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today's cars are fatties

People that knew me back in CT remember my first car, which was a gray 1984 Honda Civic. However it wasn't just any Civic. It was a special gas saving model, the 1500S.

That particular model could achieve 60MPG highway on regular gas. And no, that's not a typo, she could do it.

How? Simple formula, really. Light car with a low-output engine.

The 1500S was a two-door hatchback with a zippy 1500cc carbureted motor rated at 60hp (which was surprisingly not slow at all). What made her super-light was the fact she had a 5-speed manual and no power steering.

And how light was the car? Under 2,300 lbs.

Today's base Civic is 2,600 lbs. She's gotten a bit pudgy over the years.

My most recent acquisition, the '89 Buick LeSabre, achieves 30MPG highway easily. And I've read some comments by some that are able to get 35MPG out of her. How? Another simple formula: Light car, big engine.

The best way to show the lightness of an '89 LeSabre is to compare it to a modern Buick.

My LeSabre has a 3,262 lb. curb weight.

A new 2010 Buick LaCrosse at its lightest is 3,829 lbs. Oh, yes, the LaCrosse is one fat-assed car that needs to lay off the Twinkies a bit.

What's a 2010 LaCrosse at her heaviest? The CXS model busts the 2-ton mark weighing in at 4,045 lbs. That's just plain obese for a mid-size car. Shameful, Buick. Just shameful.

Today's cars are fatties

In 25 years the base Civic gained 300 pounds. In 20 years the Buick gained 567 pounds (yikes). Because of this it should be no wonder why today's cars can't achieve better MPG.

Is it all about the weight? Well, if the engine is properly tuned for everyday (meaning not racing) driving, yes. The less weight the engine has to move, the less fuel it will consume. You can throw all the technology you want in engine advancements, but weight is still weight.

What's putting on the pounds with cars these days?

With the Civic, she fattened up everywhere. The wheelbase grew by almost 10 inches and she widened by almost 5. The hatchback models got taller by 4 inches as well. All of that fattening required more steel and therefore put on weight.

The LaCrosse is a super-fatty. You wouldn't think so to look at her, but Buick designed it in such a way to hide her bigness very well. A tip of my hat goes out to the design team in that respect.

It's not that the LaCrosse is long, because it isn't. The wheelbase and overall length between the '89 LeSabre and 2010 LaCrosse are almost identical. Where the fatness comes in is with the width. Roughly 55 inches for the '89 LeSabre, and 73 inches for the LaCrosse. That's a fatty.

To put this in perspective, the 2010 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck is slimmer at 68 inches wide. Think about that for a second. Yes, this means the LaCrosse is so frickin' wide that it's actually wider than a mid-size truck.

It is because of this fatness that weight has been put on across the board with cars and therefore wrecks the mileage they could be getting. Basic Civics used to get 40MPG easily and now they struggle to barely make 35. Buicks today with a V6 achieve mileage that is no better than cars they made 21 years ago, and in fact are slightly worse.

Are the engines worse today? No.

Are the fuel delivery systems worse today? No, they actually can easily achieve higher MPG compared to systems of yesteryear.

What's the problem? The problem is that our cars are too frickin' FAT.

It is totally possible to engineer cars that weigh less and aren't as wide without making them look terrible nor sacrificing any modern technology or conveniences - yet cars continue to get fatter and fatter.

I mean, yeah, I'd expect fatness in a truck. A 2010 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab 4x4 is just slightly over 2 tons unloaded - and that's fine. A 2010 Ford Explorer weighs 2.2 tons - also fine because again, you expect that from a vehicle that big with that much steel used to make it.

However there is no reason for a Civic to weigh 1.3 tons. It shouldn't be anywhere near that. That's the base model by the way. A fully loaded EX-L sedan model with automatic transmission is 2,831 lbs., or 1.4 tons. Fat, fat, fat compared to the 1.1 tons it used to be.

As for the over-two-ton Buick LaCrosse CXS, what is this, the 1970s all over again? Gimme a break.

Our cars need to go on a diet. Now.

By the way, when shopping for a car whether new or used, take note of the curb weight. It matters more than you realize.


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