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May 13, 2012
It’s an unwritten law of nature. When two parents have kids, more often than not, their offspring will be quite different. One will have Dad’s eyes, another, Mom’s nose. Some will be mild-mannered, happy and always smiling, and others, well – they will be wicked. Enter the 2011 MAZDASPEED3. From a distance, it may look like its MAZDA3 siblings, with its five-point grille and sleek lines, but one minute behind the wheel will prove otherwise.
Even before it was introduced, driving enthusiasts had pegged the MAZDASPEED3 to be a leader in the front-drive performance car category. In addition to living up to that expectation, the MAZDASPEED3 has come to be regarded as one of the best bargains on the road and the finest marriage of performance and practicality on four wheels. A sporty and aggressive exterior design compliments an avant-garde interior. Under the hood is the highly acclaimed 263-horsepower MZR 2.3L DISI turbo engine capable of propelling the MAZDASPEED3 to a 155-mph top speed. Features like an LED turbo boost gauge, air intake and unique MAZDASPEED interior express the MAZDASPEED3’s athletic nature while 18-inch Dunlop tires provide improved grip and steering feel.
Package/option changes for 2011 include the addition of rain-sensing front wipers, auto on/off headlights, Bi-Xenon headlights with auto leveling, Adaptive Front-lighting system (AFS), and LED rear combination taillights to the MAZDASPEED Technology Package.
Expressive and Dynamic Design
The design of the MAZDASPEED3 evolves the model’s visual identity to create a sportier, more aggressive appearance. The result is a more emotional design that takes the sporty, agile nature of the MAZDA3 5-Door to a new level.
The MAZDASPEED3 is easily distinguished from its siblings. Start at the front, where a lower air dam and round fog lights frame an organic, metallic-black grille. The hood houses an intercooler scoop to improve charge air cooling, and the front fenders are flared to contain the car’s wide tires.
From the side view, the 18 x 7.5-inch aluminum wheel design is unique, but modeled closely on the deeply sculpted, expressive, and very lightweight 19-inch forged wheels on the RX-8 R3. Sculpted side skirts and a low stance also give away the MAZDASPEED3’s sinister motives. From the rear, large dual exhaust tips, , and a large, roof-mounted rear wing give it away.
Nagare-inspired design defines the exterior and continues into the cabin, which features color coordination and materials chosen to excite the driver and passengers every time they take a seat. Black is the keynote color employed throughout the interior, while the seats and trim fabric have an organic red graphic design. This MAZDASPEED3-exclusive design is distributed throughout, with red stitching enhancing the sporty interior character on the steering wheel, seats, door trim, shift lever boot, and center armrest.
The dashboard of the MAZDASPEED3 is designed to give a roomy feel while displaying critical information up high and deep into the dashboard, closer to the driver’s field of vision and focal point. The instrument cluster for the MAZDASPEED3 also includes an LED turbo boost gauge positioned between the meters.
The driver’s seat is especially critical in any performance car. Without solid lateral support, a driver loses the focus, control and precision needed to really enjoy driving. The MAZDASPEED3 seats are designed to provide that support without compromising everyday comfort.
The MAZDASPEED3 continues to use Mazda’s award-winning MZR 2.3L DISI Turbo powerplant. Delivering 263 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 280 lb.-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, it made the original MAZDASPEED3 the most powerful front-drive performance car under $25,000, and remains one of the strongest engines in its class today.
Fuel is delivered to the intake ports by an electronically controlled sequential injection system. Ignition coils are modular units positioned directly above the spark plugs. Shim-less bucket tappets require no maintenance. Light-weight pistons are coated with a special anti-friction compound and fitted with low-tension rings for improved gas mileage. Sintered powder-metal connecting rods and lighter full-floating wrist pins minimize the reciprocating weight. As a result, this engine hums as contentedly at 6000 rpm as it does at 2000 rpm.
The 2.3-liter powerplant features variable intake valve timing and a two-mode composite intake manifold. A 4-into-1 exhaust manifold improves cylinder scavenging and reduces the time necessary for the catalytic converter to warm to full operating temperature. Dual tailpipes and specially tuned mufflers provide a pleasant exhaust note without a hint of mid-range boom or high-rpm thrash.
The MAZDASPEED3 features an advanced torque management system, which minimizes torque steer by adjusting torque output based on gear position and steering angle. The gear ratios allow more of the engine’s torque to be utilized in the lower gears while still keeping torque steer at a manageable level.
Handles Like a Mazda
The MAZDASPEED3’s body shell benefits from a focused effort at strengthening the most important parts of the structure. The use of high-strength and ultra-high strength steel in the safety structures like bumpers and side impact beams makes these areas both strong and light. The suspension mounting points benefit from the use of thick sheet metal in high-stress areas and extensive use of weld bonding, a hybrid joining technique combining conventional spot welds with structural adhesives.
In general, a stiff structure allows firmer suspension tuning without compromising ride comfort. In the case of the MAZDASPEED3, that firm suspension was accomplished with stiff springs, high damping rates, and revised mounting points for the front stabilizer bar that reduce bushing deflection and increase the bar’s effectiveness. Combined with wide, high-grip 225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 2050 performance tires, the MAZDASPEED3’s suspension tuning marries unflappable control with a comfortable everyday ride.
Steering feel and response has always been a staple with the MAZDASPEED3, due largely in part to a rigid 3-point mounting of the steering rack. The electro-hydraulic power assisted steering (EHPAS) reduces parasitic drag on the engine, lowers power steering fluid temperature, and gives much more flexibility for the development team to dial in steering feel. Rigid high-speed steering feel can be accomplished without suffering heavy steering at low speeds.
Brake feel in hard braking is superior due to do an electronically-controlled system. Brake assist shortens stopping distance in panic-stop situations by applying full brake pressure during the moment of hesitation that most drivers exhibit in the instant after first hitting the brakes. The electronically-controlled system can differentiate between true panic-stop situations and, for example, braking hard for turn 11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Features and Options – Everything You Want, Nothing You Don’t Need
The 2011 MAZDASPEED3 is loaded with all the goodies a driving enthusiast wants, but without anything that would add undue weight. Standard features and equipment include variable intermittent windshield wipers, roof-mounted aerodynamic antenna, illuminated vanity mirrors, electroluminescent gauges, aluminum pedals, MAZDASPEED –branded black/red cloth seats, door trim, interior trim, floor mats, scuff plates and black/red decoration panel; and dual-zone climate control. An available MAZDASPEED3 Technology Package offers advanced keyless entry, push-button start, a compact full-color navigation system, Sirius satellite radio with six months of free service, a perimeter alarm, six CD changer, and BOSE® Centerpoint® surround sound – a five-channel surround system engineered cooperatively with BOSE® that enhances the listening experience thanks to a digital amplifier, noise cancellation technology and 10, strategically placed, premium speakers. For 2011, the MAZDASPEED3 Technology Package is expanded with rain-sensing front wipers, auto on/off headlights, Bi-Xenon headlights with auto leveling, Adaptive Front-lighting system (AFS), and LED rear combination taillights. Because the weight and structural penalties would compromise the pure driving experience, the MAZDASPEED3 is not available with a moonroof option.
The MAZDASPEED3 is the third model in the 2011 MAZDA3 lineup, joining the MAZDA3 5-door, and the 4-door sedan.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Mazda vehicles, visit the online Mazda media center at www.mazdausamedia.com. Product B-roll may be ordered online by visiting The News Market at www.thenewsmarket.com/mazda.