A Corvette-powered pick-up isn’t the first vehicle you’d pick to take on an economy run, writes Joshua Dowling, who won the 2009 Global Green Challenge in a Holden Maloo.
There were wry smiles at the start line of the 2009 Global Green Challenge in Darwin last week as the team began a seven-day, 3000km trek across the Australian desert.
Small economical cars such as the a Ford Fiesta and Mini Cooper D looked at first as though they had the contest licked when the Holden Special Vehicles Maloo (a pick-up version of the Vauxhall VXR8; Maloo is aboriginal for Thunder) turned up with a 6.2-litre (that’s the capacity of the engine, not the consumption) V8 and an official fuel consumption of 15.1L/100km, or 18.7mpg.
But in the interest of fairness, the rules for the event state that the vehicles are judged against the official combined consumption figure that appears on the fuel rating label on all new cars in Australia.
Perhaps what the rival teams hadn’t counted on was the determination of the HSV drivers – myself (a motoring hack) and an HSV engineer called Gerry Bechet who, incidentally, helped design the engine in the Fiesta in a former life before trying to make V8s use less fuel while producing more power.
As with most cars in the event, we drove with the windows up (better aero efficiency) and air-conditioning off (saves 0.5mpg). Problem was, it was 40 degrees outside and almost 50 inside. On one leg we almost drank more water than the car used fuel.
Australia might appear flat in the middle but the route had constant rises and falls. So we would ‘bank’ time and speed on downhill runs (between 55 and 60mph) and then crawl up the hills (as slow as 30mph if necessary) all the while concentrating on the instant fuel readout on the dash.
The big V8 ticked along nicely at around 1400rpm in sixth gear, using its torque to good effect and using minimal fuel. Even on the extensive city cycle sections at the beginning and end of the Challenge (where we only used second, fourth and sixth gears) we managed to drive efficiently by reading the traffic and conditions. You wouldn’t drive like that normally but it was interesting to see what is possible with some effort and careful driving.
The result was that the Maloo made a staggering 48.76 per cent improvement on the rating label, having averaged 7.74 litres per 100km (36.5mpg) for the entire journey. The small diesel cars made modest improvements of between 12 and 15 per cent.