Caveat – I love Mazda vehicles. Any time the smallest Japanese manufacturer brings a car, truck or SUV/CUV to market, it’s imbued with style, mechanical wonderment and joy of driving because, as Mazda says, “Driving matters.”
When a job became available in Indianapolis for the Trans Am and SVRA vintage racing Father’s Day weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the knowledge that a 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD crossover was available for review made the last-minute junket doable. Mazda’s CX-5 has been an enjoyable crossover since its introduction as a 2013 model, and has been refreshed for 2017 in ways that are visible – and not.
Standing out in the crowded smaller crossover market is something the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand-Touring AWD sport utility does with aplomb. Sporting elegant and flowing KODO (Soul of Motion) body lines, capped by LED lights front and rear with chrome surrounds, the CX-5 Grand Touring AWD stands out in the crowded two-box marketplace. This year’s update shows continuity, but what’s underneath all those handsome lines are what truly matter.
Headlights are lower and wider, blending into a revised black grille. Mazda’s deliberate hips over the front fender are gone, giving the CX-5 a smoother body line. At the rear are lower tail lights and less design work to the bumper. This year’s Mazda CX-5 has a thicker windshield, a slimmer A-pillar to aid forward vision, tighter-fitting window channels to keep noise at bay and even better gaps, all of which reduce noise, vibration and harshness. The crossover’s long wheelbase aids in ride and handling and add to the integrated visuals of this machine.
Mazda uses a 2.5L twin-cam four cylinder Skyactiv engine with direct injection, a mill that makes 187 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250; redline is 6,500. A shiftable six-speed automatic transmission has excellent shift points for both power and economy. Mazda fits a Sport mode that I did not use. Normally Sport mode is my go-to but this one is just too aggressive for a daily driver. It results in much higher rpm and lower gears than I’d hoped and can stay between 3-4,000 rpm when cruising. If I were autocrossing the CX-5 it would be fine, but I’m not.
Handling is excellent on this all-wheel-drive crossover, with its MacPherson strut/multilink suspension setup housing front-and-rear stabilizer bars and dual shocks at the four corners. When Mazda redesigned its middle crossover – the CX-3 is smaller; CX-9 larger – it paid great attention to torsional rigidity of the unibody (no truck here), making the suspension a bit softer but keeping plenty of driver control and involvement. The Grand Touring model has Mazda’s first use of G-Vectoring control, which uses engine ignition timing to give subtle control to the chassis, keeping that Mazda fun factor going.
Brakes are excellent and have no fade, even when forced to stop in a panic situation. The power rack and pinion steering does have an electric power assist but steering is crisp and never vague on-center, giving a driver confidence at every turn. Mazda’s iActiv all-wheel-drive package performed admirably on a dirt-and-pebble road leading to my friends’ home in the woods outside Indianapolis, giving confidence and tractability. Toyo P225/55R rubber is mounted on twinned five-spoke body-color and chrome-look 19-inch alloy rims. While fuel ratings are 23/29/26 mpg from the 14.8-gallon tank, my mileage – both in-town and over the road – tended closer to 30mpg using regular unleaded in this 3655-pound Mazda.
Dressed in Machine Gray metallic with a Parchment and black interior, the 2017 Mazda CX-5’s interior is luscious. Just luscious. The light/dark colors are elegant together and this leather-infused cabin, fitted with high quality materials and obviously constructed with pride, is an easy place to be on short and long trips. The office area of the CX-5 has been restyled, with an enlarged, seven-inch stand-up screen at dash central, excellent gauges (no temp gauge here, though) and controls that are easy to work and enjoy.
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD has a starting list price of $31,635 including freight; there are several options fitted, including a cargo mat, extra charge for the paint, a retractable cargo cover and the Premium package, which includes dual seat memories on the driver’s 8-position power seat while the passenger has 6-way power but lacks lumbar changes. Both front and rear seats are heated and Mazda fits a steering wheel heater. The windshield-projected active driving display with traffic sign recognition (including speed limit) is part of this package and that windshield has de-icing capabilities. The final list price is $34,085.
Including on the Grand Touring AWD Mazda CX-5 are such niceties as a power sunroof and power lift gate, blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, lane departure warning with lane keep (both a wee bit too sensitive for our tastes), smart city brake support, radar cruise control with several following settings, automatic high-beam control, along with rain sensing capabilities.
The Mazda Connect interface includes the 7-inch color touchscreen, a multi-media interface at the tunnel area that falls readily to hand, SiriusXM satellite radio, vehicle diagnostics, an exceptionally crisp backup camera, Bluetooth integration for both phone (30-second exercise) and audio, two front – and two rear – USB ports.
So many thoughtful features abound in this truly gorgeous interior, whose parchment seating is accompanied by black, soft-touch panels and then punctuated by accents of parchment and darker wood-look material. It’s all very modern and sleek. The heated steering wheel contains audio, phone and information controls on its left while the cruise and mode controls are on the right. While we’re not big fans of radar cruise systems, this one can be controlled to allow a bit of drafting and visual displays on the right screen show when a vehicle comes into view. On an exceptionally rainy drive, this was quite handy, as were the rain-sensing wipers.
Lighting is superb on the CX-5 Grand Touring model with all-LED equipment. These lights will shine brighter and last longer than halogen bulbs; it’s the way the industry trends and Mazda isn’t waiting to adopt newer technologies. The navigation system aided us on an overnight trip to Ohio – and never lost its way. The 10-speaker Bose audio system has access to Android and Apple Car Play systems, while vested apps include traffic maps, fuel economy monitors and vehicle status.
Mazda’s triple-pod suite of gauges are meant for a driver, housing a tachometer on the left, speedometer directly in front and the fuel gauge, integrated with an outside temp reader, odometer and trip odometer and information on cruise control on the right. It’s easy to keep eyes on the road with the head-up display in the windshield, which is rarely distracting – even in nasty weather.
There’s good space for those in the rear seat and Mazda does offer air flow, along with rear-door cup holders and an extra set in the covered armrest. A 40/20/40 fold to the rear seats expands the excellent cargo space from 30.9 cubic feet to 59.6 cubes. No matter how hard we tried, it was impossible to fill the hatch area; we were grateful for the cover.
Accumulating several hundred miles over the space of five days, it was wonderful to live with the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD. A thoroughly modern CUV that wants for virtually nothing, it gives pleasure to those that simply want an appliance for a vehicle and engagement for drivers that believe a conveyance needs to be part of their lives. This one’s a keeper.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit