11 reasons why luxury cars get bad mileage

11 reasons why luxury cars get bad mileage

silver Volkswagen AG Audi e-Tron Spyder
PARIS – OCTOBER 11: A Volkswagen AG Audi e-Tron Spyder electric automobile is displayed at the Paris Motor Show 2010 at Porte de Versailles

They may be hot but their gas mileage is not. 

Luxury cars may be lookers, but they are not exactly known for their fuel economy. However, newer models from high-end brands have tried to change that image. 

But exactly why do luxury cars get bad mileage in general? In this article, we listed a few possible reasons. We also included a list of luxury cars that have good mileage. 

Table of Contents

Why luxury cars get bad mileage

Luxury cars have endured a bad rap for having a terrible fuel economy. 

However, with big players in the scene like the gorgeous but strongly nature-loving Tesla, luxury brands like Volvo, Audi, and BMW have stepped it up with their hybrids and sedans. 

Below, we break down why expensive cars have unwillingly cultivated an image of machines with horrific fuel economies. 

1. The cars need more power from the engine

exposed engine of a red Chevrolet.
Los Angeles, USA – October 6, 2019: Chevrolet Impala Convertible on display during Galpin car show.

When engines are called “powerful”, that means they can supply a high amount of mechanical energy. 

Now, that mechanical energy comes from fuel. That’s why when a luxury car demands more engine power, the engine also burns more fuel. For that reason, cars that require constant engine power will not be fuel-efficient. 

However, these days, car manufacturers are investing in technology and techniques that balance fuel economy and high engine performance. Several examples are fuel injection, increasing the compression ratio, and cooling the air in the cylinder. 

2. The engines are heavier and bigger.

When engines’ weight and size are bulky, it will inevitably affect the fuel economy of a car. Because bigger engines are more efficient in converting fuel energy to power, they are fitted to luxury cars to make them more powerful. 

You know what comes with a giant size, right? A bigger appetite. Bigger engines consume more fuel during the car’s duty cycle to convert fuel energy to mechanical energy. 

Moreover, because larger engines have the capacity to convert more fuel to mechanical power, the car is also obligated to do that whenever necessary, thus the consumption of even more fuel. For instance, when your car accelerates upward at a perpendicular area, the engine will consume more power to allow your car to move faster.

And that is why luxury cars with bigger engines have poor fuel efficiency. 

3. The gear ratios might be lower.  

mechanic holding a gear at a service center.
The higher the gear ratio, the better for a car’s fuel economy

Inside your car, you will find gears of various sizes that move at different speeds as well. If a smaller, faster gear moves twice while a large gear moves once, your car has a ratio of 2:1. 

Now, when a luxury car has a higher gear ratio and runs at a given speed, the engine consumes less fuel. The engine will also have a lower revolution per minute (RPM) or also known as the engine speed. That means the car is fuel-efficient. 

On the other hand, luxury sedans or sports cars with lower gear ratios (confusingly called high gear) may give you satisfaction when you prioritize speed, but not when you’re concerned about fuel economy. 

However, this gear ratio effect is not so major since factors like the drivers’ habits mainly have an impact on fuel economy. 

4. The owners have terrible driving habits.

Oftentimes, it’s not the weapon that’s at fault, but the hands that yield it.

Luxury car manufacturers may market their models as high-performing speed guns, but the owners’ driving habits will ultimately affect their fuel efficiency. 

Poor driving habits such as constant speeding, hard braking, and aggressive acceleration will cut down mileage faster. Add that to harsh driving environments and a luxury car’s mpg will plunge in no time. 

Another habits you should break, if you’re doing them unconsciously, are driving short distances, loading your vehicle with heavy cargo, and running your engine while parked. 

All of those habits will make your car unnecessarily consume fuel you could’ve saved by simply not being lazy and by being more considerate. 

5. Luxury cars are often driven at fast rates. 

side view of wheels of a car going too fast, motion blur.
The faster you go, the more fuel you burn.

Expensive luxury cars may be powerful speed machines; however, ironically, driving them fast all the time is a bad idea. And there’s a solid reason for that.

Cars’ fuel may deplete at different rates, but driving beyond the speed limit will definitely reduce its fuel economy. Even driving a little above your fuel efficiency (ex. 50 mph) will already consume a lot of fuel. 

