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Mazda

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In an era when some vehicle designers equate complexity with desirability, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 rolls onstage as an easygoing, friendly travel companion.

Almost everything about it feels familiar, as if you’ve already had a relationship. It has comfort and available luxury, but without a goofy shift lever or an infotainment system where annoying fiddling is required just to set favorite radio stations.

2019_mazda_cx-5-6Climb aboard. In the tested top-of-the-line Signature model, you sit in a comfortable, well-bolstered perforated leather seat, heated and ventilated. Through the steering wheel you view bright white-on-black easy-to-read analog instruments.

The shifter has a traditional PRND shift pattern, though there’s a sideways M setting for manual shifting of the six-speed automatic transmission. Nearby is a switch for the parking brake — up for park, down for driving — next to a toggle switch that engages the sport driving mode, which enhances throttle response. You don’t have to look to operate them. Same for the radio volume knob.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-04-intStraight ahead, in your line of vision, is the head-up display. It delivers information about speed, road signs and the adaptive cruise control, which is easily engaged with buttons on the steering wheel.

In the center, at the top of the dash, is the infotainment screen. Sure, it’s small, not gigantic like the one on the Tesla Model 3. But it’s right where you can see with a quick glance what’s going on. No peering at it for anxious seconds.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-09-detailFunctions are operated by a knob on the console, which is more complicated than a touch screen but doesn’t require as much focused attention to the screen. Simple console buttons change what’s displayed.

The word for this is ergonomics, the science that seeks to adapt working conditions to the worker. It also applies to making the driving experience intuitive and transparent. Good ergonomics, of course, is not exclusive to Mazda. But the CX-5 is a particularly fine example of thoughtful design.

Yet for all of its old-shoe friendliness, the CX-5 is a thoroughly modern Millie. It is a compact crossover sport utility vehicle competing in a class that includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, and Chevrolet Equinox.

Because of Mazda’s current effort to move its models upscale, the CX-5, particularly in its luxury-equipped Signature version, sells for a few thousands of dollars more than the top-line CR-V and RAV4 models.

The tested CX-5 Signature had a base price of $37,885 and, with a few options, had a bottom-line sticker of $39,030. But its equipment and features rivaled those of luxury crossovers like the Cadillac XT4 and Infiniti QX50, both of which are more expensive, well into the mid-$50,000 range.

2019_mazda_cx-5-1Mazda is not a huge player among manufacturers, not even in the compact crossover category. Yet as part of the current onrushing trend toward crossovers, the CX-5 is Mazda’s best seller in the U.S., totaling more sales than all of the company’s other models combined.

Aware of its lagging sales compared to its competitive set, Mazda has set out to distinguish the CX-5 in multiple ways that contribute to the driving experience. In that, performance enhances ergonomics.

There are five trim levels, starting with the Sport at $25,345. Others are the Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve and the tested Signature. Only the last two get Mazda’s new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The others use a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-banger with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque.

cx9engine-201-1The turbo motor delivers enough grunt to accelerate the Signature model to 60 mph in slightly over six seconds — more than respectable in this era. Though it can be accomplished simply by punching the pedal to the floor, the Sport mode facilitates it by holding the shifts to higher revs. You can shift manually but only with the shift lever. There are no paddles on the steering wheel.

Handling is sedan-like with no apparent lean on curves. Straight-line driving requires few steering corrections and the CX-5 cruises quietly with a bit of engine noise only on acceleration. With the suspension system biased toward handling, the ride gets a bit choppy on rough roads.

There’s plenty of head and knee room for four persons, though the fifth center-rear position is impossibly cramped. The rear seatbacks are split in three and fold nearly flat to almost double the cargo space of 31 to 60 cubic feet.

2019-mazda-cx-5-signature-02-extSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; turbocharged, 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 102/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,825 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/27/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,885.
  • Price as tested: $39,030.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2017-mazda-cx-5-grand-touring-5Photos (c) Mazda

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If you have one of those primal urges for a low-slung, two-seat sports car, and you’re not a member of the one percent, look no farther than the 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF.

Don’t bother reading about the $3.3 million Bugatti Chiron, the $285,000 McLaren 270S, the $187,500 Porsche GT3 RS, or the $141,000 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. There are other nosebleed-priced super cars as well.

