Mazda Keeps Upping the Ante in its Most Popular Car
Mazda is a little auto company, but it’s got an oversize presence among those who value driving for pleasure and appreciate engineering that backs up that pleasure. We had a chance to do a brief drive of revamped 2017 Mazda CX-5 at the Western Automotive Journalists’ 2017 Media Days program (among the several cars we experienced there).
As Mazda’s best-selling model, the CX-5 crossover has the burden of leadership. For Mazda, that means taking its Kodo design themes to new places and incorporating 250 changes for the 2017 revamp. The exterior changes are not readily apparent unless you put a 2016 model next to the new 2017, but interior upgrades and some of the under-the-skin technology mark a real change.
Brief Drive Confirms–It’s All Good
We only had a brief drive in the new CX-5, but we threw it at a 1200-foot hill known as Laureles Grade, which also included plenty of turns up and down, so we had a chance to fully experience the slightly improved horsepower of the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine and the new G-Vectoring Control system. The 2017 Mazda CX-5 delivers what we’ve come to expect from Mazdas—good road feel, responsive steering and enough power throughout the band to give you confidence to respond to the challenge of a classic Monterey Peninsula road.
Along with all of these great performance characteristics, Mazda hasn’t forgotten about fuel economy. Even with all-wheel drive, the CX-5 can produce 30 mpg+ on the highway. In our short drive we bested the 26 mpg combined rating from the EPA. The official numbers on our model were 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/26 combined. The front-wheel drive model bumps the city number by one mpg and the highway number by two.
Mazda’s move to push the CX-5 into a more upscale mode was evident. We drove the topline Grand Touring model, which featured all the bells and whistles that are becoming more common throughout the modern automotive world. The other two levels are the base Sport and the midlevel Touring, both of which are available as either front- or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $24,045 while our fully-optioned Grand Touring topped out at $34,380 including the $940 delivery, processing and handling fee.
Three Trim Levels Available
All three levels get the same engine and transmission—the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv-G that features 187 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque mated to the Skyactiv six-speed automatic transmission. The result is a nice, flat torque curve that gives you responsive power throughout the drive cycle.
Similarly, you’re don’t have to upgrade to get a better suspension package—standard throughout is an independent front MacPherson strut and independent rear multi-link suspension, augmented by stabilizer bars at both ends. Also standard are power-assisted ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes. Add to that an anti-lock brake system with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, dynamic stability control, a traction control system, hill launch assist and the new G-Vectoring Control, part of the Skyactiv vehicle dynamics system.
The Inside Story
In the interior, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring provides plenty of room for five and reasonable storage behind the rear seat for gear. Leather adorns much of the interior at this level and everything’s powered and heated. As an example of the trim options—the Sport’s four-speaker sound system adds two more speakers at the Touring level and tops out with a Bose-branded 10-speaker one in the Grand Touring model. Of course, as is the case in most cars, a full contingent of connected infotainment features are included. Mazda continues to please us by including buttons and knobs to control the key elements and also steering-wheel mounted controls on all trim levels.
One feature that is optional at all levels (and was included on our tester) was the Active Driving Display, a head up display system. It was fine, except that it disappeared if you were wearing polarized sunglasses. Radar cruise control, a feature we really like, is also included on the Grand Touring (optional at the Touring level but not available on the Sport).
We’ve like the Mazda CX-5 in the past and think it matches up well with its compact crossover competition. This year Mazda has thrown down the gauntlet to those competitors to step up their style game and sharpen their driving skills. We suspect we’ll have even more kind things to say when we have the change to spend a little more time in the 2017 Mazda CX-5.
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