Another trip to Florida; another Sport Utility Vehicle to drive. (This time a fully loaded 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring All-Wheel Drive! Anne travels to Florida so often you would be forgiven for thinking she was a snowbird. Or a retiree. Actually, it’s to cover her passion for auto racing.–ed. note)
What could have been a yawner was anything but, as Mazda equipped us with their 2016 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD midsize SUV for the banzai run from Orlando to St. Petersburg and back, for the Verizon IndyCar Series opener. With all of the Zoom-Zoom qualities we lust for in a vehicle, this was a great way to be comfortable, coddled with technology and luxury – and politically incorrect, all at the same time.
Our Titanium Flash Mica (a luscious cappuccino brown) 2016 Mazda CX-5 has a parchment interior, one that has a tendency to attract every piece of dirt known to mankind. That’s just about the only flaw found on this Ute. The graceful side body lines differentiate the CX-5 from the multitudes surrounding it and the five-bar grille gives good cooling to the engine.
The CX-5’s driveline is superb. With Mazda’s superb direct injection Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter 16-valve engine that emits a strident 184 horsepower at 5700 rpm and greater 185 lb-ft of torque at a nice, low 3250rpm, this Mazda happily revs to its 6500rpm redline, making it both powerful and frugal way beyond the specs.
Despite curb weight of 3589 pounds, the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD achieves an enviable 24/30/26 miles per gallon from its 15.3-gallon tank, using regular fuel. This is helped by its 6-speed automatic transmission that is floor-shiftable and offers both normal and sport modes. The latter will hold shifts to gain the kind of Zoom-Zoom driving capabilities any enthusiast yearns for. In normal mode the CX-5 is capable; in sport mode it’s a happy monster.
Mazda equips the CX-5 with McPherson strut and multilink independent suspensions, provides power rack-and-pinion electronic power assist steering that’s direct and true and places P225/55 19-inch Toyo rubber on 10-spoke polished and painted alloy rims for the Grand Touring AWD model. Mazda stretches the wheelbase to just over 106 inches to give the CX-5 very little overhang on its near-179-inch length to enhance handling. All-wheel disc brakes stop this Mazda quickly and efficiently.
The Grand Touring AWD model comes with standard features like the small tilt/slide moonroof, leather interior, pushbutton engine start, dual zone auto climate control, Bose audio with nine speakers, Sirius/XM satellite radio (free for four months), crisp rearview camera, eight-way power driver’s seat including lumbar adjustments (passengers adjust manually), three-position front seat heaters and electronic parking brake for the entry fee of $30,350 including freight.
To reach its crescendo of $34,115, Mazda adds cargo mats, rear bumper guard, a great retractable hatch cargo cover with netting, roof rack side rails, door sill trim plates and two packages. One is the GT i-Activsense package of Mazda radar cruise control, smart brake support, lane departure warning and high beam control. There’s also a Grand Touring tech package that includes in-dash navigation, LED headlights, fog lights and LED combination taillights – together with LED daytime running lights, adaptive front lighting, smart city bike support, and auto-dim mirror with Homelink.
Mazda’s radar cruise control is one of the most unobtrusive we’ve had the opportunity to test, with three settings that allow closer running than most. The lane departure warning and complementary standard blindspot in-mirror warnings are exemplary. As an attentive driver, in testing the lane departure warning we found it easy to live with and its aural warnings weren’t too invasive. We never gave the smart brake support an opportunity to scare us.
The Zoom-Zoom company uses a button on the doors for entry and you can leave the fob in your pocket throughout each drive. The hatch opens with touchpad and is easy to reach. While there are no heating, air conditioning and ventilation outlets for rear seat passengers, they do, as do front-seat occupants have cup holders in the doors, seat-back pockets and a pulldown armrest that reveals an additional two cup holders. The hatch is accessed through a 40/20/40 split, which allows long, skinny objects their space without obstructing folks in the back of the CX-5.
There is a mini-spare under the floor of the well-lit hatch, which has a rather high lift-over, thanks to the full-time all-wheel-drive mechanisms that give the CX-5 8.5 inches of minimum ground clearance. Even without the rear seats folded, there’s 34.1 cubic feet of cargo space; slap them down and that increases to 64.8 cubes. A nice body-color rear wing keeps the back window cleaner than it might otherwise be, and the LED lighting provides exemplary vision at night and in weather-related climates. There’s one touch down/up for the driver, which helps when paying at Florida’s multitude of toll stations.
Technology in the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is complementary and not overwhelming, as it should be. All operations work through the multi-media interface at the tunnel, using the ubiquitous wheel to control media, climate, audio and navigation. Syncing the phone is simplistic and there are a pair of USB plugs (along with an auxiliary) at the base of the center stack where a phone can reside without movement during spirited driving. The wheel controls audio, home, navigation – left to right – while the leather steering wheel has secondary audio controls, trip computer on the left and cruise control on the right.
The Bose speaker system is, as you would expect, exceptional in this well-finish cabin that sports soft plastics throughout. We loved the bi-level center closed storage with its small upper tray and 12-volt outlet on the bottom. There are several apps offered with the audio system in addition to satellite radio. All are easy for anyone to control. Mazda continues without a temperature gauge but there are blue and red warning lights to guide drivers.
Because we don’t live there, we relied on Mazda’s navigation system, with its seven-inch in-dash screen, to get us around the west coast of Florida and it did an excellent job, with points of interest marked on the map and most fuel stations as well. The navigation pulls back for perspective and zooms in to aid travel – we took a scenic route leaving St Petersburg so we could use the navigation system to find the local post office, something it did handily. There were no off-sequence travels and we were able to get where we needed to be in efficient manner.
Mazda recently introduced its new Mazda Mobile Start – only available on this model and the Mazda6 sedan with automatic transmissions – which could be just the tip for those living in frigid or exceptionally hot areas of the country. The app works with iOS and Android phones and allows the operator to start the engine and unlock the car. Less fortunate is its inability to reset climate controls. This new option requires a trip to the dealer and a $500 outlay, along with $65 each year to access the application.
People choose Mazda vehicles because they associate well with humans. Ever the maverick, the Hiroshima-based company mixes pleasure, comfort, technology and sporting endeavors in a 2016 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD package that’s both handsome and aggressive at the same time. Because the company is so much smaller than its competitors, each Mazda model has to stand tall in order to be seen, both literally and figuratively.
With constant updates within each model year, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD continues its evolution to becoming one of the best crossover sport utility vehicles available for on- and off-road excursions. It’s one Ute we’ll always prefer because of its sporting attributes, its ability to haul people (both two- and four-legged) and a multitude of stuff without complaint. In this house, Mazda products always rate highly and this one is no exception.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit