Feature: AJAC Eco Run, Part II: The Vehicles porsche mercedes benz mazda lexus kia green scene ford auto articles chevrolet
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Preview: AJAC Brighton to London Eco Run
Feature: AJAC Eco-Run, Part I: The Events

Review by Mike Schlee, photos by Mike Schlee and AJAC

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AJAC Eco Run – The Cars
AJAC Eco Run – The Cars

Earlier this week I posted a story about my experiences and insights gained during the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Eco-Run. During the three-day event I had the chance to drive seven different vehicles with one goal in mind: achieve the best possible mileage without excessive hypermiling.  Although I didn’t have the opportunity to drive a pure electric vehicle during this run, I was able to test a good cross-section of vehicles featuring a slew of hybrid powertrains, turbochargers, superchargers, and direct injection.  Ranging in price from $20,220 to in excess of $110,000, I sampled both ends of the automotive spectrum and found “green” technology is being applied to all forms of vehicles these days with differing degrees of success.

1st Leg: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG

The first car I drove may seem like the most out of place vehicle in the test.  Why is there a 549-hp twin-turbocharged V8 super luxury sedan driving around with the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV?  What could a 1,870-kg executive yacht have to do with being green?  Well, simply put, it was to demonstrate that fuel-saving technology can be applied to any car, even luxury sport sedans.

Feature: AJAC Eco Run, Part II: The Vehicles porsche mercedes benz mazda lexus kia green scene ford auto articles chevrolet
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For 2012 the AMG CLS 63 dumps the naturally aspirated 6.2L V8 and replaces it with a twin-turbocharged 5.5L unit.  Featuring direct injection and auto stop-start technology, the new CLS 63 AMG is reputed to offer improved performance and fuel economy.  Rated at an official 13.6 L/100 km city and 8.6 L/100 km city, I was able to achieve 10.8 L/100 km in my stint with it, driven exclusively with ECO mode selected.  For the record, the best mileage achieved in this brute during the Eco-Run was an impressive 9.7 L/100 km on the final day.

During my brief, slow drive with the vehicle I was still able to achieve enough g-force to activate the side bolsters that stiffen and adjust in corners to help counteract those forces.  I appreciated the very comfortable seats and the nice faux suede roof liner.  Since we were just puttering along, stereo systems began to have a greater importance to me and here the big CLS did not disappoint, with a crisp powerful sound coming from the 610-watt Harman/Kardon unit.

I do have one confession to make though.  I couldn’t resist the urge to hammer the gas down at least once.  I mean, c’mon, I was in a freakin’ AMG CLS with the AMG Performance Package.  How could I resist?  In my two-second break from the Eco-Run prudence, I found the V8 that sounds amazing at 1,000 rpm sounds downright euphoric at 5,000 rpm… and that 285-mm-wide tires are no match for wet roads.

2nd Leg: 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

Of all the cars I drove, the Chevrolet Cruze Eco was the cheapest, had the only manual transmission, featured the least green technology and surprised me the most.  How did they do it?  Simple… as in keeping things simple.  Starting at just a hair over $20,000, the Cruze Eco features a 1.4L 148-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed manual transmission.  Weighing in at 1,365 kg, the Cruze achieves an official Government of Canada fuel efficiency rating of 7.2 L/100 km city and 4.6 L/100 km highway thanks in part to tall gearing (80 km/h @ 1500 rpm in 6th gear).

Feature: AJAC Eco Run, Part II: The Vehicles porsche mercedes benz mazda lexus kia green scene ford auto articles chevrolet
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During my time behind the wheel I was able to achieve 4.7 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving.  With the turbocharged motor acting more like a diesel than a gasoline engine, I was able to keep the engine below 2,000 rpm and perform constant skip shifts (1st to 3rd, 4th to 6th, etc).  With a gear box as smooth and easy to use as the Cruze’s six-speed, this was easily accomplished and produced minimal engine chugging.

Having driven the Cruze previously, many of my initial observations remained true.  The front seats are comfortable, but seem to push me a bit too far forward in a slumped position.  The ride is solid and the overall feel of the vehicle is even more solid.  With the Eco wheels and tires, the Cruze gives up some of the handling prowess of the Cruze RS I drove last fall, but is still a decent handling machine.

The best the Cruze achieved during the Eco-Run was an impressive 4.4 L/100 km on the final run of the event, making many consider the question, “Is a hybrid worth the extra money?”  I’ll even go so far as to say that all factors considered, including price, for me personally this was the Eco-Champion.

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