• Passat TDI piloted by expert "hypermiler" Wayne Gerdes
  • Achieved average of nearly 78 mpg
  • Beat hybrid vehicle record by 13 mpg

Expert "hypermiler" Wayne Gerdes set a new Guinness World Record for fuel economy in a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI, a diesel-powered midsize sedan. Gerdes and co-driver Bob Winger completed a 17-day, 8,122-mile round trip across the continental U.S. to set a record for "lowest fuel consumption -- 48 U.S. states for a non-hybrid car." The Passat used just 104.94 gallons of fuel for an average fuel economy of 77.99 miles per gallon.

That beats the old record, established in 2009 by an Australian couple. Over their 9,505-mile trip, Helen and John Taylor averaged 67.90 miles per gallon in a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

Gerdes himself set a Guinness World Record for his 2011 drive in a Kia Optima Hybrid. His average of 64.55 mpg on that nearly 8,000-mile trip still stands as the record for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle traveling all 48 U.S. states. But the conventionally powered diesel Passat posted significantly better economy than the hybrid, surpassing its average by 13 mpg.

The 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is rated at 31 mpg city/43 mpg hwy with a manual transmission. But Gerdes and Winger squeezed about 80 percent more miles out of each gallon of diesel fuel, earning the surprise and praise of Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America.

"To cover 8,122 miles on just 104.94 gallons of fuel is nothing short of astonishing and shows just how economical our TDI Clean Diesel vehicles can be," Browning remarked. "Even for everyday drivers, the mileage benefits of our TDI engines are significant: Volkswagen has no fewer than six TDI Clean Diesel models that achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 40 mpg or better on the highway."

Gerdes drives with extreme attention to fuel economy and uses techniques that may not be comfortable for every driver. But his world-record-breaking trip in the Passat TDI reveals just how economical Volkswagen's diesels can be.

What it means to you: VW charges a premium for its TDI models, but excellent fuel economy means the break-even point could come quick for drivers who log lots of miles.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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