Portland to Portland Green Test Drive. What we did and why we did it.


The Green Human team drove a 2009 Clean Burning Diesel Jetta and a 2008 Toyota Hybrid across the country almost 8,000 through a wide variety of terrain and conditions from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon via the Eastern seaboard, Florida and Colorado.

Our goal was not to repeat previous tests, nor to challenge previous results. There are already lots of reviews and stats on each vehicle which anyone with an internet connection and enough time on their hands can read and use to support their own conclusions. We chose instead to do an “experiential” experiment where our objective was to intensively drive and experience the cars in a real world environment traveling a significant distance over a relatively short time.

For those of you solely fixated on stats, the MPG part of this was that the CBTDI Jetta acheived an average of 41.4 MPG against the Prius 40.96 MPG (corrected).

Honestly, this isn't great mileage for EITHER vehicle, I usually get a good 44- 48 MPG on my '06 TDI that I drive here in the Northwest (combo city/highway) and I won't even start on the Prius stats I'm sure the good folks over at 'PriusChat' can (and probably will) throw at me. But they are what they are - and we promised transparancy. Remember, we drove these cars HARD like real people - not like a bunch of hyper-milers or MPG gauge watchers. The journey inherently contained a lot of highway mileage - we typically drove at or over the speed limit (like real people do) and while we did switch drivers on a fair and regular interval - we drove both cars with a heavy foot.

For us, this challenge wasn’t about mileage – as we said, the internet is filled with that stuff – for us the real “test” in our case, was a (Green) Human one. Traveling 8,000 miles in a few short weeks amounting to a lot of driving and gave our testers the chance to really get to know each vehicle. The challenge was about cars and PEOPLE.

Speaking only for myself, I personally liked the Prius more than I thought I would. It was extremely quiet, and performed better than I expected. I went through the whole “Jetta versus Prius” thing a couple of years ago when I was shopping for a new car (yes, I ended up buying an 06 Jetta TDI but that was after LOTS of visits to different dealers and even more research and deliberation). One reason at the time was the feeling that the Prius had somewhat of an “anti-car” along the lines of “we know you think cars and pollution are bad so we designed one you can hate less” versus the Jetta’s “we know you love to drive so here’s one more reason you can feel good about doing it”. I think in the interceding years the Prius has evolved and become more “driver friendly” although for pure highway driving, and focusing only on the driving experience and not things like mileage, at the end of it all I still felt the Jetta offering more "driving enjoyment and fun" on this trip.

The other team members had their own opinions which they will share in their posts.

Remember, these are just our OPINIONS and anyone seeking a “greener” vehicle should FIND OUT FOR THEMSELVES by getting behind the wheel of BOTH cars and seeing what they personally like best. “Clean burning diesels” and “Hybrids” are both moving targets and while Toyota and VW are both leaders, other manufacturers are also thankfully continuing to push that envelope gaining lower pollution levels and better fuel economy with each generation. There’s a place at the table for BOTH technologies.

Until now, Hybrids have been about the ONLY (50 State) answer to get better mileage out of light duty passenger vehicles, not even considering that a great portion of the vehicles out there are diesel because they need to be diesel to do what they do (haul freight or whatever). So gaining fuel economy and cleaner burning emissions with diesel undisputedly has a place at the table, and the new clean burning TDI Jetta is a fantastic evolution of that line of technology. And Biodiesel, whether from waste or feedstock represents another option that, over time as it develops, can play a significant role in our overall goal of lessening our dependence of foreign fossil fuel.

That's my view - but this is an interactive challenge and of course I'm very interested in anyone's reactions to this. Thanks again to everyone who helped us out and showed us kindness along the way. This was a great event that we were proud to be a part of.