Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Girl Warrior plays a new game of Super Economy

I seem to be doing a lot of motoring-related posts lately, but I can't resist adding this one.

My lovely Fiona is more than capable of an impressive surge away from a green light, and then rapid controlled acceleration up to 90mph and beyond. It's not bullet-like performance, but it's really quite surprising how such a heavy car - from the Volvo stable too - can get going, and keep going, and basically leave most other cars panting for breath.

I've certainly wiped the smirk from the face of many a male driver in a posh chariot who thought he had a right to hold the traffic up. Fiona has often made such folk give way. Fiona has shown them that their car is not top dog after all. And all done with a smile, and without any flashing. I suspect that Fiona - with her headlights always on - looks like rather like a Police car coming up fast from behind, and that panics the guilty-minded to change lanes and let her through. I like to reward them by twirling a wisp of blonde hair negligently as I pass, so that the man who thought he was Charlton Heston in Ben Hur will know he was whipped by a bimbo. The point is made even better by holding (and turning) the steering wheel in the most amateurish and girly fashion possible.

No question, cars are a statement, and give you tremendous psychological leverage. You can puncture big egos, and tease the puffed-up. Fiona has let me demonstrate the meaning of Girl Power to many Kings of the Road. It's fighting the Good Cause. Every time, it's a blow struck for equality on the highway, a reminder to arrogant men that women have a right to enjoy driving too.

But after four years of making such points, of being a Girl Warrior, I'm now retiring from the fray. It's time to show a decorous restraint. And it fits in with the vital need to carefully observe all traffic law strictly from now on.

Ever since being caught speeding on 5 February, I have been very attentive towards speed limits! You can easily see why. I've had the intense embarrassment of being caught, the depressing sensation of being caught up in an implacable legal process, and then a wonderful reprieve - no conviction! - with a chance of redemption thrown in too. I've realised that a large part of my active life away from home depends on being able to drive myself wherever I wish. I'm not going to mess about with that. So, henceforth, it must be a law-abiding Lucy - and a serenely-driven Fiona!

You don't think I'll keep it up? Well, there's a solid incentive that's not based merely on a fear of being caught again.

During the last five weeks I've noticed my fuel consumption improving. Not just marginally either. For most of the four years that I've been putting Fiona through her paces, I've rarely got better than 30 or 31 mpg out of her. This is when not towing, of course. 31 mpg was OK for a big car with automatic transmission, and permanent all-wheel drive, and permanently engaged climate-control, and all the rest. But when I first had Fiona, and before I began to use her for towing the caravan, there was a moment when I achieved 33 mpg. I never got up there again. I guessed that as soon as I was used to driving her faster, and with a certain spirited verve and panache born of increased confidence, I wasn't going to see dizzy fuel consumption figures like 33 mpg again.

But look at this. A photo of Fiona's dashboard display after arriving home yesterday from a day out with my friend E---. That was 150 miles covered on roads ranging from motorways to country lanes, plus some slow town traffic in Tunbridge Wells:

Notice anything? All right, a closer view:

Yes, 36.1 mpg! Never seen on Fiona before. Unheard-of economy. And simply because I was observing all speed limits. And no doubt driving more smoothly in general. It was my impression that the figure was steadily increasing, too. I consulted my 2010 edition of the Volvo XC60 brochure. What was the fuel consumption for the five-cylinder 2,400cc diesel engine with Geartronic automatic transmission and all wheel drive? Urban, 28.0 mpg. Extra urban, 46.3 mpg. Combined, 37.7 mpg. My own 36.1 mpg result would be that 'Combined' figure. Hmmm.

I am now very much inclined to play a new game called Super Economy, and see if I can match Volvo's own Combined figure - or even improve on it.

This matters. I know that in the twelve months to 28 February I spent £2,885 on 2,087 litres of diesel fuel for Fiona. Supposing that my new restrained and law-abiding driving habits give me a consistent 15% improvement in fuel consumption, then I will save a significant amount of cash. 15% of £2,885 would have been £432. And this why I think my new inspiration to Be Good will last.


  1. I often leave others standing at the traffic lights Lucy and my machine is only a 1600cc but it is a Peugeot Partner and moves like lightning from standstill in fact I sometimes leave BMW's wondering what I have under the bonnet! I have driven behind many a driver of so called big and fast cars and stayed with them when they have obviously been trying to leave me standing. The acceleration is good across the spectrum too. It is a manual box (I wouldn't entertain an auto), I can achieve 40-45mph if I drive reflectively but still get at least 30-35 if I put my foot down. It is that fast even with ladders on the roof rack! I tend to drive responsibly and not in any particular rush but I hate drivers who won't DRIVE their vehicles and who instead faff about and dawdle. I dislike aggressive drivers too. I drive assertively and safely. You mentioned your car has 4 wheel drive. I saw something on the Internet where the driving conditions were appalling, ice covered roads with drivers sliding all over the place, so much so even the 4 wheel drive vehicles couldn't cope. Guess what? The two wheel drive cars fared much better! 4 wheel drive isn't always best.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. Don't worry, I'm not relying on 4WD to get me out of dangerous situations of my own making, but it's nice to know that it's there. I specified it to let me tow my caravan off a soggy field with some hope of success. So far it's proved its worth.


  3. Thank goodness we don't carry ladders on our roof, our consumption has been 50.3 mpg over the 21/2 years we have had it then I don't like to use the brakes too much and waste momentum and fuel...

    1. Carrying ladders is unavoidable for me Caroline as you can imagine but I don't do many miles during the year anyway. I also like to drive using the gearbox/engine and hardly use the brakes until they are needed. I see drivers ahead of me braking constantly for no apparent reason and others driving so close to the driver in front of them they have to brake every few seconds! Idiots! They must need to have the brakes relined pretty often I would guess. I once owned a car (Avenger GT) whose brake pedal rubber cover was almost as new as it was fitted 8 years previously! The linings were almost new too! I must have travelled 80,000 miles in that car.

      Shirley Anne x

    2. ....and I have never had to replace a clutch either!

      Shirley Anne x

  4. Nearest thing I do to sport is a cross between driving and golf, I see if I can judge when to lift off the accelerator and naturally slow to a speed limit sign.

    I had an old car being serviced and was told that the brakes had a goo 5000 miles left on them, I dutifully returned only to be told that they had not changed, well...


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