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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We recently bought a 2013 JX35. It's been a decent car so far, with one big exception: the gas mileage is abysmal.

Our typical daily use involves some neighborhood driving, a little bit of stop and go, and some short highway stretches. We are typically driving on Standard Mode and have yet to have a tank of 93 octane average over 17.4 MPG. Our typical average is in the mid 16's, and the current tank is running around 14. And we're driving this thing like a couple of grandmas! Our ten year old Honda Pilot crushes it in fuel economy, and it's running on 87 octane.

One thing I've noticed is that the CVT so heavily favors the lowest possible gear ratio (around 1,000 to 1,500 RPMs) that the engine is constantly lugging. And when it is lugging like that ,the 'real-time' gas mileage meter hangs in the low teens or single digits. It almost seems that in an effort to be more fuel efficient, the computer is actually making it worse.

Is this normal behavior for this car? Is our engine just really inefficient at these low RPMs? Can the CVT be updated to choose more efficient ratios? Is there something I can take to the dealer to force their hand to do something about it?

Thanks for any tips/tricks/suggestions.
 

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That is about the same as I get with my 2015 QX60 AWD in the same driving scenarios. Your Honda Pilot is an entirely different vehicle so it really is no comparison. For example the Pilot is built on a car chassis and the JX a truck chassis. In addition the updated version is rated at just 17mpg city so you would not be doing any better. FYI, the 2006 model had EPA estimates at 16/22 so if you are getting crushingly more with your Pilot I suggest selling your JX to someone that appreciates luxury over fuel economy and sticking with the Pilot.
 

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With soft driving on the highway I got 23.5 mpg (250mile day trip). Usually within the city or local highway (stop and go :( ), I get 17mpg. I knew this going in though. Thank God for $2 gas :D
 

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To the OP, from your description of your driving course, I think what you see is expected.

First, you are taking short trips. That's the worst for any car. The QX60 is heavy (more than 25% heavier than your Pilot) so you have to lug all of that weight up to speed on your stop-and-go and highway entrances. You don't get to take advantage of the CVTs low RPMs for you are not on the highway, cruising, for very long.

As for the CVT, don't try to compare it to a ratioed transmission. You will not see it going to high RPMs, then low, then grow to high, the low, again. The engine is not lagging at low RPMs causing low MPGs, either. You are comparing this to a standard transmission and that's not appropriate.

Just drive it and enjoy it. If you want higher MPGs, take it for a 20-30 mile drive on the highway at 60-65 MPH and see what it can do. But stop-and-go traffic in the city with short highway trips will not get you in the 20's; especially if it's a cool/cold day and you are starting cold (you don't mention the climate you are in, but I see a loss of about 2-3 MPG between summer and winter driving in the midwest on short trips due to this).

If you do the highway "test" and see it below 20 MPG for that part of the trip, it could be you need some maintenance (check air filters, spark plugs, etc.) as this is an older car it might need those, especially if the previous owner did not maintain it, well.
 

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To the OP, from your description of your driving course, I think what you see is expected.

First, you are taking short trips. That's the worst for any car. The QX60 is ...
This is exactly the reason why we ended up with a city car (Prius 5) and a long haul car (QX60). (used to have a Camry SE v6 and Honda Odyssey V6 -both gas guzzlers!).

The Prius for all those stop-n-go traffic and when you dont need all the luxury & gizmos, and QX60 for those long (100miles+) long journeys on mostly highway trips. [I have been driving the QX60 on daily trips right now just to break it in].

In winter, the Prius nets us 40-41 mpg and the QX about 23mpg (in winter) for their respective applications.

In summer, the former gets 44-45mpg. Don't know what the QX60's summer mpg is since we just got it a few weeks ago. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all of the responses, guys. With all due respect, I'm an engineer, have owned luxury cars for years, and have driven several cars with CVT. This isn't is a case of my misunderstanding what a CVT is/does and not appreciating luxury. However, it appears that the consensus here is that 14 - 16 MPG is within the normal range for this car for mixed city/highway driving, so I'll just adjust my expectations.
 

