9 Gas-Guzzlers With the Worst Combined Fuel Economy

In a sector where the U.S. government, and in some cases individual states, are pushing automakers harder than ever to crank out more fuel-efficient vehicles, you might be surprised to learn that there are still quite a few gas-guzzlers on our roads.

Over the past two months we've covered some of the most important aspects that consumers look for when purchasing a vehicle; and fuel economy is often one important consideration. However, for some consumers one of two characteristics tends to supersede the obsession with better fuel economy: the need for speed and luxury, or the need for space.

Source: Kristel Rae Barton, PublicDomainPictures.

Personally, I fall into the first category. I'm a bit of a lead foot, and the car of my dreams, which I purchased last November, gets a meager 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. For purchasers similar to myself, we're looking to experience the adrenaline rush associated with a high-performance vehicle and gas mileage isn't a huge consideration.

The other considerably more dominant group of consumers are those who need space, and lots of it! These are your families of four or more who likely shuffle the kids to and from school, perhaps even to sporting events, and make gigantic Costco runs. These families would probably prefer better gas mileage, but the practicality of a vehicle's size usually outweighs the need for better fuel economy.

You'll also find one additional subcategory that I would attribute to the fact that younger adults simply don't care too much for fuel economy. Although they're usually working on a tighter budget, their cars are often viewed as extensions of their personalities, so looks can occasionally win over a younger consumer regardless of fuel economy.

A tricky game for automakers
For automakers, this can be something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, vehicles with lower fuel-economy could potentially chase consumers away to a rival automaker that offers a vehicle with better fuel economy. Specifically, this could be a problem with the second group of consumers who are purchasing solely based on the need for space. Then again, one would surmise that low fuel economy shouldn't be as big of a concern in high-performance and luxury vehicles where price is less of an objection. This isn't to say that automakers are going out of their way to neglect fuel economy in high-performance and luxury vehicles, but it's more like a foregone conclusion that fuel efficiency is not the priority for the buyers of these types of vehicles. Something similar can be said for young adult purchasers, as well, because carmakers tend to focus on style rather than fuel economy to attract these buyers.

Today, using data from Consumer Reports' findings published in February, we're going to look at nine of the vehicles that ranked the lowest in overall combined fuel economy (i.e., city and highway combined) to see if this data might lend clues about how well these vehicles sell relative to their peers, and decipher whether it's something we might use to become smarter investors.

Consumer Reports broke its research down into five separate categories, tackling each segment one at a time. As for me, I'm going to break things down into the criteria listed above, and focus on the worst in each category.

Nine vehicles with the worst combined fuel economy
First, let's address the vehicles that would appeal to the adrenaline-seekers and luxury car buyers.

The three cars that fit the bill for worst fuel economy in this group are:

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Chevrolet Camaro 2SS convertible

11

25

17

BMW 750Li

12

25

18

Chrysler 300C

12

29

18

Source: Consumer Reports, all vehicles based on 2014 models.

Despite racking up the worst combined fuel economy of the sporty and luxury groups combined, General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) Chevy Camaro has been a superstar among muscle cars. GM's Camaro has outsold Ford's (NYSE: F  ) Mustang in each of the past four years, and consumers have made it apparent that fuel economy isn't the decisive factor that's causing them to flock to muscle cars like the Camaro. According to Craig Trudell of Bloomberg, Camaro's "more futuristic" design has kept it well ahead of the Mustang. In this case, it appears that the desire for power under the hood will continue to trump the need for better fuel economy, at least for the time being.

In similar fashion, BMW's 750Li and Fiat's (NASDAQOTH: FIATY  ) Chrysler 300C bottomed out in combined fuel economy at 18 mpg.


2014 Chrysler 300C, Source: Chrysler Group. 

Both carmakers are generally targeting more sophisticated consumers who crave luxury; therefore, price and fuel economy tend to take a back seat. This segment, however, hasn't seen the same health as the rest of the auto industry. Total BMW 7-series unit sales have dipped in each of the past four years (albeit modestly), while Chrysler 300 sales (all models included) have nosedived since 2007 from 120,636 units to less than 58,000 in 2013. Some of the dip in 2013 for the Chrysler 300 can be attributed to an increase in price for the model's lowest-priced-trim tier, as Cars.com noted in 2012. But it's very evident from both BMW 750 and Chrysler 300 sales that even the luxury buyer is still very skittish about making large purchases, which could ultimately weigh on both automakers.

Bigger is better? Not quite!
In the group where space matters there are five vehicles which get the dunce cap for fuel economy: four SUVs, which tied for combined worst fuel economy, and one minivan.

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Lincoln Navigator Ultimate

8

18

13

Ford Expedition EL Eddie Bauer

8

18

13

Nissan Armada Platinum

9

18

13

Cadillac Escalade (base)

9

21

13

Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L

11

27

17

Source: Consumer Reports, all vehicles based on 2014 models.