And you can even skip the $30,000-plus Fiat 124 Abarth Spider, which is basically a knockoff of the MX-5 with Italian styling and a Fiat engine, but only comes as a ragtop convertible. Mazda also builds an MX-5 two-seat ragtop but the focus here is on the RF, which stands for “retractable fastback.”

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-9With slick engineering that would do justice to cartoonist Rube Goldberg, along with13 seconds of your time, the fastback MX-5 RF swallows its roof in a maw behind the driver and pirouettes a few other pieces to wind up looking like a 1960s-era Porsche 911 Targa-top roadster open to the sky.

Another touch of the dash-mounted switch sends all the parts back into their cozy tubs so you can enjoy closed-car, weatherproof motoring. However, it’s not particularly quiet. This is a sports car, after all, and the Mazda people want you to enjoy the performance vibes of mechanical and raucous exhaust sounds.

They come from Mazda’s re-refined SkyActiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which now makes 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-26Though too many exotic sportsters now rely exclusively on automatic transmissions, computer-controlled so anybody could drive them, purists like us still favor the tactile feeling of mastery and skill driving good manual gearboxes. And, of course, the MX-5 has one with a positive, effortless shift linkage that almost makes you want to seek out heavy stop and start traffic.

No, forget that. Better to find mountain roads with tight curves and elevation changes that encourage attention to the frequent up and down gear shifts of the squat-down, two-seater driving experience. Practice your heel-and-toe technique to match engine revolutions with road speed on downshifts. The MX-5 RF unfortunately does not have automatic rev matching, though you can get it on a humble stick shift Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

So, maybe later for that on the MX-5. Meanwhile, as the motoring gods intended, you drive this neat Mazda the way your forbears did with the Austin-Healey Sprite, MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire back in the 1960s. After all, the MX-5 — most people still call it the Miata and Mazda doesn’t argue with it — was invented in 1990 to be the reliable Japanese descendant of those wonderful — and infamously unreliable — British sports cars.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-15True, you can derive driving joy from many modern sport-oriented cars—including some crossover SUVs with automatic transmissions. There’s shifting with paddles on the steering wheel but you soon learn, even on a racetrack, that the onboard computer is way better at it than you are so why bother.

And, of course, you can buy enjoyment with something like a marvelous old Honda S2000 two-seater with a six-speed manual gearbox, if you can find one. But the performance, which depended mainly on high engine revolutions instead of low-end torque, is not up to modern standards.

So back to the MX-5. There are two versions: Club, which is directed more at a customer who might want to do some week-end faux racing, and the Grand Touring, a bit more expensive but more oriented toward the relaxed, automatic-transmission boulevardiers, though it also comes with a stick shift.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-20The tested Club model had a starting price of $33,240 — not exactly economy-car territory but actually less than the average out-the-door price of a new car these days. With options that include Recaro sport seats with plenty of bolstering, Brembo high-performance brakes and 17-inch BBS metallic black wheels, the bottom-line sticker came to $37,910.

That’s fairly pricey for what essentially would be a toy for middle-class fun-seeking enthusiasts. It would work for a single person and a significant other, but they would have to forego double dating unless there was a second car — even a used compact — in the picture.

There are some other choices that can deliver some of the same driving excitement as the MX-5. A few that come to mind are the Volkswagen Golf GT, Ford Focus RS or the upcoming Hyundai Veloster N.

In the end, however, there’s nothing quite like the MX-5 RF.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-22Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF hardtop convertible two-seat roadster.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 181 hp, 151 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 12 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 49/5 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,339 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $33,240.
  • Price as tested: $37,910.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2017-Mazda-MX-5-Miata-RF-13Photos (c) Mazda

2018 Mazda6 Signature: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Some cars deliver instant gratification the first time you get behind the wheel. The 2018 Mazda6 Signature is such a machine.

Barely a quarter of a mile underway, you already experience the palpable feedback from well-weighted steering, quick turn-in, supple suspension system, responsive throttle and solid brakes.

Mazda6_38There are many midsize sedans, most aimed at providing family transportation and at least a measure of performance. From its inception in 2002, the Mazda6 has been viewed as a sports sedan, not unlike some of its more expensive road companions from Acura, Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus.

