2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Scenes from CA Highway 16
February 24, 2010
Although I mostly stuck to interstates on my 28-hour road trip in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, all cruise and no play would have made Erin a very dull car-journalist-person indeed. But I had my California Thomas guide, so I plotted out on a detour on California's Highway 16.
I picked up 16 at Interstate 5, but it doesn't start to get good until after you pass through the town of Esparto just past the 505 interchange. I already had the Mazda's navigation system programmed for my eventual destination, and it became quite alarmed when I left the interstate. It refused to recalculate the route on back roads, so I ignored it for the next 45 miles until it finally came to its senses. (Bottom line: Any nav system is better than no nav system, but this one is about 5 years behind the times, and apart from the tidy packaging, not a great buy over a portable.)
Now Highway 16 is not a highly technical road, but for a car-person already in that part of NorCal who just wants a nice series of high-speed turns, it delivers. You get to appreciate the turbocharged engine's big torque, and the road tightens up enough to justify a few heel-and-toe downshifts.
The steering also feels good off-center, firming up just as it should. The road is smooth, too, so of course, the Mazdaspeed 3 felt buttoned down through the sweepers. And the seats held me in place nicely.
I had fun on Highway 16 and reminded myself that I was in a fun car -- something you just can't do on a numbing interstate run.
I averaged 24.7 mpg for the whole 967.4-mile road trip, by the way. The tanks were remarkably consistent -- all 300+ miles and all in the 24-mpg range. Notably, I wasn't as demanding of the throttle as on some previous road trips.
Undoubtedly, all the rains we've had show off Hwy 16 to best effect right now -- it's just as green as it looks in the photos I took on little side roads off of it. The wildflowers should be radiant in a few weeks.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,252 miles