Chrysler put out a press release a few days back that focused on Fiat earning another five percent of Chrysler, for meeting the last of three goals assigned by the Obama administration during the 2009 bailout. Downplayed within the release was the fact that the new Dodge Dart has achieved an “unadjusted” combined mileage rating of 40 mpg. If the Dart actually hit 40 mpg in combined fuel economy, the car wouldn’t be evolutionary, it would be revolutionary; as with everything else in business and politics these days, the math used in getting those numbers is somewhat fuzzy.
First, we’re no experts on the EPA’s test cycle, and how it’s used to calculate fuel economy. Those who know more than we do about this stuff say that the actual fuel economy numbers that will appear on the Dart’s window sticker are likely to be some 20 percent less. Twenty percent isn’t exactly a rounding error, although a combined fuel economy of 32 mpg is still impressive.
That said, don’t take the numbers on a window sticker as gospel. The new Chrysler 300 SRT8, for example, gets an EPA estimated 14 mpg around town and an estimated 23 mpg on the highway. Look closer and you’ll see that the “expected” range of city mpg varies from 11 to 17 mpg (a spread of nearly 55 percent) and the “expected” highway fuel economy can be anywhere from 19 to 27 mpg. (a spread of just over 42 percent).
It’s not even that simple, since flogging the SRT8 hard on a track day will yield mileage in the single digits, while a professional hypermiler could probably get 30 mpg out of the car under the right conditions. There’s a reason that the phrase, “your mileage may vary” has become part of our vocabulary.
We’re not meaning to downplay the new Dodge Dart, which may prove to be the most important car the automaker has ever built. We can’t wait to see it up close and personal, or better yet, get behind the wheel. Until then, we know enough not to believe everything we read in a press release (or on a window sticker).