I am a big fan of the Television Show “Top Gear” on BBC America. If you are not familiar with the show, it is three guys presenting (as they say in the UK) a program about cars. They review horribly expensive performance cars that no one will ever be able to afford, they put a celebrity guest in a Daewoo Nubria (actually the English Chevrolet model of the Daewoo) and have them race around their track and the have humorous challenges for the three presenters. It might be to spend 1000 pounds on a used car and turn it into a police car (complete with secret weapons), and then test out how well they did, or to have one them race a parachutist with a flying squirrel suit who has jumped from a helicopter, or to put to various challenges two luxury cars from the seventies (a Rolls and A Mercedes) that would have been the type to have been used by Elton John or Idi Amin. I hope you get the idea.
Anyway, the other night the challenge on the program was a race (not surprisingly). There is a resort town in England called Blackpool (the subject of a different series) where apparently they have a light turning on event every year (maybe this episode was near Christmas, I have no idea). They invite a celebrity to flip the switch, this year it was the Top Gear presenter’s turn. But the producers of top Gear decided to turn it into a race, where the three would start from a point in Switzerland and drive to Blackpool, 750 miles away. They could choose their own type of car. Whoever got there first would flick the switch. But the twist was they could only use one tank of gas.
So one fellow chose a Suburu diesel economy model that has a pretty big gas tank, one chose a Volkswagen mini type diesel car with a smaller gas tank, and one chose a Jaguar diesel touring sedan, because he reckoned the challenge was impossible and he wanted to run out of gas near his home (which is near London, a couple of hundred miles from Blackpool).
The segment was fun to watch and interesting, but what struck me was the gas mileage they reported as they were going along. They, of course, have cars that report real time gas mileage (I think many American cars also now do this, but probably not as many models as European car companies have that do). So the Volkswagen was getting 75 miles per gallon, the Suburu was getting 70 and even the Jag was getting 50 some miles per gallon.
This really pisses me off. All the Americans who say we need to drill off the coasts and in Alaska, so we can put fuel in the SUV’s that make under twenty MPG on the highway. Engine technology got better over the last thirty years, and the Europeans used that technology to make their cars more efficient and we used it to make our cars more powerful. We made heavier and less stable SUV’s that have the speed of a muscle car and the handling of a panel van. At under twenty miles per gallon.
I hope Obama gets serious and arranges to get some efficient cars imported over here, or even better sets up a plant in Pittsburgh to make them here. 75 MPG. Although your mileage may vary.