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2017 Mazda CX-5 first drive: A gorgeous, high-class crossover

by Brandon Russell | March 25, 2017March 25, 2017 9:00 am PDT

In Mazda’s eyes, the 2017 CX-5 is good enough to compete with crossovers from Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW. How’s that for confidence?

During a presentation earlier this month, the company proudly exclaimed its new crossover excels where others fail. Not to mention, the 2017 CX-5 is several thousand dollars cheaper than its high-profile competition when equipped with similar features and amenities.

To help us understand, the automaker gave myself and several other journalists a few care-free hours to test-drive the car over a Mazda-approved route in San Diego County.

Once the test-drive concluded, our journey didn’t end there. Mazda cycled us through several different luxury crossovers (Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX200t), which the company identified as the CX-5’s competition. Notice how no cars from Honda, Kia, Toyota, and Hyundai aren’t included in that list.

 

Mazda will be the first to admit it’s an underdog with an upstart mentality. As such, the automaker carries itself with a admirable confidence. Sit through a presentation and get behind the wheel of one of its cars, and it’s difficult not to get caught up in the excitement.

And, yes, I am completely smitten with the MX-5 RF. Can you blame me?

The CX-5 is the company’s most comprehensive attempt to marry Mazda’s focus on design with its ability to create an emotional connection between car and driver. (Mind you, the CX-5 is already a hit, becoming the company’s second-quickest vehicle to one million units sold.)

Disclosure: Mazda invited TechnoBuffalo to participate in a two-day drive in San Diego. The company provided meal and hotel accommodations. While no Mazda representatives accompanied me during the drive, the company did give lengthy presentations before I got behind the wheel.

The CX-5 is widely admired for being as practical as it is comfortable. Now, you can add “quiet” and “luxurious” to its list of attributes. (Seriously, Mazda spent an hour talking about how it engineered a quieter ride. And, yes, it is quiet at highway speeds. Ditto for slower countryside jaunts.)

To further prove the automaker has an obsession for detail, Mazda designers also spent a good fifteen minutes talking about door handle ergonomics. So, obviously, the company went to great lengths to ensure every seam, curve, and pedal position was exactly right.

The new model was essentially built from the ground up, and includes 698 improvements over the first-generation CX-5. Among the improvements, the chassis is 15-percent stiffer, the 7-inch Mazda Connect screen has a higher resolution, and the A-pillars up-front have been pushed back 35mm to reduce forward blind spots.

Building on that, the 2017 CX-5 comes equipped with a number of standard features, as well as new features, too. Standard is: full LED headlights, G-Vectoring Control (GVC), MAZDA CONNECT, SKYACTIV-G 2.5 engine, front-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, push button start, steering wheel-mounted controls, and more. New is: heated steering wheel, power liftgate, windshield-projected Active Driving Display, radar cruise controls, and more.

The design is also all-new. Rather than have me explain why the 2017 CX-5 looks so good, I’ll let Mazda do it (and you can admire the pictures throughout this post):

It’s a pure design that embodies traditional Japanese aesthetics—less is more. Beauty is in its simplicity. And, most importantly, of course, when designers and engineers work in unison, making a truly beautiful production vehicle is possible.

From its Soul Red Crystal paint—an all-new evolution of Mada’s lustrous Takumi (artisan) paint colors—to its concave, three-dimensional grille, CX-5 stands out among its passionless competition. The fact that Mazda uses more clay to design its vehicles than any other automaker further cements Mazda’s detail-oriented approach. No gimmicks. Just the desire to heighten the mass-production modern machine to something beyond a commodity, akin to a craft beer or designer suit.

On the inside, the vehicle sports a number of features designed to make your drive as comfy as possible. We were spoiled by the Grand Touring model, but Mazda says the amenities are nothing without a solid steering wheel, which has a cornucopia of knobs, buttons, and levers. Mazda also says CX-5 drivers sit directly behind the steering wheel, which isn’t as common as one might think.

This, as you’d imagine, makes for a pleasant experience. I wouldn’t necessarily call the CX-5 fast but it certainly feels responsive, which is another area Mazda put a lot of effort into perfecting. With G-Vectoring Control, Mazda says it uses engine timing to control chassis dynamics, which should ultimately lead to more accurate steering inputs. Cruising down lazy two-lane roads, controlling the CX-5 was a breeze, almost effortless.

This feeling of improved control turns the crossover into a surprisingly nimble ride. Most people won’t be driving in the same conditions I did, but it’ll certainly make for a solid city sled. And, like I said, the quiet cabin means you’ll be adequately protected from the audible overload that comes with rush hour traffic.

The CX-5’s Active Driving Display was great, too, providing a few bits of information (speed limit, street names, etc.) in front of me at all times. I didn’t get a real opportunity to test out the radar cruise control, but Mazda says it uses “milliwave radar speeds from 18-90 mph to maintain distance between other vehicles in front of it.”

Overall, the 2017 CX-5 offers an enjoyable ride, but what sets it apart is its focus on design and its standard features. The interior is great, too, making for a pleasant vehicle for younger families. It’s not the quickest crossover in the world but it’s not meant to be raced against Dominic Toretto.

Rather, it’s supremely practical and offers the kind of features Mazda believes will draw people away from the luxury segment and into its comfy, quiet, confines.

Odds and ends

  • Base price is $24,045 and goes upwards of $30,000 depending on color and options.
  • Estimated mpg for the FWD is 24/31/27; AWD is 23/30/26
  • 2.5-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine; 187 horsepower at 6000 rpm / 185 lb-ft torque at 3,250 rpm FWD (4,000 rpm for AWD) / SKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-speed automatic
  • No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
  • Seating for five
  • Comes with a black cloth interior but can be upgraded with black or parchment leather.
  • Rear seats have been increased 2 degrees in rake to 24 degrees, with a second recline setting to rake the seats to 28 degrees.
  • Blind spot monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert; lane-departure warning system; smart city brake support.

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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