Though it won’t turn heads because it doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, the re-engineered 6 exhibits the currently fashionable near-fastback style that resembles cars like the Kia Stinger and Audi A5.

Despite the sleek roofline, there’s plenty of headroom front and back, as well as outboard back seats that can accommodate six-foot-plus humans. Unfortunately, as in most cars, the center-rear passenger is shortchanged with a high, hard cushion and large floor hump.

New_Mazda6_08The headline news for 2018 is the addition of a new powerplant for the 6. It is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that was lifted from Mazda’s flagship CX-9 crossover sport utility vehicle. It runs on regular gasoline and makes 227 hp with 310 lb-ft of torque. Fill it with 93-octane premium and the horsepower jumps to 250.

Power makes its way to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel. Shifts are crisp and rapid up or down and the 6 Signature exhibited no front-drive torque steer, that dreaded jerk of the steering wheel when you punch the pedal while turning.

The transmission came with a switchable Sport mode that changed the shift mapping to keep the engine at higher rpms in each gear. That’s the one you want when you want to grab the advantage in stoplight sprints.

2018_Mazda6-7It was the setup in the tested top-of-the-line Signature model, which, given the equipment and features, came with a reasonable base price of $33,860, including the inescapable destination charge. With a few minor options, the bottom-line sticker came to $36,040, which is only a bit more than the average price of a new car these days.

There are five trim levels, starting with the Sport model, stickered at $22,480 with a six-speed manual gearbox. It is the only manual-transmission model, which will disappoint enthusiasts who would appreciate it on the 2.5-liter turbo versions. Though the manual was not tested for this review, if it’s anything like its predecessors it is a pleasure to manipulate.

The difference is that the base Sport and Touring versions come with Mazda’s 187-hp non-turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers 186 lb-ft of torque. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 24/33/27 mpg for the manual and 26/35/29 for the automatic. The 2.5-liter turbo, which is designed for cylinder deactivation when cruising, gets 23/31/26 mpg.

Mazda6_28In addition to the tactile performance sensations in the cut and thrust of daily driving, the Mazda6 Signature delivers long-distance cruising comfort. The front seats, upholstered in perforated Nappa leather, with heat and cooling, coddle the lower back with welcome adjustable lumbar support, though the seatback bolsters are a bit truncated. Radar cruise control operates to a stop.

The Signature came with a full suite of safety equipment, including lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a comprehensive head-up display with traffic-sign recognition, radar cruise control, blind-spot warning and a 360-degree rear camera.

It also came equipped with features one might expect on a luxury or near-luxury car, including dual-zone-climate control, Bose premium audio, navigation, motorized glass sunroof, eight-way power driver’s seat with two memory settings, six-way power front passenger seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated outside mirrors, and pushbutton starting with keyless entry.

Mazda6_30There’s an eight-inch center screen that displays navigation and audio functions operated by a control knob on the console, right next to the volume button for the audio system. The control takes a bit of learning but can be operated without looking, though the driver must still look at the screen. No system is completely eyes-free.

Out back, there’s a well-shaped and finished trunk that can accommodate 15 cubic feet of cargo. The trunk lid has C-shaped hinges  fully isolated from the contents.

Bottom line: If you seek sport driving as well as midsize family accommodations, the Mazda6 is worth serious consideration.

Mazda6_9Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Mazda6 Signature four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 100/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,560 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $33,860.
  • Price as tested: $36,040.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018_Mazda6-2Photos (c) Mazda

2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer 

2017_Mazda3_57If the 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring were a lot more expensive,  it likely would be regarded as an exclusive high-class sedan. 

A longstanding favorite of driving enthusiasts, the Mazda3 is a quality compact with exceptional overall performance and many desirable features. Yet in 2017, it came in 10th in sales against the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Jetta and Subaru Impreza.

Total Mazda3 sales amounted to a respectable 75,018, which included both conventional sedans and hatchbacks. Leading the compact pack was the Honda Civic with 377,286 sold, or more than five times as many as the Mazda3. In 9th place was the Subaru Impreza, an exceptional compact in its own right with standard all-wheel drive, which totaled 86,043 sales.

