, she would see a fraction of what we got together, and she'd get discouraged and give up. Knowing she's not a car guru and not wanting to take too many techniques from the hypermiling buffet table all at once and cause her to be overwhelmed, I decided it's best to do a "Phase 1" clinic. A simple easy drive on familiar roads she uses every day, with no ScanGauge or other unfamiliar technologies, and a verbal review of "what to do" while underway. We used the in-dash MPG information for tweaking our driving style.

    At the start of the trip, I snapped a photo of the average MPG. It read 12.6mpg. That is consistent with a co-worker of mine who, when asked what mpg he's seeing in his 100% "city" travels with the same car, said 12 or 13.

    2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee in daily light-to-light drudgery. Not pretty!

    If your dash is reading 12.6mpg, the only way it can go is up. At least we hope so! So let's get moving and see what we can do.

    Starting out, I drove the first leg, and she was the student in the co-pilot seat. We went over the basics:
    • Acceleration should be gentle but not glacial. Keep the tach under 2000.
    • Three (or more) lights ahead focus. You know the roads. Start paying attention to the light patterns so you can pace the trip and avoid stops.
    • Long glides and keep the beast moving once you burned all that gas to get it moving.
    • Look at the timer used with walk/don't walk signs to know how long you have before the light changes so you can time the light properly.
    • Keep an eye on traffic coming towards you the other way. When you see there aren't any cars coming toward you, the light ahead - just around the curve - is red. Start your glide.
    • When in traffic, spend most of your time in motion without your foot on either pedal. I showed her the instant MPG readout in the dash and explained fuel cut. The Jeep shows it as "99" on the iFCD. She could feel the drag from fuel cut and I wanted her to learn that, recognize it when it happens, and use it effectively to minimize brake usage.
    • The Jeep has auto-stop and I explained how it works and how to use it. When you need to stop, you stop. Hold your foot firmly on the brake and do not lift your foot until the traffic ahead has started moving. No lifting to creep ahead ten feet because the engine will restart and then idle.
    Along the drive, we stopped at a gas station to fill up. Gasbuddy showed a local station at $4.859 - cheaper by a dime than all others within a ten mile radius. The fillup wasn't pretty.
    Gallons added - 18.728
    Price per gallon - $4.859
    Wallet drained by- $91.00

    I would have taken a picture but the thunderstorm was well underway and everything was getting rather damp.

    We switched seats. It was time for our student to graduate from the mobile classroom and put what was learned into use on the road.
    With the owner driving and the CleanMPG Drill Sargeant in attendance to provide instruction and explanations, we continued on the route to see how the CleanMPG techniques we use every day can be applied by someone who is entirely new to the ideas. One point I made is that the actual travel time does not take much longer than usual. Instead of racing to lights to sit and wait, we'd glide toward them. One thing that never gets old is seeing the smile they have when they time the light perfectly and never touch the brake. They get that great sense of accomplishment when it all works perfectly.

    Turning off the four lane road to side streets, she was already in a long glide toward the intersection. She signaled and turned the wheel and completed the turn without touching either pedal. It was amazing to me - almost as if she knew exactly what she should do. I think she's going to be just fine in this new world of efficient driving.

    Arriving back at the house, I took the photo below. The average mpg was at 20.4mpg. It was higher than that as she made that effortless and perfect right turn, but there were three stop signs between that turn and the house. As we all know, stop signs hurt when you're driving a vehicle weighing close to 2.5 tons.

    Even in rush hour during a thunderstorm, the Jeep responds well to basic techniques.

    Even driven in unfavorable conditions, and with three people aboard, the Jeep blasted through its EPA 18 rating and was heading for it's dynamometer test result of 23.15mpg. Take away the flooded roads, defroster/lights/wipers and lose some passengers, and it's entirely possible to hit the unadjusted city test figure.

    Improving from 12.6 to 20.4 represents a 62% gain. And 20.4 is beating the EPA city by 13.5%. I think someone should coin a term to define the practice of Beating the EPA estimates in whatever you drive???

    At some point in the near future, we will head out again for Part 2. If she's feeling adventurous, I will introduce the OBDii gage and start reviewing DWL and tweaking throttle position to take things to the next level. Maybe we can head down toward the beach on the highway and she can learn how to get mpg numbers approaching or even beating dynamometer highway (34.5) as long as the wind coming in off the ocean isn't too fierce.