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Thanks for all of the responses, guys. With all due respect, I'm an engineer, have owned luxury cars for years, and have driven several cars with CVT. This isn't is a case of my misunderstanding what a CVT is/does and not appreciating luxury. However, it appears that the consensus here is that 14 - 16 MPG is within the normal range for this car for mixed city/highway driving, so I'll just adjust my expectations.
No offense intended Scott, just sharing the experience. This is my first CVT so I read up on it a bit (I am a mechanical engineer myself) and realized it is going to be "different". So far, I like the "smooth" acceleration from 0 to <whatever> without the sawtooth-ish RPM pattern as with traditional automatics and the associated passenger body movements. If the price for that is mileage (yes, the vehicle is gas-thirsty), then not bad. (thank goodness for $2 gas tho). I get 16-17 if I go exclusively city roads only, and that too with feather-touching the accelerator.

The other cars on my list was a Lexus GX460 (which is a v8) and had even abysmal mileage. I think the XC90 does better here, but the super-turbo-charged v4 (and the price!) scared me away. So in comparison I landed somewhere in the middle wrt QX60 and mileage.
 

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With 50% city/HWY I get 24.5 on my 2013 model with the older CVT so either your vehicle isn't tuned correctly or your driving it harder than normal. Bring it to the dealer and have them check the engine, filters, etc... to see why it's not breathing/operating normally.
 

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Try driving it in sport mode, where it will simulate the shifts of a normal transmission (i.e., the CVT will use fixed, discrete ratios, vice an infinite one designed for constant engine RPM in it's sweet spot. Consequently, the engine RPM will raise and fall with the "shifts", so the engine won't feel like it is lugging.
 

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I have a 2014 QX60 AWD with 23,000 miles on it. I have never reset the mpg on the center monitor since purchasing this vehicle. It took a while, maybe a couple months, to reach 20.9 mpg, but it has consistently stayed at 20.9 since then. I mostly drive it to work and back on a 4 lane highway, speed limit 50, with a several stop lights, and sometimes stop and go traffic. This is a good mix of city and highway driving. I think this is excellent mileage for an AWD vehicle, and I don't have a soft foot. I had a G35 with the same engine, drove it the same way, same place, and could only get 19 mpg. I'm very happy with this and the smoothness of the ride.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Try driving it in sport mode, where it will simulate the shifts of a normal transmission (i.e., the CVT will use fixed, discrete ratios, vice an infinite one designed for constant engine RPM in it's sweet spot. Consequently, the engine RPM will raise and fall with the "shifts", so the engine won't feel like it is lugging.
That's a good suggestion, Rooster. I have tried that and do like the fact that it chooses gear ratios that are a bit higher and doesn't immediately dive down to 1,200 RPMs and lug like it does around town in Standard and Eco.

The drawback that I've seen is that the pedal becomes so responsive in sport that it becomes a very fine line between "peppy" and "honey, slow down!". I'm not trying to set any speed records. :)

Update on my MPG situation: I finished the last tank at 15.9. So a little more what has been reported as 'typical'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
With 50% city/HWY I get 24.5 on my 2013 model with the older CVT so either your vehicle isn't tuned correctly or your driving it harder than normal. Bring it to the dealer and have them check the engine, filters, etc... to see why it's not breathing/operating normally.
Thanks for the perspective, yeller. I'm pretty sure I'm not driving it harder than average, so I'm hoping the dealer will be able to suggest or fix something.

It's become a quest to see how much I can raise the gas mileage by adjusting my driving style, so I feel like I'm babying it as much as possible. I'm sure it would help a lot if I had more highway time. I'm interested to see how it does on our first road trip.
 

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What is your average speed? I use that to gauge whether my fuel mileage is where it should be as well. For example. Sometimes my average speed for a given tank is only around 20mph. Other times it is closer to 40mph. Needless to say, the mpg is much higher at the later. Also, right now you are driving with the winter blend of fuel there in VA to begin with and getting lower fuel mileage anyway. I suspect you will find your average increased throughout the year into the warmer months. Rather than look at your mileage by the tank full, look at it monthly or better every other month. I suspect you will find it is not as bad as you think.

Just to put this out there. If you are going 15000 miles a year and get 15mpg that is 1000gal. At 17mpg it is about 880. At 20mpg it is 750. 150-250 gallons represents $3-600 tops (probably a lot less in VA vs. here in CA) over the course of the year. Seem like a lot of time, effort and worry for a few hundred dollars a year.
 
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