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All gas hogs are equal — some more than others

Image: Lamborghini Murcielago
So the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 Roadster gets 8 mpg in the city — if you can afford the $313,600 base price, it probably isn't an issue.Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images file
/ Source: Forbes

Gas prices just keep setting record after record.

While those behind the wheels of fuel-sipping vehicles are likely driving stress free, other motorists are feeling the pinch.

Among them: Jeep Grand Cherokee owners. The gas-greedy SRT 8 model is equipped with a 6.1-liter V8 engine, which gets 11 miles to the gallon in the city and 14 on the highway. Owners can expect to shell out $4,186 a year at the pump. More popular Cherokee versions, like those equipped with a 5.7-liter HEMI engine, have an estimated annual fuel cost of $3,132, which is comparable to similarly equipped Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer and Chevrolet Aspen SUVS.

Drivers of small station wagons aren't off the hook. The Audi high-performance S4 Avant gets 14 miles to the gallon in the city and 21 on the highway. That comes out to an estimated annual fuel cost of $3,352.

We reviewed estimated annual fuel costs for vehicles in nine U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifications and used the highest annual estimates to compile our list. If vehicles in the same category had the same estimated annual fuel cost, we counted that as a tie. Annual costs were based on MPG data from the EPA. The EPA calculates annual fuel cost on a formula that assumes 15,000 annual miles and 45 percent highway driving and 55 percent city driving. At the time of this writing, the EPA assumed $3.13 a gallon for vehicles requiring regular gas and $3.35 a gallon for premium vehicles.

Ultra-luxury European-made cars powered by big engines dominate the list. The Lamborghini Murcielago and the Bugatti Veyron are the worst gas guzzlers among two-seaters, and across all vehicle classes. Drivers of both can expect to pay $5,025 a year in fuel costs. Both are estimated to get eight miles to the gallon in city driving but the Lamborghini gets 13 miles to the gallon on the highway and the Bugatti 14.

The Bentley Azure, with an estimated annual fuel cost of $4,568, topped the compact car category; among midsize cars, the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, ($4,377 in annual fuel costs) won; and the midsize Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG station wagon topped its class with $3,438 in annual fuel costs.

These drivers "want performance, acceleration and horsepower," says Tom Libby, senior analyst at J.D. Power and Associates. "They want a drive that is smooth and comfortable at 80 miles an hour. They want the positives of towing capacity and interior space, which offset the negative of poor fuel economy."

What's more, drivers of ultra-luxury cars aren't likely driving them into the ground.

Bentley spokeswoman Jyarland Daniels Jones says Bentley owners record an average of 5,000 to 7,000 miles a year, less than half the national average of 15,000 miles a year.

"Therefore, not only is the cost for our customers negligible given their financial status, but also given the relatively low mileage they put on their cars," says Jones. "Our customers also have, on average, three to five cars in their personal fleets."

That may be comforting to some but it's likely buyers of the $1.5 million French-made Bugatti Veyron or the $329,000 British-made Bentley Azure likely aren’t spending too much time fretting over it.