That’s because the faster you go, the harder your engine will work to fight the air resistance. On the other hand, driving too slow will also affect your fuel efficiency—if you drive too slowly, your engine’s gears won’t turn at their appropriate rpm, burning more fuel along the way. 

Together with other damaging factors, speeding frequently is the number one fuel economy downer. 

Meanwhile, if you want to save on gas, especially on highways, you can practice using your cruise control. This will help keep your speed steady, avoiding the frequent insurgency of your speed while driving.  

6. They are heavier overall. 

Luxury cars are known for providing premium driving experience. That requires using premium but impractical materials, adding the poshest technology, and putting performance enhancers. All of these add to the car’s overall weight.

Unfortunately, that will lead to poor fuel efficiency. The heavier the car is, the more inertia it has as well. As a result, it needs to burn more fuel to move efficiently. 

That’s why car manufacturers are striving to provide a great driving experience without adding unnecessary weight. For instance, instead of using aluminum, they are now using carbon steel, which is much lighter but stronger. 

Therefore, remember to go easy on your cargo if you already have a bulky car. 

RELATED: 15 Pros and Cons of Heavier Cars

7. The air filters are dirty.

a mechanic holding a dirty air filter
Filthy air filter.

If a luxury car loses mileage easily, chances are its air filters have accumulated an excessive amount of dirt. 

Air filters protect your engine from external elements such as dirt, dust, or random road debris. That’s why if they’re not working anymore, they might have reached their limit.

Dirty air filters, of course, are more likely to let dirt permeate the engine. This will affect the oxygen and then the airflow, preventing the fuel to combust properly. As a result, your car won’t accelerate properly.

Therefore, if you’ve been driving in a grimy environment and your car is burning more fuel than usual, you should inspect your car filters immediately. 

8. Mediocre aerodynamic design

To economy cars, aerodynamics isn’t a major factor in good fuel efficiency. However, it does matter to luxury cars since they’re more likely to be driven faster. 

When you drive faster, your car burns more fuel since it needs added energy to overcome drag. Aerodynamic drag is the force that opposes your car as it moves forward. 

If a luxury car has well-designed aerodynamics, it can cope with drag better, saving you more fuel in the process. Luxury cars that are heavier don’t fare well in this area. That’s why smaller, lighter cars with better aerodynamic design are more fuel-efficient. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work to improve heavy cars’ aerodynamics. You can do simple, cost-effective practices that will help you cope with drag. 

For example, you can carry less cargo, roll up the windows, use narrower tires, or remove the roof rack if you’re not using it. 

9. The fuel injectors are blocked.  

Cleaning engine injectors. Car repair. Service station
Cleaning engine injectors.

Fuel injectors pressurize and supply fuel to your engine. They spray fuel in the form of fine mist. This process of spraying is just right for the engine to run with enough fuel. 

However, even dirt eventually accumulates on luxury cars’ injectors. That might be the reason why you’re losing fuel so fast, even if you’re driving steadily. 

If injectors get clogged, they won’t function properly, letting you lose fuel faster. If you neglect it, eventually the engine will start to malfunction as well and you will have a hard time starting it. 

One way to clean them is through fuel injector cleaners. These cleaning agents will remove any buildup or deposits in your injectors. You can buy them online, but since gas and diesel injectors have different needs, it might be better for you to consult a mechanic before going DIY.

Always watch out for tell-tale signs like failed emissions, starting issues, and poor engine performance—it might be time for a fuel injector clean up.  

10. Poorly maintained spark plugs. 

Together with air filters, malfunctioning spark plugs will also affect any car’s fuel economy and not just luxury cars. If those get damaged, a lack of airflow will follow, hindering your engine from functioning properly. 

Spark plugs provide electric current to an engine’s combustion chamber. This ignites the sparks that help your engine convert fuel energy into power. Well-functioning sparks plugs help burn gas efficiently. 

Now, if they go bad, misfires may happen, causing the engine to burn more fuel. If your engine won’t start or accelerate properly, you might have bad spark plugs. 

11. More features, more energy consumed. 

posh interiors of a luxury car.
Posh interiors of a luxury car

Another fact about luxury cars is they often have plenty of tech and features. This has been the norm among them. All these add-ons add to the bodyweight of a vehicle, reducing its capacity to overcome aerodynamic drag while consuming more fuel in the process.

The good news is that car manufacturers are starting to balance the luxury of having plenty of features and fuel economy. You can check out our list of luxury vehicles with good mileage to see what we’re talking about. 

