Gas guzzlers and the economics of fuel

When what’s in the tank breaks the bank


Ford Wildtrak
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"Sorry love, I was so tired the other night that I didn’t manage to fill up before I got home."

Words that cause a bit of a pause as we leave the house. No hitting the open road for us then. Instead, it’s down the hill and a good ten miles of country lanes to the nearest town. And on the way it turns out that we’re not just ‘a bit low’, we’re actually coasting to the filling station on the last whiff of diesel in the tank. The range monitor is counting down at speed (surely we’ve not done another mile already) and an angry red light on the dashboard says that we really shouldn’t be running the beast on fumes. But we make it. And, relieved, I begin to fill up.

The numbers fly by on the fuel pump gauge. For a few moments I’m calmly squeezing the fuel nozzle and letting the diesel flow in, happy that we’ll soon be on our way. Then, after a minute or two, I start to pay attention. Those numbers are still going up. At speed. And they don’t stop until they get to a princely £89.95.

Now, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t begrudge vehicle fuel.  I own a 911 and a Ford Mustang. I am not the penny pinching type. But I am from Yorkshire where we do keep an eye on value. And for £89.95 I expect some kind of a return on my investment.

"How often do you fill it up?" I enquire casually of my wife. The Porsche and the Mustang go out a couple of times a month. In the summer. They’re not cheap to fill, but then it’s not a regular occurence.

 "Oh, mainly just once a week" she replies. She’s, um, not-from-Yorkshire.

That’s ninety-pounds-a-week for doing a bit of shopping, posting the post and going to the odd meeting. Whilst a 4x4 is essential to get out of our village in bad weather, driving it day-to-day to do the chores is, frankly, eye watering.

We get home and I lay out the fuel receipts end to end. I look at how far we’ve travelled. I get out the calculator. We’re barely making it to 20 MPG on fuel consumption, based on the last 6,000 miles.

We don’t live in the American mid-west where roads are long, and wide, and straight and where oil spills out of the ground in abundance and can be bought for a few cents a gallon at a gas station.

Yorkshire roads MPG

We live in Yorkshire, where roads wiggle, hills climb steeply and sheep stare unfazed at our approaching truck before grudgingly moving a few slow centimetres to accommodate our oncoming vehicle. It’s not really made for the most economic driving style. And neither geopolitics nor the chancellor are doing much to fill the tank for less. Frankly, fuel is expensive (and it’s not getting cheaper) and 3.2 litre Turbo Diesel engines are greedy.  Ford claims the 3.2 litre automatic should average 32.1 MPG.  Needless to say they didn’t road test the vehicle in the hills of Yorkshire when calculating these figures.

Luckily we leased the thing and we can look at our options in a couple of months. We’ll be looking for a daily driver that doesn’t need its own oilfield to keep running.  However, a 4x4 that can get out in winter will still be an item of necessity - we just won’t be using it for every trip.


By James Cartwright at 21 Oct 2019, 00:00 AM