Consumers aren't thrilled about the gas mileage they get with SUVs, but they simply don't have much choice when it comes to fitting five, six, or even more family members in their vehicles. It's for this reason that automakers continue to produce SUVs and minivans for the American consumer in strong numbers despite higher fuel prices putting pressure on future sales.

According to the list above, there are two representatives from Ford (the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition), two from Fiat (the Cadillac Escalade and Chrysler Town & Country minivan), and a single one -- the Armada Platinum -- from Nissan (NASDAQOTH: NSANY  ) . In sum, these are monstrous vehicles, and big weighty vehicles demand big engines which guzzle gasoline.


2014 Ford Expedition, Source: Ford. 

In each case above, with the exception of the Town & Country, sales have fallen off a cliff since 2006. The Lincoln Navigator has seen unit sales drop by 64% while the Expedition, Armada, and Escalade have seen unit sales fall by 56%, 56%, and 68%, respectively. By comparison, Town & Country sales dipped by a modest 23% over that same period.

While some consumers are unwilling to compromise on space, higher fuel prices are clearly beginning to weigh on SUV and minivan producers, driving them instead to smaller SUVs capable of packing a big transportation punch like Honda's CR-V, which now offers the capability of a third row of seating. As CNNMoney senior writer Peter Valdes-Dapena noted in 2009, higher gas prices often mean fewer sales for SUV makers, including Chrysler, as consumers push smaller, more fuel-efficient non-American vehicles to the forefront. In other words, if gasoline prices continue their trend upward, it's likely that we'll see more people making the switch to smaller SUVs and sedans which could further dampen Ford, Fiat, and Nissan's sales of large SUVs.

The small car dunce cap
Lastly, we have our Consumer Reports dunce cap for worst mileage from the small car category:

Vehicle Make

City MPG

Highway MPG

Combined MPG

Scion xB

16

30

23

Source: Consumer Reports, vehicle model from 2014.

All things considered the Scion xB, which is owned by Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) , gets pretty decent gas mileage at 23 mpg combined. Compared to its peers, though, it sits at the bottom of the ladder -- and this lack of fuel economy is weighing on the Scion brand. Whereas most vehicles have seen at least some modest rebound since the recession, sales of the Scion xB continue to fall, hitting just 17,489 last year, more than 7,600 units lower than 2009!


2014 Scion xB, Source: Scion.

According to a USA Today report in 2012, Automotive News found in a study that the Millennials who originally bought the xB no longer find it desirable to own a different-looking vehicle. In other words, it's become clear that Toyota is going to emphasize its own brand more and the Scion brand less, for Scion was really just a stepping stone to introduce younger adults to the Toyota line of cars. With bigger profits to be made on the Toyota side of the business thanks to its product line diversity, this may not be such a bad thing after all for investors.

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Read/Post Comments (28) | Recommend This Article (22)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 5:03 PM, pcurran127 wrote:

    Correction: Caddy is a GM product - not Fiat. Otherwise, a thought provoking article.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 6:54 PM, DS527 wrote:

    Wow. there is no excuse for mileage that poor. Even my 600+hp LS3 Stroker built for road racing gets 20mpg on the highway @ 75mph.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 7:22 PM, sabebrush6 wrote:

    If you're a home owner, you just gotta have a pickup. I purchased an 01 Silverado new and it gets about 20 mpg on the hwy because I put a tonneau cover on it & tuned dual exhaust when it was new. I drive it when a need to and the rest of the time it sets in the garage. It has 218K miles on it & has earned it's right to rest.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 8:11 PM, Number1FordFan wrote:

    Ans once again a money man who know so little about car he uses consumer report for his research knowledge base for a auto article.

    How sad. he know so little.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 8:14 PM, monkeyfurball wrote:

    @sabebrush6. I own 5 homes and don't own a pickup. I never have.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 8:32 PM, ledfoot wrote:

    I would rather have a big or large car or van then a small one forget air bags cause the bigger the ride the more safer I feel driving it. so what if I get 18 hiway and 10-12 around town its my money and that's what I will do forget what the government says

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:00 PM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    I don't trust guys on the street who measure their mileage - how scientific is dat?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:05 PM, JamesLWren wrote:

    Emmision standars are so tight that conventional motors can not get much better fuel economy. And the fuel that is full of Ethinol does not help with fuel economy no matter what any one says. So the tighter emmision standars get the worse fuel economy is going to be.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:30 PM, Kymw wrote:

    Personally, I love my Expedition. Best auto I have ever owned. We will celebrate it's 16th birthday this month. Tows the boat and gets us through the worst of the Sierra Nevada snow storms. And just keeps going and going....

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:41 PM, ibme2now4u wrote:

    Death of the internet, HOGWASH & BULL ! ! ! STICK IN YOUR EAR

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:59 PM, rrgrassi wrote:

    That is why I drive a 1990 Dodge 3/4 ton diesel with the 5 speed manual. Full size, old, and gets 22 mpg in mixed city and highway driving. Our VW TDI Jetta gets 45 mixed driving and 52 highway.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 1:17 AM, btc909 wrote:

    Sequoia?