2017_Mazda3_exterior_005Sedans and hatchbacks are losing ground to sport utility vehicles, especially the car-based crossovers. At Mazda, for example, the CX-5 midsize crossover outsells all of the Mazda cars, including the Mazda3, Mazda6 and the MX-5 Miata two-seat sports car.

Still, there’s a solid cadre of American customers who prefer sedans — especially those with some sporting credentials — for pure driving enjoyment. That’s where a car like the Mazda3 Grand Touring comes in.

2017_Mazda3_55There are two versions: a five-door hatchback and the subject here, the traditional four-door notchback sedan, which comes with a choice of two engines. The base model, which is no slouch, is equipped with a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Grand Touring model, the subject here, uses a 184-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 185 lb-ft of torque. It is the torque, or twisting force, that delivers the excitement of strong acceleration off the line. The Grand Touring moves to 60 mph in about seven seconds, more than respectable for a compact sedan in the Mazda3’s price range.

Autodesk VRED Design 2016 SR1-SP4

For enthusiasts who like to shift for themselves, the tested Grand Touring arrived with steering-wheel mounted paddles to manually shift the six-speed automatic transmission. Though the transmission did fine on its own, the paddles were useful for holding gears on twisting, hilly roads.

With a starting price of $25,070, the tested Grand Touring with its six-speed automatic transmission is a bit more expensive than some of its compact competitors. Spiffed up with a short list of options, it came with a $28,470 bottom-line sticker.

2017_Mazda3_51That’s roughly $5,000 less than the average price of a new car these days. Yet it’s a complete package, with a full suite of safety equipment, including lane keeping warning and assist; low-speed automatic collision braking; blind-spot warning; adaptive cruise control; rear cross-traffic alert, and tire-pressure monitoring.

One of the options deserves a separate mention. It is Mazda’s adjustable  head-up display, which uses a separate screen that rises up from the top of the dashboard into the driver’s line of sight. In addition to a digital speedometer, it also reads traffic signs like speed limits and shows other information.

A center-mounted seven-inch color touch screen displays navigation and an array of vehicle functions as well as satellite radio and other entertainment data. Selections can be made from the screen or by using a rotary knob mounted on the center console. 

2017_Mazda3_36The Grand Touring sedan’s exterior styling borders on the generic for compact sedans, handsome without being offbeat or offensive. Where it stands out is in the interior materials, design and execution. The heated leather-covered sport seats on the test car showed quality workmanship and offered long-distance support and comfort up front.

However, the back seat was tight on knee and headroom for average-sized humans. Though there were seatbelts for three, the center-rear position should be reserved for emergency situations. The small trunk’s exposed hinges could damage contents.

Desirable equipment, both standard and optional, included a motorized glass sunroof; dual-zone automatic climate control; LED headlights, fog lights and taillights; pushbutton starting; keyless locking, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

2017_Mazda3_37On the road, the test car cruised quietly except for engine noises that intruded under hard acceleration. The electric power steering felt nicely weighted and responsive around curves and maintained a strong line in straight freeway cruising. A supple suspension system, abetted by 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, helped the handling without sacrificing ride quality.

Mazda has long touted its SkyActiv technology, a holistic approach that covers every aspect of vehicle design, no matter how tiny. When you sweat the small stuff, you get something like the Mazda3 Grand Touring.

2017_Mazda3_56Specifications

    • Model: 2018 Mazda3 Grand Touring four-door sedan.
    • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
    • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
    • Overall length: 15 feet.
    • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 96/12 cubic feet.
    • Weight: 3,100 pounds.
    • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/36/30 mpg.
    • Base price, including destination charge: $25,070.
    • Price as tested: $28,470.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2017_Mazda3_27.jpgPhotos (c) Mazda.

 

2018 Chicago Auto Show

by Jason Fogelson

I went to the 2018 Chicago Auto Show last week as a guest of Nissan, and I covered the event for Autobytel.com. Here’s a link to my article for them, which was entitled “Must See Vehicles from the 2018 Chicago Auto Show.”

I love going to the Chicago Auto Show. Of the major US new car shows, it is always the most relaxed and easy to navigate. The event happens at McCormick Place, a massive convention center, and the lucky journalists stay in one of the high-rise hotels that are connected to the building — which means that the weather is not a factor during the day. And that was a good thing this year, as the weather was cold, snow fell constantly and there was no reason for man nor beast to be outside.

