Can we drive to Austria on one tank in a Volvo DRIVe?

Published: 13 April 2011

It seemed like an innocuous enough challenge. Volvo asked us to drive to Austria on one tank of fuel in its new Volvo S60 DRIVe. That’s 840 miles, from Marlow, Buckinghamshire to Mayrhofen in Austria for the seventh annual Snowbombing festival. Game on!

Snowbombing is a skiing/boarding and music festival, featuring a fresh line-up of DJs, bands and various other acts each year. Volvo got involved last year and this year became a fully signed-up partner. So this year a clutch of British journos joined the 5000 partygoers. A strange brand association for sensible old Volvo? It’s using events like this to reach a younger market to dispel the idea that Volvos are safe, boring cars for old people.

Last year a C30… this year an S60 DRIVe

Last year I ran CAR’s own C30 DRIVe long-termer and drove to Snowbombing in Austria. Without any economy challenge, we averaged 55.2mpg. This year we signed up to see if we could get anywhere near Volvo’s claimed 975-mile range for the new S60 and V60 DRIVe twins. Should be quite achievable, as Mayrhofen is 850 miles away. 

We snuck in early to snaffle the keys to an S60 DRIVe. Its 65.7mpg narrowly beats the V60’s 62.8mpg. Plumping for the saloon meant we had the lesser boot with only 339 litres to fill, but at least the ski hatch meant our skis and poles could poke through.

Uh-oh. We’re only averaging 49mpg…

By the time we reach Metz in France – our first overnight stop – appears to be averaging 48.8mpg. Not the quoted 65.7mpg. Which means we may have a problem. Ok I have to hold my hands up. My partner and I had made a secret pact to see what the car could do if driven normally. I mean, what’s the point of tip-toeing to a rock festival, driving like a saint when most ordinary drivers would drive gently but not play every fuel-saving trick in the book? Besides, our car was fully loaded with gear for a ski trip.

After an evening of comparing mpgs and fuel range with other hacks, we realise we may not make this journey on one tank. Perhaps tomorrow we should attach a helium balloon to our right foot. On derestricted autobahns. Mmm, that could be a challenge.

Day two

We start day two much slower. Mind you, diversions for photography don’t help. Equipped with radios, our rivals invent a tedious game of Spot The Yellow Car. There are no yellow cars through France or Germany, I can vouch. Just so you know.

Snowbombing 2011 Volvo S60 DRIVe

Volvo says that instead of making major tweaks to the DRIVe cars, there are many minor ones made to increase the mpg. The underside of the car is flat, improving aerodynamics, and stop-start trims consumption

Snowbombing 2011 Volvo S60 DRIVe

The DRIVe button enables start/stop

Our more sedate progress is helping our economy, which climbs to 56.3mpg. The sat-nav now tells us we still have 230 miles to go, but the fuel gauge reads 180 till empty. And we’re not even in the mountains yet. Desperately trying to think of any way to rein in our excesses and save fuel, we switch to instantaneous mpg readings and start slipstreaming lorries. We switch off cruise control, too, which is actually less efficient as it can’t read the road ahead. 

National Park Hohe Tauern - Austria

Hohe Tauern National Park. The largest National Park in the entire Alps

National Park Hohe Tauern - Austria

With air-con off and the temperature rising, I feel the need to open a window to let fresh in. We resist, to keep our aero trim – besides we want to win this competition and our competitors are not far behind. They all seemingly have more fuel than us!

We remain slow and steady on the autobahns until – 20 miles from our destination – the fuel light goes on. Aggghhh! The trip reads 30 miles left, but we all know how that suddenly drops to zero. And so it does. We’re still 20 miles from Mayrhofen. We daren’t risk driving on, and pull into a petrol station like naughty schoolchildren. 

After a refuel and a clear failure at the Volvo challenge, we switch the air-con on full, have some fun on the twisty mountain roads and head to Mayrhofen for some skiing, a well earned beer and the crazy Snowbombing festival.

We were beaten by just a few minutes and the winning car managed to drive the 850 miles on one tank. Still, I think our 820 miles is pretty impressive considering we drove normally. A car driven by our sister title Parkers price guide made it all the way back to Marlow in the R-Drive with 130 miles left in the tank. He was driving downhill, I was very keen to point out. 

Snowbombing - Volvo S60 DRIVe road trip

Snowbombing Ice Camp. Volvo airlifted the S60 DRIVe into an igloo by cable car

Snowbombing Volvo S60 DRIVe road trip