Father Knows Best
Like most people in this country, I'm appalled by skyrocketing gas prices. It doesn't help matters that my ride is an '04 Hummer H2. I've gone with the urban warrior look, including lots of chrome and 22x10-inch Weld Racing Velociti 8 wheels with Nitto NT404 305/45R22 tires. Obviously, I don't take my H2 off-roading. My question is about improving fuel economy. I didn't buy a Hummer expecting 30 mpg, but I also didn't expect gas prices more than 3 dollars a gallon. I've got too much money tied up in my truck to bail out, but I would like to maximize mileage. My dad was ragging on me about how dumb I was to buy a Hummer and he also said my driving habits were a big factor in getting poor fuel economy. I don't do smoky burnouts at every light, but I like to get up to speed quickly and get where I'm going. I know I'm wasting some fuel, but is that really a big economy factor? Another point my dad and I argued about was the value of cruise control. I don't use cruise control because the freeways around here are so busy that it's hard to maintain a constant speed. Dad claims jack-rabbit starts (his term, not mine) and not using cruise control are bigger gas-wasters than proper tire pressures, vehicle weight, and keeping the truck tuned up. At least, we both agreed that long warm-ups and idling waste gas. My dad will believe that I'm right and he's wrong, if he sees it in print. Maybe then he will get off my back about the way I drive. Thanks.
Brandon McNeil
Brentwood, California

Sorry to say this, but father knows best. Fuel economy has become a big issue for all motorists, but especially for owners of large SUVs. It hurt our wallet to gas up a new Hummer H2 SUT test truck that we only drove for a week. We feel your gas pains about fueling a Hummer on a regular basis. Most sport truck owners like the power their trucks provide, so a more aggressive driving style makes perfect sense. Researchers have conducted tests on heavy SUVs and found significant fuel economy gains when zero to 60 times are slower. The difference between reaching 60 mph in 20 seconds, instead of 10, resulted in a 35 percent fuel economy improvement in one test. That sounds a little extreme, but the same researchers obtained mid-20 percent gains when testing lighter weight sports cars on similar parameters. We've experimented with the instantaneous mileage readout feature on new Corvettes and watched mpg numbers drop like crazy when we mash the throttle. Conversely, we averaged 30 mpg (in the same Vette) when we played balloon foot on a 300-mile cross-state freeway jaunt. Our balloon-foot numbers were aided by using cruise control. Personally, we don't like cruise control (that real or imagined lack of control feeling), but the numbers don't lie. The previously mentioned researchers recorded a more than 10 percent improvement in the SUV for cruise control versus strictly driver throttle inputs. Using cruise control in heavily congested urban areas is difficult, but it pays big dividends on trips. The other things you mention: weight (you can't do much about that), proper tire pressure, and keeping a truck well-tuned are all important, but they don't add up to the same gains as a more conservative driving style.