The trip in was a pleasure, as Nissan invited Detroit-area-based journalists to travel to Chicago with them via Amtrak. Getting to my closest train station in Dearborn was a bit of a struggle, as the big snow storm extended across the Midwest and dropped several inches of the white stuff on the roads during the night before my departure. I had planned to take a Lyft or Uber for the 10-mile trip to the station, but when I was ready to leave, there were no willing drivers available. I had to wake my wife, who donned her winter coat over her pajamas without complaint and drove me through the snow-covered streets. The train trip to Chicago took about four hours, most of which I spent chatting with other journalists. Nissan shuttled us to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, where warm rooms awaited.

On the first night, I attended Nissan’s welcome party in an adjacent hotel ballroom, and then took an Uber to the Lexus party in an event space on the other side of downtown. Lexus had a 10th Anniversary F-Sport RC-F on display, along with a West Coast Customs replica of the Black Panther’s LC. An Uber back to the hotel afterwards, and on to bed.

In the morning, I attended the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) breakfast, with a keynote address from Subaru of America’s CEO, Thomas Doll. Then, it was off to the show, running from press conference to press conference. At the end of the day, my dogs were barking, but I still found the energy to jump on a shuttle to Geno’s East for the annual Mazda Pizza Party. I’m not really a deep dish guy, but it was a very nice meal and a good time hanging out with Mazda PR folk and auto journalists. I had a ticket for a music event, Sweet Home Chicago, but chose instead to return to the hotel for some rest.

The next day, more press conferences, more snow, lots of writing. I made a quick swing through the show floor to take some photos (I’m sharing some here for your viewing), and prepared for my flight home. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans, as I got notices from Delta Airlines that my plane was delayed from a 4:45 pm departure to 9:00 pm. I decided to punt, and bought a ticket on the 5:40 pm Amtrak from Union Station back to Dearborn, because I was pretty sure I’d make it home — and it would be better than sleeping at O’Hare airport. I finally pulled in to Dearborn station at 1:00 am, and made it home by 2:00 am in an Uber.

All-in-all, an excellent trip, made a little bit frustrating by the weather. It could have been worse — I could still be sleeping at O’Hare.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.

 

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Driving the 2017 Mazda CX-5 imparts the distinct impression that this compact crossover SUV filched a few genes from the Mazda Miata sports car.

Given its tall profile and practical family orientation, you don’t expect much in the way of pinpoint handling. True, other compact crossovers do a decent job of hustling around curves, as long as you don’t push too hard. But none do it with quite as much composure.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-19Sure, it’s not an MX-5 Miata two-seater. Nor will it impress owners with low-slung sports sedans, powerful engines, tight suspension systems and loose principles. But this redesigned offering from one of the world’s more innovative automakers incorporates a nearly anonymous system that surreptitiously enhances the steering.

Basically, what it does is subtly back off the throttle — not so you’d notice it — to produce an ever-so-slight weight shift toward the front wheels. The effect is to tighten the steering response to make it more precise in cornering. Mazda calls it G-Vectoring Control. (Technology nerds can look it up).

2017-Mazda-CX-5-3-1You don’t notice the specifics of this engineering. It is part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which takes a holistic approach to every facet of vehicle design, right down to designing components that are as little as a few ounces lighter to contribute to overall weight reduction.

Likely most casual observers will not immediately identify the 2017 CX-5 from its predecessor. It carries over a family resemblance but adds styling fillips to the grille and headlights as well as sensuous haunches masquerading as rear fenders.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-5Inside, the engineering elves have installed additional sound deadening materials to muffle unwelcome exterior noises. They also tuned the suspension system to soak up the common bumps and grinds on U.S. roads and highways that have been allowed to fester because of ideological penny-pinching politicians. At least the engineers are doing their best to save motorists’ spines, molars and kidneys.

Aside from the excellent ride, handling and ambience, the CX-5 is no slouch on the performance charts — given its crossover orientation. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 187 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, most of it usable and delivering 23/29/26 mpg fuel consumption on the EPA’s city/highway/combined test cycle.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-11The power gets to the pavement through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. However, there are no shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel, as has become increasingly common.

