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Garmin ecoRoute HD review

Verdict

The price looks high, but this ingenious add-on could end up paying for itself

Review Date: 13 Apr 2011

Reviewed By: Jim Martin

Price when reviewed: £63 (£76 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Garmin’s satnavs might not be as good as TomTom's, but their “eco” features are stronger than any other. The recently reviewed Garmin nuLink 1695 lets you enter the cost of fuel and the quoted fuel consumption of your car, and it will then estimate how efficient your driving is, even displaying a line graph of recent driving efficiency.

The information is based on acceleration and speed information from the GPS receiver, the idea being that you’ll work to improve your driving efficiency, and therefore save fuel, by trying to beat your best score.

Pure acceleration and speed data can only go so far however - to improve accuracy, Garmin offers its ecoRoute HD. By plugging this small Bluetooth module into your engine’s OBD II diagnostic port (usually found in the cockpit of your car, under a flap), the ecoRoute HD can read data directly from your car’s sensors and, among other things, tell how hard you’re pressing the accelerator.

Garmin ecoRoute HD

You can check if your vehicle is compatible at Garmin's website. Most cars made after 2000 should be fine, although Renaults aren’t.

Once the dongle is paired with the satnav, two new icons appear: Gauges and Diagnostics. The first provides a virtual instrument cluster, adding five extra gauges to your dashboard. You can choose what each displays from a fairly long list, including speed, revs per minute, oil pressure, oil temperature, coolant temperature, mass air flow, fuel flow, engine load and throttle position. The list will vary depending on the data available on your particular vehicle.

Garmin ecoRoute HD

In addition, to the gauges, an eco icon appears on your satnav's main navigation view, updating every second or so with your eco "score", so it's easy to keep tabs on how you're driving. The throttle position information is what’s most important here, as it enables the ecoChallenge scores to be far more accurate than using GPS alone. Without the attachment, you can get away with being heavy-footed and still appear to be driving economically. With it, you’re forced to drive with a very light right foot to get high scores.

The system can also track fuel economy. Enter your car’s details, including its fuel type, claimed fuel economy and the fuel price at the last fill-up, and the satnav will provide an estimation of how much fuel you use on each trip, how much it cost, your average miles per gallon, plus your carbon footprint.

Garmin ecoRoute HD

The data is automatically displayed when you switch the engine off, but it’s also stored in a CSV file you can access when you connect the satnav to your computer. Fortunately, the module can store data even if the satnav isn’t in the car; it will then upload the trip data next time it pairs.

ecoRoute HD’s last trick is to read engine fault codes, and explain why the warning light has appeared on your dashboard. If there’s a problem, you can tap the Diagnostics menu option and the unit will show a description of the fault such as “random/multiple cylinder misfire detected”. There’s also an option to reset the light once the problem has been fixed.

It’s an impressive piece of kit, and when driving with it plugged in, we found it really did affect our driving behaviour. We found ourselves accelerating more gently and braking much further in advance of junctions and that will inevitably pay dividends with fuel costs currently so high. The only potential problem is the price, which looks high, especially when you add it to the cost of a satnav. When you consider how much you could save, however, it's a price worth paying.

Author: Jim Martin

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User comments

Any chance of trying it with the matching Android App (Garmin Mechanic)? It would be nice to know if its worth buying one of these without the matching SatNav and just use the app instead.

By artiss on 13 Apr 2011

Also... where is it being sold for £76?

By artiss on 13 Apr 2011

Put it like this unless you know what you're doing, leave diagnostic ports on cars alone.

If it's found out that you've been tinkering around with the EMS/ECU of a car & it's still under warranty, you will more than likely void it.

I've got a Garmin 3790, it won't be attached to anything other than a bean bag dash mount, it most definitely won't be plugged into the VCDS system of my car.

As I see it this gadget is for the most anal of economy freaks.

By SKINHEAD1967 on 13 Apr 2011

@SKINHEAD1967 ...or as they're called these days, thanks to petrol prices, "most drivers".

Personally I like the idea of being able to read the diagnostic messages rather than pay £30 for my dealer to do it!

By artiss on 14 Apr 2011

The trouble with the Garmin ecoRoute HD is that it uses a proprietary standard which is not compatible with any of the multitude of other OBDII apps out there. One of the competing products allow the use of the majority of smartphone/tablet/PC performance, economy, and diagnostics software from multiple vendors.

By Sushifiend on 14 Apr 2011

No, artiss...

Only the anally retentive want to know the engine revs, most modern cars include a rev counter anyway, so this one is pointless.

Onboard computers can display almost all of the information that a driver needs inc, Av Speed, Distance, Fuel Consumption etc.

Like I said if it's plugged into the ECU/EMS & it FIUBAR's it you'll be looking at a bill of over £1000 + more for your ignition keys as well as loads of the keys are paired to the ECU/EMS, then add the ICE/NAV system as well & you're heading rapidly for £3000!

Want put this piece of junk on board still?

By SKINHEAD1967 on 15 Apr 2011

@SKINHEAD1967 Do you work for a Garmin competitor, only you appear to be getting very angry about this?

Are you sure this invalidates your warranty? This simply plugs into an existing port in your car - the same port (and using the same technology) as the dealer will when you take your car in for a service. How would they even know you're using it?

If you take a look at the matching Android app (https://market.android.com/details?id=com.garmin.
android.apps.mech) you'll see whole load of useful features (for some people, but not all!) above what your dashboard would normally report. As I say it's not for all, but I hardly berate those that would find it useful.

By artiss on 18 Apr 2011

@SKINHEAD1967

Did you even read the review? You plug the device in to the ODB II port that is located inside the car so it is accessible. It has nothing to do with the ECU/EMS.

By Den00 on 18 Apr 2011

It accesses the engines/cars electronic systems, the cars diagnostic port is linked to both the ECU & EMS, so things such as VCDS aka VAG-COM (for VW group cars), that's how they do diagnostics on the cars systems, everything from engine to aircon, unless you know what you're doing then leave alone.

Like I said this is a gadget for the anally retentive, especially as you have on-board computers that tell you all the necessary information as standard.

By SKINHEAD1967 on 18 Apr 2011

It accesses the engines/cars electronic systems, the cars diagnostic port is linked to both the ECU & EMS, so things such as VCDS aka VAG-COM (for VW group cars), that's how they do diagnostics on the cars systems, everything from engine to aircon, unless you know what you're doing then leave alone.

Like I said this is a gadget for the anally retentive, especially as you have on-board computers that tell you all the necessary information as standard.

By SKINHEAD1967 on 18 Apr 2011

Does Not Void Warranty

I own this device.
Besides being able to reset a trouble-code, this unit is only an information collector; it doesn't make any changes to your car's computer or provide any tools other than to view what your car is doing. Eventually, there'll probably be some computer hacks and connectability to a laptop, but that's not out at this time. It does give the driver an insight into real (and realtime) engine/gasoline performance that you'll never see on a dashboard system.
Is this info. needed? No.
Is it interesting? Yes.
Can I change my car's setpoints with it? No.
Does it help the driver be more fuel efficient? Maybe.

If you're a gadget geek and already own a compatible garmin, this will keep you entertained for a few weeks. Only the die-hard fuel economy guy will stay entertained longer than that.

It does expose that the included ecoRoute software is very poor at measuring or predicting anything without connecting to the ecoRoute HD device.

By Rumbler on 20 Apr 2011

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