In spring, a young man’s fancy turns to cold beer and hot cars; not necessarily in that order, and not to be consumed together. If, however, you’re a Texas auto writer and member of an association with the same handle, you find a racetrack, a motel in the same zip code…and go slow. The good news: on our way to doing a TAWA-mandated 60 miles per hour at the Circuit of the Americas (America’s only dedicated Formula One venue) we were able to pilot our Mazda CX-5 at between 80 and 90 in the southbound lanes of I-35.
Readers know my genuine affection for most things made by Mazda. Of course, Mazda lacks a pickup in these United States, and their 3-row CX-9 is one more row than I typically need, but on whole there’s a lot to like in their ‘zoom-zoom’ lineup, even among those models – like the relatively new CX-3 – without a lot of that ‘zoom’.
This year marks the first redo of the well-regarded CX-5, a model critics lauded for its platform and responsiveness, but were perhaps less than thrilled by what we’ll call a lack of visual dynamic. Obviously, this isn’t a category – compact crossover – known for projecting visual (or visceral) appeal, but some pull off this crossover thing better than others. The initial CX-5 was beating the drum for dynamic over design; our all-new ’17 CX-5 seems to focus on both form and functionality equally well.
If you do a side-by-side comparo between the ’16 and ’17 the differences are subtle, but undeniable. Sitting on essentially the same footprint, the CX-5’s new nose is more penetrating, the headlamps (LED) more of-this-century and the greenhouse more unified relative to the lower body. The surface detailing on the doors is notably less fussy, although we can’t remember when we fussed in observing the 1st-gen. The end result is far more than a nip here, tuck there transformation, but neither is the first CX-5 Paul Hogan and the more recent Paul Newman (look ‘em up).
Inside, you’ll see more of an uptick, especially in our press vehicle’s Grand Touring spe-ci-fi-cation. We’re not sure the parchment leather will work with a 4-year old grandson, but he’s a neat, considerate grandson, so…maybe. But the fit is right, with enough width to accommodate our width, and enough lateral support to, well, support. In almost three hours on the aforementioned I-35 we had virtually no complaint from either backside.
Ergonomically, it all works, with easy-to-read gauges and easy-to-reach controls. We do wish Mazda’s infotainment was as intuitive as that offered by Hyundai or Kia, but it’s easier than what’s offered by BMW or Benz. The sound emanating from the GT’s Bose system is worth tuning in, while SiriusXM means you can avoid those religious frequencies – for Christ sake! – unless, of course, you want them.
The overall impression conveyed by this newest CX-5 is very upscale, with a toehold in near-luxury without – of course – soaring into the $40s. The CX-5 interior is not, however, the visual statement made by Mazda’s larger CX-9, whose interior (again, in upscale spec) embarrasses certain Infiniti and Lexus efforts. And while not offering that 3rd-row, this is a very spacious crossover for one using ‘compact’ as an adjective. Rear seat passengers enjoy 1st-class seating, with very real room for a middle passenger or bulky child seat.
Underway, you’ll be pleased with the 2.5-liter SkyActiv powertrain, connected to a 6-speed automatic and driving either the front wheels or all wheels. Our front-wheel-drive test car was responsive, but (frankly) didn’t overwhelm us with its neck-snapping capabilities. The oft-promised, long-awaited diesel might be the ticket for those wanting more torque (along with better efficiency), but it will undoubtedly come with an uptick in price. The CX-5’s ride/handling balance is nicely balanced, and at 80+ miles per hour we still achieved mileage in the high 20s.
With a base price under $25,000, and an as-tested price of just $33K, there’s a lot of value in what Mazda brings to the table. At the TAWA event in Austin the CX-5 competed against the new Jeep Compass, Nissan’s new Rogue Sport and new Toyota C-HR. TAWA members gave the nod to the Compass (we were doing, as mentioned, under 60!), while your reporter gave it to the Mazda. In Moab I might vote for the Jeep. Driving I-35, I’ll vote for zoom.