On the CX-5, you must manually shift with the actual shift lever down on the console, which for some purists is way preferable to fingering paddles. There also are two modes: normal Drive and Sport. The latter holds the transmission to higher engine revolutions before shifting — something the driver obviously can do himself with the shifter. The manual-shift mode can be used in either the Sport or normal setting.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-12Front-wheel drive comes standard on the CX-5 and is perfectly acceptable for any owner who doesn’t live in chronically crappy weather conditions, of which there are many — and increasing — around the continental United States. If all-wheel drive is preferable, it’s a $1,300 option

There are three CX-5 trim levels: Sport, which has a starting price of $24,985, including the destination charge; Touring, at $26,855; and the tested Grand Touring at $30,335. (Manufacturers like to present their top-line vehicles to testers and critics; only rarely do you get to drive a base model). With options, the tested CX-5 had a bottom-line sticker price of $33,465.

The Grand Touring model, which accounts for about half of CX-5 sales, is lavishly equipped with a power tailgate, leather upholstery, features and trim that would be characteristic of a luxury crossover. However, it does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-4There’s a head-up display that not only shows the vehicle’s speed but also the speed limit and other functions, including lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. The display reflects off the windshield, not the small reflective panel used on other Mazda models that rises up out of the dash.

It should be noted that compact crossover SUVs, which are the hottest selling vehicles on the market, are being infected with price creep. Where not long ago you could buy one nicely equipped for under $30,000, they now are more expensive and, in some cases, even popular priced models are approaching $40,000, moving them into luxury territory populated by crossovers from Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Lincoln, Audi and Lexus.

2017-Mazda-CX-5-33Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, 187 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 104/31 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,700 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/29/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,635.
  • Price as tested: $34,380.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Mazda.

 

2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Faced with stiff competition and an onslaught by crossover sport utility vehicles, the 2017 Mazda6 perseveres as a solid choice for anyone who values driving enjoyment along with the traditional virtues of a midsize four-door sedan.

The Mazda6 enjoys a reputation for reliability and, in the current climate, you might even add exclusivity. Among the 10 best-selling midsize sedans, it ranks last behind the Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat.

2016_mazda6_1-1024x683In 2016, the Mazda6 garnered 45,520 sales, about 12% of the 388,618 sales of the Toyota Camry, the leader in the United States. Second and third were the Honda Accord (345,225) and Nissan Altima (307,380). The Legacy finished with 65,306 sold, while the Passat managed 73,002 even with the scandal about Volkswagen cheating on emissions tests with its now discontinued diesel engines.

Interestingly, Mazda has confirmed that it will offer a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel engine in its 2017 CX-5 compact crossover SUV. There was no indication of whether it would also be offered in other models like the Mazda6.

mazda6_09_297-1024x683The 2017 Mazd6 has one power plant for three trim levels: Sport, Touring and the version tested for this review, the Grand Touring. It is a 184 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 185 pound-feet of torque.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Sport and Touring models with a six-speed automatic transmission optional. The Grand Touring comes with the six-speed automatic, which has a manual-shift mode operated by paddles on the steering wheel.

Mazda6 prices start at $23,845, including the destination charge, for the Sport model, which comes with a decent level of equipment: 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, comfortable cloth upholstery, audio system with Bluetooth streaming, Mazda Connect infotainment with voice control, high definition radio, cruise control, rear camera, remote locking and electronic parking brake.

2016_mazda6_19-1024x690The Touring model, at $26,145, adds 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leatherette trimmed cloth seats, six-way power driver’s seat, seven-inch touch screen, blind spot warning, pushbutton starting, rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers and Mazda’s smart city brake support. The last operates under 20 mph and automatically applies the brakes to stop the car if a laser detects an imminent collision.

The Grand Touring version has all that, along with adaptive radar cruise control, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a motorized glass sunroof, rear trunk-mounted spoiler, fog lights, heated outside mirrors with auto-dimming on the inside and driver’s side mirrors, navigation system, head-up display that shows a variety of functions, including the current speed limit, leather upholstery, and eight-way power driver’s seat with six-way power for the front passenger.

2016_mazda6_28-1024x683With options, the test car had a $34,395 price tag. It starts at $32,595. That’s a couple of thousand dollars less than the average price of a new vehicle these days.