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 1:41 AM, littlbear222 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 2:03 AM, Michaelkind wrote:

    I've got my 2010 Toyota Corolla which I consider good on gas and maintenance. I also have a 83" Porsche 911 SC a real "garage queen" which has both lousy mileage and great fun driving. If people want to drive a huge vehicle with bad mileage by themselves just because they can afford it maybe they should consider having a smaller "daily driver" with better mileage and garage queen the other for weekends. They also would have a back up for when one is in the shop and it would be great for our economy! Just a thought.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 6:58 AM, WSK wrote:

    My first car was a 1976 Pontiac Leman 350-4 barrel..... now that was a gas guzzler and I loved it.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 7:38 AM, thor48 wrote:

    I got better gas mivleage with my 350 Pontic LeMans. over 20 mpg on the highway.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 7:53 AM, Cartowngirl wrote:

    Don't believe this article-I own a 2013 Chrysler 300C with the Hemi--I get good mileage for a car of that size & quality-it surprised me--However I rented a 2014 Mustang at x'mas -6 cyl but SHARP Great car to Drive--mileage TERRIBLE! My first car---got 8 miles-but gas was .25 gal :)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 8:05 AM, JACKIE9TOES wrote:

    I HAVE A GMC UKON XL AS I HAVE A CAMPER TO HAULTHAT WEIGHS IN EXESS OF 7000 # IT GETS 10 MPG IN TOW AND ABOUT 15 MPG ON THE HIGHWAY ALONE.

    MILEAGE IS A PROBLEM BUT I ALSO HAVE A JEEP LIBERTY FOR EVERYDAY USE (23 +MPG)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 9:00 AM, DrG wrote:

    Most of the time those SUVs are not hauling six people but just one, the driver.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 9:02 AM, DrG wrote:

    Most of the time the SUVs are not hauling 6 people but just one, the driver.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 9:29 AM, PS75425 wrote:

    Once again ... barking up the wrong tree... if you want a vehicle with good MPG ... buy a Prius ... otherwise MPG is not really something to fuss about... vehicle cost per mile includes many things not just fuel cost ... do people forget??? ... also when's the last time you saw a Prius towing a 5000lb boat behind???? .... hmmmm....

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 10:45 AM, miteycasey wrote:

    What a misleading article.

    ""Consumers aren't thrilled about the gas mileage they get with SUVs, but they simply don't have much choice when it comes to fitting five, six, or even more family members in their vehicles. ""

    up to 22 city / 32 highway

    2014 Chevrolet Equinox, MPG

    up to 20 city / 28 highway

    2014 Ford Explorer, MPG

    IF you want to cherry pick and use the worst of the worst, fine, but don't' pass that information off as a worldly view. It's myopic.

    The vehicles you choose are 'tanks' they are the largest passenger SUVs on the road. They also are very expensive, and the people who purchase them can afford to pay for the gasoline.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 10:46 AM, agsb02 wrote:

    I like gas guzzlers not because I like to pay high gas prices but for safety. Several years ago I was involved in a horrible accident. I am almost certain that if I had been driving an econobox that get 40 mpg, I would be "Pushing Daises"! I cm certain that what saved me was 4500 pounds of iron and steel surrounding me, not lightweight materials

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 11:01 AM, tbyrd58 wrote:

    Too bad about the xB. We own one of the original 2004-2006 models and it is roomy, reliable and gets around 32 mpg. The current model is heavier and replaces the 1.5 l engine with a 2.4 l engine. It faster, has more luggage space, but has lost it's charm.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 11:55 AM, RallySS wrote:

    I'm calling B.S. on this one. I own a 2011 Camaro SS convertible and get nowhere near that terrible mpg. I fact checked for both my year and the current year to make sure, and the numbers they provided are worse than even the ZL-1 is reported to have. Not sure where your numbers came from, but highly misleading reporting. Here is the link to the absolutely unbiased website that lists all cars that have reported:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2014_Chevrolet_Camaro...

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 2:20 PM, Mudgrips wrote:

    Drove my 2008 Corvette from Houston to Santa Fe NM & back - set the cruise control on 90 for most of the trip - averaged 28.5 mpg for the whole trip

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 10:33 PM, renaldorae wrote:

    were i live if you drive a 4 cyl with no power you get run off the road. There is no way im driving anything less than a v8 down here even if it means i have to look at the car out the window becuase i cant put gas in it.

  • Report this Comment On April 08, 2014, at 6:18 AM, kca124cain wrote:

    You know the author knows his job when he is too stupid to know that Cadillac is G.M., not Fiat.

    Also, where are his numbers coming from? The Escalade is the same vehicle as the Tahoe/ Suburban and they are at 14/18. Have been for more than 12 years. My 03 Suburban still gets a combined 15-16 mpg and about 18 on the highway. Of course that is with the 5.3 litre which has been the mot popular engine in these.

    Then there is the people/ cargo factor. When you factor that into the equation, big SUV's can make sense.

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