The 10 New Cars With the Worst Fuel Economy
Cars for owners who can afford the entire gas station.
Want to put Bernie Sanders in a podium-pounding rage? Slip him a list of the worst cars for fuel economy. As ever, the most shameless swillers of premium unleaded are virtually all one-percent specials built far from America: Bentleys, Aston-Martins and Rolls-Royces from the U.K., Ferraris and Lamborghinis from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. We’re talking roughly 12 to 14 mpg in combined city and highway operation, worse than the hungriest half-ton pickups from Detroit. Compared to the wanton fuel sluts on this quarter-mile of shame, the 650-horsepower Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a Mother Theresa, returning a reasonable 18 mpg in manual-transmission guise.
Still, it doesn’t excuse the breathtaking illogic of the Environmental Protection Agency, whose Worst Fuel Economy list bizarrely classifies the $200,000 Aston Martin DB9—a decadent GT that’s nearly as lengthy as a Jeep Grand Cherokee—as a minicompact, the same category as an amoeba-sized Fiat 500. Moving to Corolla-scale “compacts,” we have the $440,000-to-$550,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe. Did the EPA lose its measuring tape, or its mind? The Rolls, as any chauffeur knows, is among the world’s largest cars at 221 inches, stretching 15 inches beyond a massive Cadillac Escalade.
Bureaucratic glitches aside, these cars do literally suck for fuel economy. And that’s where their makers change the subject, or trot out a shopworn rationalization: That these cars are barely driven, logging a few thousand miles a year—little old men driving not to Pasadena, but to Pebble Beach. It’s the kind of responsibility-dodging excuse you wouldn’t fall for from a seven-year-old: “But I wasn’t even using it!”
Not long ago, creators of the most profligate cars seemed almost proud of their gluttonous consumption and emissions. Bugatti noted that its Veyron beer-bonged 47,000 liters of air per minute at its 253-mph top speed, producing enough waste heat to keep 10 family homes toasty in winter. In the same spirit of fun facts, Bugatti said the world’s fastest car slurped better than two gallons per minute at that pace, draining its enormous 26.4-gallon tank in 12 minutes. Even in real-world driving, the Bugatti’s 10 mpg rating led the EPA hit list throughout its production run, resulting in a $6,400, wrist-slapping guzzler tax on a $2.3 million car.
Automakers have learned to tone down the boasting, under pressure as they are to conform to some semblance of responsibility. Porsche, McLaren, Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes are gung-ho on electrification. (At 22 mpg, the 887-hp, $850,000 Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid more than doubles the Bugatti’s mileage, and easily escapes a guzzler tax).
Back in 2001, a 543-horsepower Lamborghini Diablo VT 6.0 returned 11 mpg in combined city/highway fuel economy. Fifteen years of technological advances later, a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 Roadster manages…12 mpg. As Lamborghini would surely say, that is a nine-percent improvement. And it would rightly note that the Aventador produces a spectacular 691 horsepower, and will run rings around its primitive Diablo forebear.
We at The Drive can admit to some hypocrisy here. We may wag a finger at the worst excesses of the industry, and call bullshit when it gets a little too deep. But where our right feet are concerned, we’re happy to step into the throttle of virtually every chug-a-lug car on this ignominious list. To wit:
Lamborghini Aventador Roadster
Lamborghinis have always been, well, bullish on unleaded. Their naturally aspirated V12s snort and slurp at a pace worthy of Pamplona. Since the 691-horsepower Aventador Roadster gets 12 mpg and a $4,500 guzzler tax, might as well go all out for the $530,000 LP 750-4 Superveloce version: The first topless SV in history sheds 110 pounds and boosts horsepower to 740. You’ll instantly notice the heightened performance, and neither notice nor care that the SV drinks marginally more fuel.
