Cruising Back From Thunderhill - 2011 Mazda 2 Touring Long-Term Road Test
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2011 Mazda 2 Long-Term Road Test

2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Cruising Back From Thunderhill

December 07, 2010

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Since the Thunderhill 25 Hour Enduro is, well, a 25-hour enduro, I decided to park our 2011 Mazda 2 for another night after the race ended, get some much-needed sleep and make the 513-mile drive back to SoCal on Monday morning.

Good call. A Monday morning liftoff allowed me to miss I-5's notorious weekend traffic mayhem. It's only got two lanes in each direction, you see, and the car and truck speed limits differ by a full 15 mph, and any pickup or SUV towing anything at all has to abide by the commercial truck limit. California is stupid like that. This makes for an infuriating drive when you factor in a bunch of weekend traffic as people attempt to stream back to LA from San Francisco and other points north.

Missing this mess by one day played in to my plan to run a conservative pace for a shot at good mpg, but the drive started off with rain and a stiff headwind. Mother Nature seemed to have other ideas.

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Undeterred, I set the cruise control at 65 mph, 5 mph below the posted automobile limit here but equal to the speed limit in a lot of other states.

For the first 80 miles, the wind blew in from the one-o'clock position at 25 mph or so. As you might expect, there was a little extra wind noise. The chassis didn't seem to notice, however, as the Mazda 2 tracked straight and true with no need for corrective steering inputs.

But the near-headwind couldn't have been doing my fuel economy any favors. I considered abandoning my quest and resuming traffic speed, but the gusts abruptly stopped as I came into Sacramento, so I kept at it. The clouds completely dissipated further south and it turned into a very nice day.

I made it to Lost Hills just after noon with 323.3 miles on the trip meter and the "E" light blinking. In went 8.936 gallons of unleaded. The math worked out to 36.2 mpg, a full mpg better than the Mazda 2's 35-mpg highway rating.

Mission accomplished, I set the cruise to 70 mph for the duration of the trip. I would have to climb up and over Tejon pass, which would deposit me in the LA basin just in time for the leading wave of commuter traffic. My plan was to drive straight home, commute to work in the morning and then fill up near the office before hanging up the keys. It had to be worse, right?

Nope. LA traffic was at the point where it flowed at a moderate pace but never got quite got stopped-up, so 247.1 miles and 6.787 gallons later I was sitting in the Edmunds parking garage with my calculator, staring at 36.4 mpg.

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Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 4,095 miles


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