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27 July 2017

EPA Fuel Economy Variance Worst Performers: Real-World Fuel Economy Losers

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Car shoppers rely on the EPA’s fuel economy estimates to predict what their fuel bills will be on a prospective new car, but how reliable are those numbers plastered on every new car’s window sticker? The tests, while updated over time, are still based on a standard that doesn’t truly reflect real-world usage.

Motor Trend’s Real MPG test, developed in conjunction with Emissions Analytics, proves that your real-world mileage may vary—and sometimes by a lot. We found that several cars significantly undershot their EPA estimates in combined city/highway driving. Here are the worst offenders.

(Note: Some vehicles tests are of 2016 models; they have not changed significantly for the 2017 model year.)


  • Engine/transmission: 2.4-liter four-cylinder / nine-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 24 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 20.9 mpg

The Jeep Renegade’s nine-speed automatic is supposed to save fuel, but it doesn’t do such a great job: Our Real MPG test showed a 12.9 percent difference between the EPA estimate and real-world driving. That’s significant, but we’d be lying if we said we had trouble ignoring this discrepancy. After all, we’re fond of the Jeep Renegade. It’s a cute, charming subcompact crossover with good off-road talents for its class of vehicle. If it has a bit of a drinking problem, so be it.


  • Engine size/transmission: 3.6 liter V-6 / five-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 18 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 15.5 mpg

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most capable off-roaders you can buy—but 15.5 mpg? We’ve tested full-size pickups that did better. That said, a 13.9 percent variance in fuel economy is the least of the Wrangler owner’s concerns; there’s also the noisy ride, awkward ergonomics, and abysmal road manners—none of which keep us from loving the Wrangler, an ultra-cool American icon that’s almost unstoppable in an apocalypse.


8th Place: 2017 Acura TLX

  • Engine size/transmission: 2.4-liter four-cylinder / eight-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 28 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 23.7 mpg

Honda, Acura’s parent company, is known for their fuel-efficient engines, so we were rather surprised to see the Acura TLX generate a Real MPG number some 15.4 percent lower than the EPA’s official estimate. Worse yet, the TLX runs on premium fuel, so that missing 4.3 mpg is really going to add up over the years. It’s a shame because aside from its fuel-economy woes, the TLX is a solid and sporty luxury sedan that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.


  • Engine size/transmission: 2.5-liter four-cylinder / CVT automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 29 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 24.5 mpg

The Subaru Outback’s CVT is supposed to help the 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine extract the best possible fuel economy. It works like a charm in Subaru’s smaller Impreza—for that car, the Real MPG figure beat the EPA estimate by some 24 percent—but it doesn’t do as good a job in the Legacy, which missed its EPA estimate by 15.5 percent. That’s a bummer because we rather like the Legacy for its standard all-wheel drive, direct steering, and sharp handling.


  • Engine size/transmission: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder / six-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 28 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 23.5 mpg

Chevy is one of many brands looking at small-displacement turbocharged engines to improve fuel economy. But with a big, heavy SUV to haul around, the concept doesn’t necessarily bear out the premise. Witness the redesigned 2018 Equinox: When we put it to the Real MPG test, it came up 16.1 percent shy of its EPA figure. Chevrolet has a diesel-powered Equinox in the works, and we’re hoping it’ll do a better job.


  • Engine size/transmission: 2.0-liter supercharged/turbocharged four-cylinder / eight-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 25 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 20.8 mpg

We love the idea of taking a 2-liter engine, fitting a supercharger and a turbocharger, and juicing it up to 316 horsepower. Even so, we’re pretty sure Volvo built this contraption not to make us whoop at its acceleration but to bolster their fuel economy numbers. It worked for the EPA, but not for Real MPG: The S90 T6 fell 16.8 percent short of its EPA estimate. The less-powerful T5 didn’t do much better, missing its EPA estimate by 12.2 percent. Fortunately the S90 has other charms, chief among them an elegantly clean cabin and a great chassis.


  • Engine size/transmission: 3.5-liter V-6 / eight-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 23 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 19.1 mpg

Lexus and their parent company, Toyota, are well known for their fuel-sipping hybrid cars and SUVs. But the performance-tinged RX 350 F Sport, which consumed 17.0 percent more fuel than the EPA claims it should, seems to be a bit of an outlier. We’d be more forgiving if the RX 350 F Sport was more fun to drive, but for all its sporty appearance, this thirsty Lexus doesn’t reflect its looks in actual performance.


  • Engine size/transmission: 2.5-liter four-cylinder / CVT Automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 27 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 21.9 mpg

The Rogue has done wonders for Nissan’s sales numbers, attracting buyers to the brand in droves—but we wonder if their opinion will change once they start totaling their fuel bills. The Rogue’s 21.9-mpg Real MPG figure is well off the pace of other SUVs we’ve tested—most of its rivals return closer to 25 mpg—and it’s 18.9 percent short of the EPA’s combined estimate. We like the Rogue’s upscale cabin and optional third-row seat, but the thirsty engine and indifferent driving dynamics turn us off.


2nd Place: 2017 Nissan Titan 4×4

  • Engine size/transmission: 5.6-liter eight-cylinder / seven-speed automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 18 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 14.5 mpg

Nissan is challenging the Detroit Three with its Titan half-ton pickup. It’s a good thing for Nissan that fuel economy is not a strong selling point for these trucks because our Real MPG test revealed that the Titan misses its EPA estimate by some 19.4 percent. Oops. The good news is that the Titan is a good truck, with a refined interior, comfortable ride, and an epic five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.


  • Engine size/transmission: 2.5-liter four-cylinder / CVT Automatic
  • EPA combined rating: 31 mpg
  • Motor Trend Real MPG rating: 23.8 mpg

First place isn’t always a good place to be, and we’re sure Nissan doesn’t want the Altima on this list: Its Real MPG score was a whopping 23.2 percent below the official EPA estimate. That’s a real problem, considering that fuel economy is one of the Altima’s selling points. It’s also too bad—we like almost everything else about the Altima, including its roomy interior, rapid acceleration, and quiet demeanor.

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