Every once in a while, an automaker will come into a segment with a new offering that pushes boundaries. Sometimes it is content advances like Subaru has with its excellent, and affordable EyeSight forward crash mitigation technology, or Hondas lane keeping assist, which from this tester’s point of view is the best in the world. Other times the changes are to the drivetrain. Nissan deserves credit for introducing the CVT and being the one to take the heat as the bugs got worked out. Along those lines, Mazda is about to introduce a new engine to a small turbo engine to a tightly-knit group of three-row crossovers which all use V6 engines, and its big change is fuel efficiency.
The new 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD will increase its fuel efficiency by about 27%. The outgoing CX-9 AWD, which was a collaborative design with a lot of Ford influence, had an EPA combined rating of just 18 MPG, making it stand out as a gas-guzzler in this frugal segment. The new CX-9 AWD is rated at 23 MPG combined according to Mazda’s press release today. This number puts a pretty big gap between the CX-9 AWD and the Toyota Highlander AWD (20 MPG). The Honda Pilot AWD and Nissan Pathfinder AWD are closer at 22 MPG combined.
You will notice that we have avoided the term “fuel economy.” That is because the new 2016 Mazda CX-9 will come with a recommendation of 93-octane premium fuel. The term “economy” refers to the cost per mile of a vehicle for fuel, whereas efficiency only refers to the miles per gallon rating. With the others in this group rating their vehicles using regular unleaded, it is our opinion that Mazda has negated any real-world benefit of its fuel efficiency gains by requiring the most expensive fuel. That’s a shame.