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2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2017 Mazda CX-5

Enhancements for 2017 keep the Mazda CX-5 at the head of the affordable compact crossover class

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

               • SEE ALSO: Audi Research and Buyers Guide


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If the 2017 Mazda CX-5 looks like a mild styling refresh of the 2016 version, look more closely. While showing plenty of continuity, few body panels are unchanged. Structurally, its unibody is stiffer, allowing improved suspension compliance with no loss of driving control and pleasure — the CX-5 may be a small crossover, but it’s a small Mazda crossover, which means that it has Mazda’s reputation for building cars with engaging vehicle dynamics to uphold. Which it does very well, thank you. Sound insulation is improved for a quieter experience, and myriad interior changes improve comfort and convenience. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine gets a three-horsepower increase to 187, and drives the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Since its debut for model year 2013, the CX-5 has become a best-seller, reaching the one million point more faster than any Mazda except the Mazda3. It has been continuously improved since then, with even the 2016 version getting important upgrades with its successor imminent. As is the Mazda way, the 2017 CX-5 is offered in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels. The 2.5-liter engine / six-speed automatic is the only drivetrain. Front-wheel drive is standard, with i-ACTIV all-wheel drive optional across the lineup. The Sport gives you everything you need, and more, with alloy wheels, LED headlights, pollen-filtration air conditioning, pushbutton start/stop, cruise control, Bluetooth® connectivity, a tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel with audio, cruise, and phone controls, useful interior lighting and storage, full instrumentation and a seven-inch touchscreen for infotainment, and more. Seating there is cloth. Touring replaces that with leatherette and more convenience possibilities via option packages. Grand Touring means leather seating, heated in front, most of the contents of the Touring option packages standard, and a Premium Package of driver’s seat memory, power-adjustable front passenger seat as well, heated outboard rear seats and steering wheel, and the “Active Driving Display” heads-up display.

Such was my test example, a front-wheel drive Grand Touring with the Premium Package. So-outfitted, it came close to a much more expensive luxury-brand compact crossover in character and amenities — for a more reasonable price. The Mazda CX-5 can do all of the tasks required of a compact crossover, with a reasonable thirst for unleaded regular, and with a more engaging driving experience than any other similarly-priced vehicle and most that are far more expensive. “Driving Matters” is more than an ad slogan at Mazda.

APPEARANCE: The high, two-box shape is familiar, the details are different, more so than at first glance. Lower, wider headlights that blend into a revised grille are most apparent, followed by a new design for the lower fascia that does away with outboard faux brake ducts. Harder to see at first, but more interesting is side styling that does away with the noticeably humped front fender contour for a flatter and smoother line. Following that, the lower edge of the side windows is now straight, rather than dipping with the fender line as before. Rear styling is a bit simpler, with lower taillights and less bumper sculpting. It’s a crossover so the expected textured plastic trim is found around the lower perimeter.

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COMFORT: Inside, as expected in a Mazda, styling more European than Asian, with elegant simplicity, high-quality materials, and precise fit and finish. Even with revisions last year, design is much-changed for 2017. Most notably, the dash has been massively restyled, with a lower top right if the instrument pod. The information screen projects from its top — but still below eye level. Vents, climate controls, and the console are also newly styled. Front seat comfort is very good, with power adjustment on the driver’s side. At Grand Touring level seating surfaces are leather, as is the steering wheel rim. The tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel has the usual audio, information, phone, and cruise controls. Backlit instruments are easily read in all lighting. The rear seat cushions are a bit higher than the fronts, for passenger visibility, and the rear doors open a bit more for easier access. Headroom won’t be a problem. Legroom and width are good, too, with the usual caveat about the center position being best for small people and short times. A 40/20/40 folding seatback helps usefulness and there is plenty of other space around the cabin. Audio choices are all current varieties. Interior storage spaces have been increased in size. A power sunroof and tailgate are standard in the Grand Touring.

SAFETY: All CX-5 models get strong safety-oriented unibody construction, front, front-side, and full-length side curtain airbags, a rearview camera, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Brakes are four-wheel disc, antilock of course, with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and Dynamic Stability Control. Touring and Grand Touring get a blind spot monitoring system that illuminates a spot in the appropriate outside mirror and sounds a chime when a vehicle is in range to the side of the CX-5. The system also alerts for rear cross traffic. Smart City Brake Support is standard across the line, with Smart Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, radar cruise control, and automatic high-beam control standard in the Grand Touring and package options in the Touring.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A redesign of the CX-5’s unibody increases torsional rigidity by 15 percent, allowing a slightly softer suspension tuning for greater comfort with no loss of control or driving involvement and enjoyment. The 2017 CX-5 sees the first use of G-Vectoring Control, technology that uses engine ignition timing to subtly control chassis dynamics. Since engine, transmission, and steering computer controls are already on speaking terms, a small amount of torque reduction produces just enough engine braking when the steering wheel is turned on corner entry to transfer just enough weight forward to improve front tire “bite” and reduce understeer — and, usually, need for steering correction. As before, the suspension is fully-independent by means of MacPherson struts in front and a multilink system in the rear.

PERFORMANCE: No major changes to the CX-5’s direct-injected 2.5 liter twincam, 16-valve aluminum alloy four-cylinder this year, and none needed. Detail improvements to reduce friction increase maximum horsepower to 187 at 6,000 rpm, from 185 at 5700. Maximum torque stays the same at 185 lb-ft at a low 3250 rpm. The chassis could easily handle more power, but fuel economy is more important in the compact crossover class. The six-speed automatic is optimized for that in its default mode. Sport mode and manual shifting are available when quicker acceleration is desired, or when the driver prefers control over shifting — but even in default there is no “hunting” for gears on grades or other bad behavior. My 25mpg average for the week was mostly due to minimal highway driving - the CX-5 is good enough over the road that the back road is better than the highway.

CONCLUSIONS: A host of enhancements for 2017 keep the Mazda CX-5 at the head of the affordable compact crossover class.




SPECIFICATIONS

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD

Base Price $ 29,395

Price As Tested $ 32,785

Engine Type DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.

Horsepower 187 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 185 @ 3250 rpm

Transmission 6-speed multi-mode automatic

Wheelbase / Length 106.2 in. / 179.1 in.

Curb Weight 3527 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 18.9

Fuel Capacity 14.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P225/55 R19 99V m+s Toyo A36

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multi-link

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 24 / 31 / 25

0 to 60 mph 7.6 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Cargo Mat $ 79

Retractable Cargo Cover $ 250

Premium Package — includes: two-position driver’s seat memory, 5-way power front passenger seat, heated rear seats and steering wheel, active driving display, windshield de-icer $ 1,830

Destination Charge $ 940