Saturday, February 9, 2013

Performance, thy name is...diesel?

On Friday, I was missing some local high school basketball to photograph, so I decided to look at games further away that were interesting.  I picked one near the southern point of Ohio, near the Ohio River.  It was three to four hours' drive from home.

Being that I no longer use gasoline, diesel fuel drives a lot more thinking.  Where is the nearest fuel?  Do they have the correct fuel?  Will I arrive before I run out?  Considering that the estimated distance for a tank is nearly 600 miles and I've made it a bit over 400 miles on my gasoline-powered car, I don't really have to worry.  The smaller towns will have diesel fuel but the pumps are sometimes hidden.  I remember when the Mercedes 300D and the VW Rabbit Diesel were available and a few filling stations added a diesel fuel pump to the side, so it wouldn't be in the way.

The other day, I was looking for fuel and every pump I wanted to use only had gasoline.  I finally gave up on the town and returned home on the half tank I had, even though I was really wanting to gauge the fuel economy.  On the way home, I found that the Golf TDI was much more capable than most any car I had driven on that hilly, curvy road I had been using for years.  What was 55 mph in one car had become 65 mph in another and 80 mph seemed very possible in this one because 70 felt like nothing.

So, when Friday came, I filled the tank and went for a long drive across the state of Ohio, seeing the U.S. 35 expansion that had been done a while back to provide truckers a more direct route from coal country in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia to Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Ohio, and to cities in Indiana.  It was much as you would expect an interstate highway to provide without the fancy name and new road.

As I moved closer to my destination, I took various state roads which were not quite so straight or wide but serviced the situation well enough.  I was nervous about the weather--when you live in an area prone to ice, the freezing point becomes a huge issue in driving.  The high school was on the edge of a national and a state forest.  I was somewhat amused to find that my phone lost reception as soon as I turned off the road.  Of course, do students need mobile phone reception at school?  No.

In any case, I was early, wasted some time, and returned to the school, still a bit early.  I photographed two games, talked to a couple of people, and hopefully, left people with a good impression.  Since I was leaving at 9 p.m., my best hope for an arrival time was midnight and the worst would probably be 1 in the morning.

Since the temperature had dropped a bit, I went south to U.S. 52, which more-or-less follows the Ohio River.  There are a lot of small towns.  I travelled it about 1.5 times, since I had turned to use U.S. 68 or some other on my previous return north.  This time, I found myself on this two lane road driving 75 mph easily--it felt like 50 mph.  I panicked a few times after seeing the number, even though the car didn't.  Of course, it was a long drive home.  What's worse, it wasn't so easy to go north of Cincinnati because it said I-275 east and west.  I-275 west went into Kentucky after the Cincinnati Corp. Limit sign.  Weird!  It was a few miles to I-71/I-75 so that wasn't a problem and I got to see the Cincinnati skyline (no chili, just skyline!) from the Kentucky hills.  If you ever saw the tv show "WKRP in Cincinnati", they showed a similar view with the Central Trust sign and all.

I arrived home about 1 a.m., not so tired, and with about 100 miles' worth of fuel remaining.  According to my Road Trip app, I only got 40.85 mpg but that's almost the estimated 42 mpg that VW and the government state.  That figure probably does not account for fun.

Also, this evening, I was driving from my friends' Chinese restaurant to Target and there is a small expressway in-between the two.  I happened upon one of those NOISY Honda Civics with the performance muffler that generates an extra 1 HP and loads of noise.  I ended up right next to him at a stop light just before the expressway began.  He decided to show me how wonderful his car was.  So, with not much in front of me, I put my foot halfway down and he disappeared.  I let off the pedal and he came back after a while and they looked over at me, as I was laughing about it.  "Dude, you just got smoked by a diesel."  :-D  Apparently, there were four of them travelling together.  I had already noticed an older VW Jetta with the VR6 engine ahead of me at some point.  I suspect that they have a bit more respect for diesel-powered cars now.  I do.

Returning home: thought I was doing 65 mph, but I was doing 90 mph!  This car feels so stable and assured, similar but different to my 1990 VW Corrado.

Update 2014.05.15: The car has over 32,000 miles now.  I took it for the 30,000 mile service about two weeks ago.  It still does quite well, and much better than I would have expected, but may I just drive more than most.   People told me how the engine would practically not run, if I didn't drive it long distances as though it was a semi-truck/tractor without the trailer.  I'm not sure it's as happy as it was, but then, I've become accustomed to it.

I drove it back to photograph basketball January 31 and February 1 in that same area.  The weather was warmer on Saturday--around 60 degrees F, but by the time I arrived home, it was only 34.  The car performed well, but I was antsy and slowed down this time.

Since I've had the car, I've been surprised over and over how well it accelerates and handles the real world overall.  I was surprised to see over 50 mpg but that only happened briefly, with 47-48 mpg a regular occurrence.  I could see many more people buying these and maybe, I'd have to wait behind diesel users for the diesel pump, instead of the gasoline users.

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