Mazda has revealed its all-new CX-9 will be around 25 percent more fuel efficient than the current model, despite only being available with a turbocharged small-capacity petrol engine instead of a diesel.
Mazda's official fuel economy claim for the CX-7 was 11.5 l/100km on the combined cycle, but real-world figures were often well in excess of that. The current CX-9, which is only available with a naturally-aspirated 3.7 litre petrol V6, isn't much better with an average consumption of 11.2 l/100km in AWD form.
For the new CX-9, however, Mazda claims average fuel economy results as low as 8.4 l/100km for FWD models and 8.8 l/100km for AWD models.
That's a 23.6 percent improvement for the FWD CX-9, while the numbers for the new AWD CX-9 represent a 21.4 percent drop in fuel thirst. Those numbers were recorded using regular 91-octane petrol too, not premium unleaded.
More importantly, those claimed figures will make the new CX-9 the most efficient petrol-powered seven-seat large SUV on the market. The Toyota Kluger FWD consumes 10.4 l/100km on the combined cycle, while the Nissan Pathfinder 2WD is slightly better than the Toyota with its 9.9 l/100km average.
Both those cars use 3.5 litre naturally-aspirated petrol V6s, though the Pathfinder is available in petrol-electric hybrid form (with that model recording a CX-9 2WD equalling 8.4 l/100km fuel consumption average).
How has Mazda brought fuel consumption of its CX-9 well under the 10 l/100km mark without resorting to a turbo diesel engine? Weight is part of the answer, with the new Mazda CX-9 weighing over 160kg less than the current model in high-grade form.
The rest of the efficiency gains come from the engineering and the tuning of the new CX-9's 2.5 litre turbo four, which is designed to perform more like a diesel than a traditional petrol turbo.
With 170kW of power, it's not as powerful as its Toyota and Nissan rivals but it makes a far more substantial 420Nm of torque, much of which is delivered low in the rev range where the majority of driving is done.
We drove a prototype in Los Angeles late last year and came away impressed with its tractability, though our as-tested average of 14.9 l/100km was pretty far from Mazda's official claim. That said, with our drive route incorporating some aggressive driving through canyon roads and some diabolical LA traffic jams, that number was always going to be high.
The all new Mazda CX-9 range is due to go on sale locally in the middle of this year, with full pricing and specifications to be announced closer to launch.