Meanwhile, if you’re shopping for luxury cars or even economy cars, you might want to think twice before being enticed with those jam-packed features. 

Ask yourself if you really need heated seats, infotainment systems, roof racks, and all that jazz. All those might impede a car’s functional aerodynamic design. 

RELATED: This is Why Luxury Cars Have an Analog Clock

Luxury cars with good mileage

Just because they are gorgeous doesn’t mean they are not frugal. Here are some five luxurious rides that deserve attention from environmentally conscious drivers. 

1. 2020 Lexus ES Hybrid

space grey 2020 Lexus ES Hybrid at a car show.
2020 Lexus ES Hybrid

The base model of this hybrid Sedan has apparently good driving dynamics. For $41,760, you can enjoy its more frugal 43-44 mpg than its athletic and gas-driven version, the ES350. Its other hybrid siblings, the Lexus ES Hybrid Luxury and the Lexus ES Hybrid Ultra Luxury, have more posh add-ons like heated seats and leather upholstery.  

2. 2020 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

front side view of a white 2020 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, isolated, grey background.
2020 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid | Source

This is another elegant hybrid with a good fuel economy. It has a combined 41 mpg as per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, if you’re particular about acceleration, its 4-cylinder engine might not satisfy you. The Lexus ES300h, the one we mentioned above, might be a better choice for you. 

3. 2020 Volvo V60 T8 

rear side view of a white 2020 Volvo V60 T8, isolated, white background.
2020 Volvo V60 T8 | Source

With the gas engine alone, the Volvo V60 T8 already has a combined 30 mpg. With the gas engine and electric AWD drivetrain, you get a 69 mpg. It has three driving modes, which are Hybrid, Pure, and Polestar Engineered. Hybrid is for drivers who love efficiency, Pure is for environmentally conscious drivers (zero emissions from the tailpipe), and Polestar is for thrill-seekers. 

4. 2020 Volvo S90-T8 

maroon 2020 Volvo S90-T8, isolated with grey background.
2020 Volvo S90-T8 | Source

S90 is a plug-in hybrid with a not so impressive but already decent mpg for a hybrid. The electric-only mpg is 21, while the hybrid drive climbs up to 32 mpg. With its high-end driver assistance tech and roomy interiors, any family who shops for groceries or commutes long distances can rely on S90. 

5. 2020 Audi A4

blue 2020 Audi A4 at a car show.
2020 Audi A4

Last but not least is this underrated Audi Sedan series. A4 models, overall, are well-liked for a balance of beauty, performance, and fuel economy. With its competent AWD performance, combined 25–37 mpg, and Sarder Brown Valcona leather upholstery, any luxury car enthusiast will salivate. 

RELATED: New Tesla Cybertruck: The Reinvented Pickup Truck

Other related questions

What is the gas mileage of BMW 2006?

Avoid BMW 2006 if gas mileage is important to you. In a list of BMW 2006 cars, the highest miles per gallon is only 21 MPG, while the lowest is 13 MPG. That’s bad compared to some BMW, Audi, and Volvo models today. We suggest you think twice before you get a 2006 model from BMW. 

What is the MPG of BMW 2010?

The 2010 BMW 3-series are well-liked for their smaller and fuel-efficient six-cylinder engines. It has 17 city mpg and 26 highway mpg. There are more fuel-efficient, newer models of BMW, but if you want a classic BMW convertible, this one takes the cake. You can also get free service up to 50,000 miles. BMW also offers free roadside assistance for four years. 

What are the most fuel-efficient BMW cars?

If you really want a BMW, you can check out the 2019 BMW 3 series. It has a 20-26 city mpg and a 29-36 highway mpg. That range is not bad for a luxury brand. Meanwhile, another contender is the 2019 BM2 5 series, which has a 15-26 city mpg and a 21-36 highway mpg. The 5 series is also revered for its powerful engine. 

Final thoughts

Do you still want luxury cars after knowing the truths behind their reputation? 

Times have changed—most luxury cars, such as the ones we listed above, aren’t that weak in the mpg department anymore. Despite that, some standouts like Tesla blow their competition out of the water when it comes to mileage.

Do you know any other luxury cars with good mileage? Let us know in the comments below!

Brussels, Belgium, Jan 09, 2020: metallic silver LEXUS ES 300h hybrid SPORTS SALOON BOLDLY DIFFERENT at Brussels Motor Show, produced by Japanese carmaker Lexus

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