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Cars.com Puts New EPA Fuel Economy Guide to the Test

With gas prices skyrocketing, Cars.com recently put four vehicles to the test to see how close the fuel efficiency experienced by Cars.com editors matched the new 2008 EPA fuel efficiency ratings.

In October, the EPA released its 2008 Fuel Economy Guide, which rates mileage using stricter standards for acceleration, air-conditioning use, cold weather and top speeds than were used in the past. The new measures purportedly reflect real-world driving better than before and offer consumers a more accurate look at fuel efficiency for new cars. As a result, MPG ratings dropped from 5 to 15 percent per car using the new standards.

In the past, the EPA guide had been criticized for offering fuel efficiency ratings that were too high and not achievable for consumers in real-world conditions.

"As gas prices continue to rise, fuel efficiency becomes an even larger factor in the buying decision for many car shoppers," said Cars.com managing editor Patrick Olsen. "We wanted to see if the new rating system was in line with our own experiences, so that consumers could see whether to put confidence in the fuel efficiency ratings that are posted for various cars."

The cars tested included four 2008 models: a Nissan Rogue, Subaru WRX, Dodge Grand Caravan and Hyundai Sonata - a mix of body styles with manual, automatic and continuously variable automatic transmissions, two- and four-wheel drive, and four- and six-cylinder engines.

Cars.com's test results came in near - and in some cases slightly above - the EPA's highway estimates for all four cars.

"Our little test suggests that the EPA's latest numbers - at least the highway ones - can be easily attainable. With the pre-2008 figures, you really had to drive conservatively to match the estimates," Olsen said. "With the agency's new figures, you can drive like you normally would and expect to achieve the ratings, which of course is the idea behind the EPA estimates. For regular drivers, these numbers seem much more usable, and helpful, than previous pie-in-the-sky figures."

Here are the details of the Cars.com test, with the EPA's 2008 ratings for each:

CarGallons of GasMiles DrivenEPA 2008 Gas Mileage EstimatesTrip Computer MPG ReadoutCars.com Results
Rogue11.27, regular304.221/26, 23 combined***27.0
WRX12.26, premium305.319/24, 21 combined 25.824.9
Grand Caravan14.11, regular306.916/23, 18 combined 22.021.8
Sonata10.07, regular302.521/30, 24 combined 29.030.0

***The Rogue was the only car tested that didn't have a trip computer

Totals:
Time: 7.13 hours Miles: approx. 305; 43 mph avg. Traffic: Medium (4/10)

Methodology
To test real-world mileage, Cars.com took the cars across interstates and rural roads between Chicago and Madison, Wis., in October. The unscientific experiment took place over nine hours and some 300 miles.

The tires were filled at cold pressure to their recommended rates, each trip started and ended at the exact same gas pump, drivers (and their weight) rotated between all four cars throughout the trip, the windows were kept shut and A/C and cruise control usage were tracked. Otherwise, the cars were driven as each driver would normally drive.

"The results are strictly unscientific, but we definitely feel that it was reflective of real-world driving," Olsen said. "The varied driving styles of the Cars.com reviewers added to the real-world conditions, as those behind the wheel range from lead-footers to Sunday drivers."

Cars.com plans to do more MPG comparison tests in the future. For more information on Cars.com's MPG challenge, visit Cars.com

About Cars.com

Cars.com is the most comprehensive destination for those looking to buy or sell a new or used car. The site lists more than 2 million vehicles from more than 15,000 dealer customers, classified advertisers and private parties to offer the more than 8 million unique visitors who log on to the site each month the best selection of new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to support their shopping experience. Cars.com combines powerful inventory search tools and new-car configuration with pricing information, photo galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial content and reviews to help millions of car shoppers connect with sellers each month.

Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, (http://classifiedventures.com), which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).

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