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We took close to seven hours to get to Genting Highlands from the border with an Audi A4. Longer than expected? Well, we were being eco...

15 Nov 2019

Eco driving. What does that even mean? Personally, these are two words that shouldn't even be in the same sentence, let alone side by side. But here I am, with two other fools who think we were going to win some... eco-driving challenge.

As you can see, I was chilling in the back seat, not planning to take this challenge seriously
Cliche, I know, but it seems Audi was so confident about its A4 Sedan doing exceptionally well that this eco-driving challenge had to be done. You know, just to push the car's fuel efficiency to its limits.

If you're anything as impatient as me, your blood pressure will rise and your head starts to feel the thumping of your heartbeat at the mere thought of having the need to drive economically. With this eco-driving challenge, as it turns out, is slightly more exasperating than trying to feed a hyperactive one-year old kid.

So, I decided to...

Sleeping seemed like the perfect idea at that time
Sleep. That was the best way to not get my blood pressure up. Mind you, it's some 450km drive from Singapore to Genting Highlands. In this case, the challenge started from Yong Peng just after our first fuel top-up (both car and stomach), which would leave us close to 430km to our final destination.

With a decent speed, getting there in the A4 could have been a walk in the park. I mean there's the ample 188bhp and 320Nm of torque from the 2.0-litre powerplant, high levels of comfort and excellent air-conditioning system.

But no, the other two fools in the car had to prove their point. So for the first half of the driving, it's 80km/h - or if I’m lucky it'll be 100km/h tailgating an Audi Q8 (for the sake of drafting, see) - with the air-conditioning system switched off and windows down ever so marginally that perhaps only my pinky can fit through.

Now imagine that...

Air-conditioning system off, windows slightly down - all for the sake of better efficiency
My pinky isn't two centimetres wide. Hell, it's not even a centimetre! That means ventilation is down low, stench from three grown men is sky high, and with our total weight (we had three pax while the other two cars only had two pax per car), our fuel consumption was probably mediocre at best.

I mean, come on man, this was one losing challenge for us. You don't even need a rocket scientist to tell us that, but both my team mates were so committed and determined that even my complex mind got simply influenced. Around the hill-climbing twisty roads towards our hotel, I even told my driver to slow down! Me? Slow down? Don't be silly.

Finally, we got to the hotel. Of course, everyone asked why we decided to go apeshit round the countless bends. Well, it's a proud moment, I thought. If there's one crumb of comfort, it's that my driver was a rather good one. He's a trackie, that lad. Perhaps if we're going to go down, we might as well go down in style. First day: Done.

The weather was gloomy...

Keeping the car in Efficiency mode is key
Then came the final day of our eco-driving challenge. Yes, there was more to come. The challenge wasn't over, not for my two enthusiastic team mates, of course. I think the challenge was over for me the moment the cabin of the Audi A4 smelt like a full-face helmet without a balaclava on, no thanks to all our rancid sweat and foul odour.

Anyhow, anywho and anyway, we embarked on a journey back to where we began, or at least close. Down the twisty roads from our hotel lobby we started. See, I've learnt from all the different challenges I've taken part in that when it comes to eco-driving, it's not just about how much pressure you put on the accelerator or coasting that matters, it's also about speed and consistency.

Even as we were doing 22.5km/L, our figures were still far off from the overall winners
In our case, we thought we were doing it right. But alas, as you and I would come to expect of enthusiastic and impatient drivers, we were the first out of the twisty bits and onto the next meeting point, which was approximately 70km, in about 30 minutes. Mathematically speaking, that means we were doing some 140km/h.

I didn't think much about it, since I chose to sleep through most of our journey. When I awoke, which was due to the sun shining on my head and sweat dripping from my face, I realised the driver had changed. He was listening to his boring podcast about the NBA, and was driving at 100km/h.

"I realised this car is doing its best at 100km/h," he said. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.

Onto the final stop

Peering anxiously: We needed the car to take in as little fuel as possible to win the challenge
Apparently, we were already en route to the second and last fuel stop - some 2km from our lunch stop. Yes, lunch stop. That was the only thing on my mind. Winning the challenge? Filling my empty stomach sounded like a better idea.

But something changed when I stepped out of the car. I was feeling slightly fidgety and anxious. I started looking at advertisement posters at the petrol station just to get my mind off this entire eco-driving challenge. I walked towards my other two team mates who were now hovering around the A4 as it was getting refilled.

As soon as that was done, we were told that the other two cars were 15km away from us. Now, in an eco-driving challenge, that's quite a bloody distance away. It's like being told you were 15 seconds behind the winning car in a race.

The realisation...

We may have lost the challenge, but we certainly gained an invaluable experience
Then it hit me. I finally knew what it was. I was feeling the way I was because there was a part of me that didn't want to lose. I wanted to win. Not for the prize but for the pride. Truth be told, these two men whom I call team mates had balls. They were probably the best two guys I've ever had the honour to share a car with, let alone take part in a challenge I didn't take very seriously.

Long story short, we lost the challenge. In fact, we were pretty damn far from the winning car, which kind of makes it consoling because I don't know if I could even beat that sort of efficiency the winners did.

Still, I should have advised my team on how eco-driving should be done and stood firm as we went along. They may not have listened and they may not know how then.

But perhaps they're listening now.
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