Ferrari F12 TDF
By Ferrari’s current, accommodating standards, the 770-horsepower F12 tdf is a friskier horse. The V12 Ferrari supercar dispatches 125 mph in eight seconds, and demands bona fide skill to extract its maximum performance. But even the clumsiest amateur can insert an unleaded nozzle into this ultimate F12, with its 12 mpg thirst for premium.
Stately and surprisingly sporty, the $304,000 Mulsanne can fairly be described as a British estate on wheels. Now, imagine what it takes to fuel a mobile Blenheim Palace, powered by a twin-turbo, 6.75-liter V8 with 505 horses and 752 pound-feet of torque. At 13 mpg, you’ll be on a first-name basis with gas-station attendants, so show some noblesse oblige and don’t forget to tip.
Maybe the FF stands for “Fuel Frequently”: The rule-breaking Ferrari wagon just trails the Aventador and F12 tdf at 13 mpg, but at least it’s theoretically carrying four passengers and their chinchilla ski bags en route to Gstaad. The FF will soon make way for the updated GTC4 Lusso, though that 680-horsepower Ferrari won't be a sipper, either.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe
Convertible or hardtop, sedan or coupe, Rolls’ Phantom combines a nearly three-ton curb weight—is that cowhide inside, or actual cows?—with a regal 6.8-liter V12. You do the math. The feds have, socking buyers of the 14 mpg Phantom with a $3,000 guzzler tax. Of course, for Rolls owners who happily pay $400,000 to roughly $550,000, the $3,000 tax hit equates to a season's supply of cashmere socks.
Bentley Continental GT Convertible
The Continental helped kick off a new era of conspicuous consumption, in both fuel and luxury: Why buy an efficient Lotus or a Mercedes SL when you can afford a sumptuous grand tourer that brushes 200 mph and makes commoners swoon? The latest GT Convertible offers a speedier Speed edition for 2016, its twin-turbo W-12 boosted to 626 horsepower for a 203-mph peak velocity. Bentley, bless them, claims a 12-percent fuel economy gain, including cylinder deactivation. Now, if Bentley could deactivate maybe 1,000 pounds of the 5,100-pound curb weight, you might see better than 15 mpg.
Aston Martin DB9
Aston calls the lame-duck DB9 “the world’s most timeless GT,” but the clock is ticking: The 6.0-liter V12, which traces back eons to Ford’s ownership, is one of the sweetest-sounding, butter-churning engines in autodom. But those dozen free-breathing cylinders are an endangered species, including for their spendthrift 15 mpg economy. The new DB11 debuts in fall with a turbocharged rescue party from Mercedes. A downsized 5.2-liter V12 produces 600 horses—90 more than the DB9 and 60 beyond the 2016 DB9 GT—yet should actually reduce Aston’s old-school guzzling.
Maserati Gran Turismo Convertible
The Maserati is all about passion, including a passionate 15 mpg thirst, quaffing unleaded like so many bottles of Barolo. But who’s counting when you can listen to a sonorous, Ferrari-bred V8 with 444 horsepower and a 7,200 rpm redline?
At 36,000, the QX50 crossover is the only remotely affordable vehicle on the EPA hit list. Originally launched into an indifferent market as the EX35, the stretched-for-2016 QX50 finally gets a back seat worthy of the name. Its 325-horsepower V6 is far thrustier than most of its shrimpy competitors. The downside is the Infiniti’s meager 20 mpg rating (17/24 in city and highway). Nissan’s own Juke Nismo RS manages to be a blast while delivering one-third better economy, at 27 mpg.
Mercedes E63 AMG S 4Matic Wagon
Lenient grading and federal loopholes allow Benz’ fuel-sucking, 18 mpg wagon to escape a guzzler tax, boosting its score close enough to the 22.5 mpg that’s the official minimum for cars. So have at it, wagon geeks: The $104,000 E63 AMG S is 577 horsepower and 590-pound feet of IKEA-stuffing terror. With a 3.4-second launch to 60 mph and a ridiculous 11.7-second quarter mile, you’ll make even better time to the next filling station.