    For many people, this slow and steady introduction yields better and longer lasting results. We're wrapping up Part 1 here, which we can subtitle "A New Hope" - like that Luke & Leia movie - because this certainly seems like a success story. And for the Jeep owner, it is indeed a new hope. The sequel, which I guess should be subtitled "The Empire Strikes Back", suggests that New York - The Empire State - will be assaulting us with the full fury of NYC traffic, wild weather, and aggressive motorists to try and wreck our MPG numbers. We will fight the battle, just as we do every day, and will go on beating the EPA in whatever we're driving. Even if it's a big honkin' SUV.
  2. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Is it possible to drive a Jeep on the cheap?
    Wayne & MaxxMPG can. I can’t. I’ll leave the Cherokee to them. I’ll stay with both our Elantras, that we bought for less than the one Cherokee, both getting 10-20 MPG more than in the Jeepland gravity field, & stay away from repairs. Yes, I’ve forgotten my mechanic’s name.
    Selling the Jeep before the first repair is needed, might be a way to do “Jeeps on the Cheap”.
    Last edited: May 24, 2022
    BillLin likes this.
  3. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Great story , Chris. Hopefully , she will retain and USE these basic techniques. Another technique is COMMITMENT.
    Can you practice these on a daily basis in the real world ?
    BillLin, litesong and Janice Cooper like this.
  4. Janice Cooper

    Janice Cooper Member

    Thank you for showing this person they can significantly improve the mpg in the JGC. Their tank of gas is expensive, but will go a lot farther using hypermiling techniques. Too bad they are stuck in a lease. I hope their next vehicle will be more fuel efficient.

    I appreciate each of you who help your family, friends, and neighbors improve the mpg in their vehicles.
  5. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    The owner does regret the decision. She had her heart set on another Rogue but despised what they did to it with most recent rebody job. Needing a set of wheels, she walked across the street to the Jeep dealer and they flipped her into an in-stock unit that we suspect was chosen to get them the biggest spiff.

    It is a nice vehicle. Well equipped. But it's 2000 pounds overweight and the engine is twice the size it needs to be. And fuel economy is about a third of what it needs to be.
    I'm looking forward to another run in the Jeep, with tires pressed up a bit more, and some real-time OBDii numbers to fine tune techniques. She is very open to learning how to stretch every tank and is encouraged by the initial gains.

    When this lease is up, I think she will definitely choose something smaller, lighter and more efficient. Here's hoping there are cars available to buy at that point so she doesn't need to buy out the JGC and continue to feed it.
    Janice Cooper and BillLin like this.
  6. litesong

    litesong litesong

    It’s good you know the MPG advantage of 100% gasoline.
    Last edited: May 24, 2022
    BillLin likes this.
  7. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    That must have to do with the periodic bouts of ugliness becoming fashionable among Japanese stylists (others too, less obviously). We're in one now. There was another round of it in the mid-1970s.
    BillLin and litesong like this.
  8. litesong

    litesong litesong

    SUVs & ugliness…… NOT periodic at all. :p o_O
    BillLin likes this.
  9. Janice Cooper

    Janice Cooper Member

    With the current high gas prices many folks regret their last car purchase or at least wish they made a different decision. I don’t regret buying the 2020 Corolla, but I wish I had purchased the 2019 Prius instead…sigh
    litesong, BillLin and RedylC94 like this.
  10. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    But it afflicts cars, too, worse in some periods than in others.
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  11. litesong

    litesong litesong

    If you have any mountains you travel regularly, the regular ICE engine AND manual transmission would be a superior selection. I adore our manual 6speed Elantra in the mountains (all other times too). When my wife had hard stop&go&stop work traffic, she chose the manual Elantra to drive.
    Last edited: May 25, 2022
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  12. Janice Cooper

    Janice Cooper Member

    Space Mountain in Disney World is the closest mountain to me. :rolleyes: I miss driving manual transmission, but my knee is grateful that I bought an automatic!
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  13. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Altho I love our elegant 6speed manual Elantra(easy clutch), I also skip lots of gears to cut down on shifting. Sometimes, I’ll shift 1-3-6 gears. On our 5 speed Hyundai Accent, I shift 1-3-5, & with the right terrain, I shift 2-5.
    For my past severe work & present arthritis, I recently discovered prescription Meloxicam & use Diclofenac Sodium gel (over-the-counter Voltaren) on specific joints. The Meloxicam is the best low-dose pill I’ve ever had (even cut them in half & take them every day & a half). Tho my stiffness, clumsiness & loss of strength are always with me, the medications really stomp sharp pain dramatically.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2022
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