Gearheads commonly assume that motorcycles sip fuel at lower rates than their four-wheeled counterparts. Based on manufacturer estimates alone, filling up your bike easily provides more bang for buck. Do those claimed figures actually hold up on the open road, though? To answer that age-old question, our Deutschland colleagues at Motorrad put those optimistic mpg approximations to the test with a series of on-road trials.

Leveling the playing field, the German media outlet split the tests into three practical categories: Sport, Economy, Utility. Those classifications pitted the Yamaha YZF-R1 against the Porsche 718 Cayman (Sport), the Honda NC 750 versus the Ford Focus (Economy), and the BMW R 1250 GS in opposition to the Audi Q5 Sport Back 45 TFSI Quattro (Utility). The publication also instituted strict operational parameters, forcing each similarly-sized driver/rider to adhere to posted speed limits.

When it comes to the Sport category, the Yamaha claims the YZF-R1 consumes 33 mpg while Porsche reports a 27-mpg range (highway) for its 718 Cayman. Those estimates seem close on paper, but Motorrad stretched the R1 to 41 mpg while the Cayman underperformed at 24 mpg.

That same pattern holds up in the Economy showdown, where the Honda NC 750 comes with an 80.5-mpg rating and the Ford Focus reaches just 40 mpg on the highway. While Big Red’s practical all-arounder only nets 67 mpg on the roadway (compared to its estimated range), the Focus’ 31-mpg result doesn’t even reach half that efficiency.

Just because motorcycles dominated the Sport and Economy tiers doesn’t mean two-wheelers will reign supreme in the Utility category, right? Wrong. BMW estimates 50 miles to the gallon for its class-defining R 1250 GS, which out-paces the Audi Q5 Sport Back 45 TFSI Quattro’s 25 mpg. Unexpectedly, the Beemer overdelivers with 52 mpg, easily trouncing the Q5 Sport’s 22-mpg performance.

If you’re a commuter, traveler, or simple enthusiast, Motorrad’s findings certainly confirm our two-wheeled bias. Even the thirstiest motorcycle in the experiment, the Yamaha R1, beat out the Economy automobile contender, the Ford Focus. Yes, many gearheads assume that motorcycles are more full-efficient than cars, but it seems like it’s rightfully so.

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