Gas prices are spiking again -- $5 a gallon for regular in Los Angeles -- and drivers are predictably up in arms. The obligatory media frenzy is stoking their passions -- particularly on local news shows. An easy-to-understand camera-friendly story profiling angry citizens? There's a no-brainer for news directors.Politicians are certainly doing their part to fan the flames. Obama opponents are blaming the president, and some are even promising to bring back $2.50 a gallon gas. Maybe they'll bring back 15-cent McDonald's hamburgers, too. It won't be long before some public servant speaks up and urges the government to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to spare Americans from laying out more cash for a scarce and diminishing resource.
Meanwhile, drivers who confused themselves with Saudi princes and indulged their inner gas-guzzler when fuel was cheap are paying the price at the pump with their weighty rides. Here are some of their most notable offenders.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
The mighty ZR1, known as "America's Super Car," is powered by a 638-horsepower engine, gets to 60 miles per hour in the world-class time of 3.8 seconds, and is capable of a top speed of 205 miles per hour. Good luck finding someplace where you can test those numbers. As the old saw goes, the `Vette will pass everything on the road except for a gas station. Figure on 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway for $112,000 worth of "velocity unleashed."
The "Cowboy Cadillac" has been in production since 1935, making it the longest-lived automotive nameplate still on the road. That's a testament to its utility -- carrying up to nine passengers off-road -- and its profitability -- right at the top of GM's income statement. All that capability, however, requires nearly three tons of automobile powered by a V-8 engine that delivers only 15 miles per gallon in the city/21 mpg on the highway. With its 31-gallon fuel-tank, each Suburban fill-up will run you $100 or more.
It's America's single favorite vehicle, and its variety of powertrain options and body styles make it the Heinz 57 of automobiles. What you won't find is a fuel-miser edition. Even the tiniest, regular cab F-150 is rated at 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Figure on even lower numbers if you add doors or displacement, or if you're hauling a trailer.
Land Rover Range Rover
The vehicle of choice for Downton Abbey fans, the $80,000 Range Rover looks equally grand parked in front of a country estate, roughing it in the wild, or, most likely, dropping off the kids at private school. As Edmunds.com observes, "High pricing only adds to its appeal." Presumably those folks won't mind stopping frequently to replenish the petrol in a vehicle that gets 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The flagship of the Jeep line, the Grand Cherokee has enjoyed a surge of popularity since the latest revision featuring engineering by Chrysler's former partner Mercedes-Benz. With its optional V-8 engine, the Grand Cherokee scorches the pavement by scooting to 60 miles per hour in 8.2 seconds. It also scorches your weekly budget. With four-wheel drive, the V-8 Grand Cherokee is good for only 13 mpg city/20 mpg highway.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
To Ford's credit, it offers a base Mustang with a V-6 engine producing 302 hp that gets 19 mpg city/31 highway. Move up to the top-of-the-line Shelby GT 500, howver, and the engine capability goes up to 550 hp, while the mileage sags to 15 mpg city/23 highway -- and that's with a manual transmission. Still, that's good enough to avoid the federal gas guzzler tax, which requires a minimum of 22.5 mpg.
In the presence of the Quattroporte, the names of several Italian actresses come to mind, along with the adjective "voluptuous." Perhaps another adjective one should consider is "indulgent." This feast for the senses carries an opening bid of $126,750 and high personal maintenance that includes frequent trips to the gas pump for a car that gets only 11 miles per gallon in town and 18 mph outside it. Ciao Bella!
BMW packs a lot of technology into all 4,200 pounds of the M5, notably a new twin-turbo V-8 that puts out 560 hp and produces enough oomph to pass everything on the autobahn. Germans pay dearly for that rush of power: $8.50 per gallon for a car rated at 14 mpg city/22 mpg highway. Americans will pay dearly too when the M5 reaches the U.S. market later this year for an estimated $90,000.
Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG
With its distinctive styling and unusual sophistication, the high-performance version of the durable SL convertible hardtop two-seater will get you front-row valet parking from Monterey to Miami. You'll also become well-acquainted with the owner of your local service station. The $140,000 SL63 packs a 518-hp V-8 and is rated at a mere 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
By adding two more doors to the traditional Wrangler, Chrysler tried to make the basic Jeep a bit more civilized. It didn't get very far, and the Unlimited is still noisy, pokey, and crude -- more at home in the Sahara than a shopping center. And oh yeah -- it has a powerful thirst. With a rating of 16 mpg city/20 highway, the Unlimited actually has slightly worse fuel economy than the original.