Somewhere outside Flagstaff, Ariz., inside the world's slowest-moving Audi, photographer extraordinaire Mike Juergens and I had endured an entire day of headwinds, uphills, range anxiety, careening trucks, desert-induced ennui, furious cops, the ignominy of being passed by four Toyota Priuses in a row, and the malodorous toxicity of each other's sweat—which had achieved the consistency of olive oil—when we finally said, "screw it," and did something we had been explicitly told not to do: we turned on the air conditioning.

The windows were rolled down about a finger's width; outside, the temperature read 89 degrees. Inside, it felt like a Finnish sauna. When the cold air hit my face, I felt a song rise from my heartstrings.

Big mistake.

Four hundred miles later, still trundling along at 40 mph, we watched our hard-earned average mileage plummet. The end, San Diego, the calming ocean, seemed impossible. We felt like the first settlers of America, waged in a war to win the West, heading towards the salvation by any means necessary…

The idea seemed at once simple and ludicrous: drive an Audi A3 TDI from Albuquerque, N.M., to San Diego, Calif., on one tank of diesel. Since the drive was sponsored by Audi, we figured it’d be easy. They must've gamed the system

Then, co-pilot Juergens dropped a bombshell: "We need to do 62 mpg to finish this thing." The Audi A3 TDI is rated at 43 mpg highway, holding 13.2 gallons of diesel, with a range of 567.6 miles. We'd touch the California border with 266 more miles to go.

If we followed Audi's insane advice, we would have a fool's chance in making it. The route had been tested by range-stretching experts, who trotted forth quixotic phrases like ridge riding, long glide, stale greens, maintenance lane dive, reverse pass, and hard deck, which didn't mean what we thought it meant. We were encouraged to trash talk our competitors. And we were told to "embrace the weirdness of the Southwest."

Autoweek Magazine — See America Right: Albuquerque to San Diego on one tank of diesel