2023 Mazda CX-5 Turbo Signature AWD - Review by David Colman
A top tier driving experience
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Tackle a twisting road with this diminutive Mazda SUV and you'd swear you were wheeling an MX-5 Miata. It really is that good at capitalizing the SPORT in sport utility. Mazda approaches the build of the CX-5 from a different perspective than other manufacturers. If you're willing to accept slovenly cornering and slothful acceleration, there are plenty of other mid-size SUVs that will fill your bill. But if you put a premium on the art of driving, Mazda's CX-5 Turbo will reward you with a driving experience unlikely to be matched by SUVs costing twice as much from BMW, Audi and Porsche.
Mazda puts a premium on suspension tuning and engine responsiveness. Front and rear suspension systems are fully independent and both ends of the CX-5 are locked down with stabilizer bars. The electric power-assisted steering Mazda brings to this vehicle provides the driver with an uncanny sense of road feel. Spring rates have been perfectly calculated to mitigate wallow and pitch while retaining surprising comfort over rough surfaces. The CX-5's I-Active all-wheel drive works in consort with the company's patented G-Vectoring Control Plus power distribution to produce a claw-like purchase on pavement. The Toyo A36 all-season radials (225/55R19) stick well beyond your expectation and only issue a slight chirp of protest when they near their high adhesion limit.
Likewise, the 227hp turbocharged engine produces a healthy rush when you toe the throttle hard. With a fat 310lb.-ft. of torque available at just 2500rpm, and 6 gears available for your selection via paddle, the CX-5 digs into the turf like a sand rail at Pismo Beach. The 3,832 pound CX-5 will consistently crank off quarter mile runs in 15 seconds at 92mph and accelerate from 0-60MPH in 6.2 seconds. A gear override feature allows you to shift the 6-speed manually at will. Much to your benefit, the gear ratio you have chosen remains in play until you change it. Only if you reach redline (5000rpm) will the gearbox upshift automatically to a higher cog. Mazda deserves much praise for devising this driver-friendly gear selection arrangement. However, unlike many similar manually controlled automatic gearboxes, the CX-5's floor-mounted lever requires a forward push rather than a rearward pull for a downshift. But if you use the paddles, the left side controls downshifts while the right side actuates upshifts.
The Signature line is the top echelon for the CX-5. The interior is furnished with tastefully understated Nappa Leather-trimmed seats. Both front seats are fitted with power seat position controls, heating and ventilation. The seats are retentive without being confining, although rear seat passengers will find rather limited legroom if the front seats are positioned rearward. Mazda has thoughtfully provided a heated steering wheel which proved beneficial on the many frosty mornings I spent in my week with this SUV.
Although most of the important HVAC controls receive individual buttons splayed across the dash front, the Infotainment System proved more difficult to master. A 10.3-inch screen rests atop the dash face and does a fine job of displaying maps of the area you are traversing. But the screen is not touch sensitive, so you are forced to use a rotary controller to access navigational commands or SiriusXM station choice. We found the rotary control to be counterintuitive to the point that we were unable to select satellite stations or set up a favorites menu. So we enlisted the aid of a 23 year old computer whiz who also failed at getting the system to cooperate. In fact, after we restored the software to "factory settings" we lost our 3-month free XM subscription altogether. My co-programmer solemnly pronounced the system to be "glitched."
Be that as it may, we still loved the CX-5. Perhaps a couple of semesters training at Mazda-U would restore our faith in the rotary controller. Without the interference of loud music, however, we were free to enjoy the pure experience of driving a Mazda that looks like an SUV but performs like a two seat roadster. The CX-5 elevates driving experience to the top tier of ownership goals. Everything else becomes secondary to road feel feedback, throttle response and cornering prowess - a most unusual portfolio of virtues for any SUV.
2023 MAZDA CX-5 TURBO SIGNATURE AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve, aluminum block and head
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/27MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $41,655
Official Price and Build
HYPES: High Precision Performance
GRIPES: Lose the Rotary Controller
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10