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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

Cars & Coffee

by Tod Mesirow

There was an amazing early morning event, every weekend, from 6 to 9 AM in Irvine, held in the Mazda parking lot, called Cars & Coffee. The ultimate automotive enthusiasts show – free – and completely eclectic. From one week to the next one never knew who would show up with what amazing vehicle. I had the good fortune to make this short piece for Mazda. I’m not used to getting up that early – but it was worth it.

Watch Tod’s Cars & Coffee video here.

(Photo by Axion23 (A few Rare Ferraris) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

History repeats itself with the 2016 Mazda CX-9 crossover sport utility vehicle.

It’s not the CX-9 itself, which has been around since 2006. It’s Mazda’s subtle foray into the luxury car class, which it tried back in 1992 with a car called the Amati.

That effort never came to fruition and the Japanese company proceeded to build solid and inventive cars for the middle class—even a highly-praised sports car with the two-seat MX-5 Miata.

The only leftover from the Amati effort was the Mazda Millenia, which was scaled back from luxury and sold from 1993 to 2003 as a mid-priced sedan in the Mazda lineup. It stood out because it used a Miller-cycle V6 engine, supercharged with a unique combustion cycle to deliver enhanced power with improved fuel economy.

At the time, Mazda was alone in trying out diverse power plants, including the Wankel rotary engine that powered its RX-7 and RX-8 sports cars.

MY16 Mazda CX-9
MY16 Mazda CX-9

Over the years, the company gradually eschewed experimentation in favor of steady improvement of existing models. That led to its SkyActiv design philosophy, which is a holistic approach that examines every facet of a given car or crossover—from redesigning transmissions to taking a couple of ounces out of a rear view mirror as part of overall weight reduction.

With the late arrival of the 2016 CX-9, Mazda has completed the process of applying SkyActiv to all of its models. At the same time, without explicitly saying so, it has again ventured into luxury territory, saying that it expects “more affluent and aspirational customers” to gravitate toward the CX-9,

From the outside, the new CX-9 presents handsome, integrated styling that flows from a prominent five bar grille over a long hood and sculptured body—what the company calls its “Kodo” design philosophy. It is augmented by a palette of custom colors, including a new Machine Gray, designed to look like a blemish free steel ingot.

But it was the interior that drew the thumbs-up comments at the national introduction. Test vehicles were all top-line Signature models with interior design and materials that would do justice to an Audi, Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz.

MG_4901-151026-1-1Ingredients included genuine Japanese Rosewood that looked as if it had been hand rubbed, real aluminum trim and fine Nappa leather. They flowed together in contrasting colors and textures to deliver lavish accommodations and comfort.

The CX-9 is a midsize crossover SUV with three rows of seats to carry up to seven passengers. It competes against the new GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

There are seven versions: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and the Signature, which comes only with all-wheel drive. All are powered by a new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 227 hp on regular grade gasoline and 250 hp on premium fuel.

Passengers get 133 cubic feet of space with plenty up front. However, the second row seat must be adjusted to divvy up the knee room between it and the third row. Cargo space behind the third row is 14 cubic feet, about what you find in a compact car, but expands to 38 cubic feet if the third row is folded flat and 71 cubic feet if both the second and third rows are folded.

2016 Mazda CX-9
2016 Mazda CX-9

A single lever tilts the outboard right second row seat for access to the third row but does so in a way that a child seat need not be removed. Climbing into the third row, however, takes agility. Although they will accommodate middling to smaller adults, the two third-row seats are suitable mostly for kids and teens.

On the road, the CX-9 is a comfortable cocoon for long distances. The designers incorporated 53 pounds of sound deadening materials between the floor pan and carpet, which nearly eliminates road noise. Engine and wind noise are similarly subdued.

In cruising and passing, the turbo engine delivers steady and strong power through the six-speed automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly and unobtrusively. City/highway/combined fuel consumption in all-wheel drive models is rated by the EPA at 21/27/23 mpg.

Prices start at $32,420 for the front-drive Sport model and range up to $44,915 for the tested all-wheel drive Signature version, which carries a full suite of safety and connectivity features.

Combine all that with the unabashed luxury orientation, especially with the Signature trim, and the new CX-9 looks hard to resist.

MY16 Mazda CX-9
MY16 Mazda CX-9

Specifications

  • Model: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature four door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 227/250 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 133/14 cubic feet (38, 71)
  • Weight: 4,301 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,915.
  • Price as tested: $44,915.

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

Photos (c) Mazda

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