The Mazda6 takes full advantage of the company’s SkyActiv technology, a term that was confusing to some onlookers at first but is become more well known. It’s a philosophy that takes a holistic approach to designing a vehicle, examining every aspect to ensure that it contributes to overall performance. An extreme example: it takes a few ounces out of the inside rearview mirror as a contribution to overall weight reduction.

Immediately apparent on a test drive is the Mazda6’s supple suspension system, which has an uncanny knack for soaking up road irregularities that would result in sharp jolts to passengers in many other cars.

2016_mazda6_23-1024x683That suspension system — independent front and rear with stabilizer bars — also contributes to the Mazda6’s strong suit: precision handling. It tracks confidently in a straight line and takes a confident set around curves with tactile steering feedback.

On the road, the Mazda6 cruises quietly with modest road and wind noise, and just enough engine sounds to let insiders know there’s a free revving engine under the hood.

2016_mazda6_28-1024x683Long-distance jaunts are comfortable. The front seats offer support and side bolsters hold the torso in place during cornering. Out back, the outboard seats also deliver comfort with plenty of knee and head room for most adults. The center position unfortunately is almost useless, with hard, high cushion and a big floor hump that wipes out foot space.

The Mazda6 is not the quickest off the line unless you engage the sport mode, which holds the automatic’s shifts until the engine builds to higher revolutions. You also can enhance acceleration by manually shifting with the steering wheel paddles.

Bottom line: the Mazda6 earns standing as a premier sports sedan.

2016_mazda6_31-1024x683Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine:5-liter four cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode; front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 100/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,305 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/35/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,595.
  • Price as tested: $34,395.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Mazda.

2016_mazda6_8-1024x683

 

2017 Mazda3 Test Drive and Review

by Jason Fogelson

The Fogelson fleet is rather small. I own a 2014 Mazda CX-5 crossover vehicle (“Maus”), a 2012 Mazda3 (“Mori”) and a 1993 Harley-Davidson Sportster Deluxe (“Manny”). The CX-5 is my daily driver, and the Sportster is my trusty motorcycle. Mori the Mazda3 is my wife Robin’s car, providing transportation to and from work every day.

Robin loves Mori. We bought the car new in 2012, and it has been trouble-free ever since. She loves the size, handling, performance, comfort and style of the compact five-door, and I have been so pleased with it that when it came time to replace my beloved Toyota 4Runner (“Moose”), I decided to downsize to the CX-5.

So, when I got a chance to spend some time with the new Mazda3, I approached it with great familiarity with the car. Sitting nose-to-tail with the 2012 model, I noted the similarities and differences with interest. Though Mazda3 got a makeover for the 2014 model year, it retains many of the design cues that attracted us to the vehicle in the first place. The front end has been refined with a new grille, and the rear fascia has newly elegant tail lamps. The body is a little curvier, a little more muscular, and a little less cute than the 2012 model – not necessarily a bad thing. Inside, the design is a little more refined, with a touchscreen display on top of the center stack and upgraded materials.

The thing that sealed the deal for Robin when buying the 2012 Mazda3 was the driving experience. Robin isn’t a performance driver by any means – she’s a classic commuter, and prizes reliability and ease of use over handling. But she loves the road feel and stability of her little car, and chose it over its competitors for that reason.

I prefer the 2017 Mazda3 to our 2012. I like the interior and exterior styling better, and the newer car felt a little tighter and crisper during driving tests.

I asked Robin if she’d like to replace Mori with a new 2017 Mazda3 after we spent a week with the car. “No,” she responded. “I love my little car.” I must admit, I’m proud of my wife. She knows what she likes, and she’s not easily seduced by the shiny new thing. I’m a lucky man.

Read my 2017 Mazda3 Test Drive and Review on Forbes.com.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Mazda.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

by Tod Mesirow

Each year some serious automotive enthusiasts bring their vintage vehicles to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and take them around the track, wheel to wheel, in a series of races. It’s an awesome event because many of these cars are worth six or seven figures, and instead of spending their lives strictly as garage queens, their owners put them to the use for which they were built – racing. in 2011 Mazda brought the only Japanese car ever to win Le Mans, the rotary powered 1991 Mazda 787B. Pay no attention to my hair.

Watch Tod’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Video here.

By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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