Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Test Drive: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD At $30,340

Test driving the Mazda CX-5 was like trying to review a movie that had already won all the big awards - was it deserving and does it meet my forty-plus years of refined driving idiosyncrasies? Answer: YES for this 2014 CX-5 Grand Touring front wheel drive model. And, the toughest critic of all, my wife, was sold on it, too.

Neurolingusitic programming (NLP) experts profess that people prioritize the senses which they use to interpret the world with the main three being visual, auditory and kinesthetic. So by appealing to all the senses you can create a product that will be a success. The Mazda CX-5 appeals to all the senses by looking and sounding great and feeling solid and luxurious. It also hits the important automotive criteria - my 5 P's - price, performance, purpose, pampering and proximity (to the dealer). Proximity may or may not be an issue to the buyer but keep in mind you do have to get the car serviced somewhere to keep the warranty valid. Pampering covers ride, comfort and features. Mazda has successfully blended 4 of my 5 P's into their so-called Skyactiv Technology, which they say "combines breakthrough innovation and state-of-the-art engineering and is applied to engines, transmissions, body and chassis systems - all lighter, more efficient, with increased responsiveness" or more simply put, Mazda has a practical fuel efficient vehicle that satisfies a wide range of buyers' tastes and needs.

Originally introduced with a 155 horsepower 2.0 liter engine at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda now offers the CX-5 with an all-new 184 horsepower SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine for the Touring and Grand Touring models giving them nearly 19 percent more horsepower and 23 percent more torque. The more powerful CX-5 debuted at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. I test drove the 2014 CX-5 Grand Touring front wheel drive model with an exterior Meteor Gray Mica color and black leather trimmed interior with the $1,625 Grand Touring Tech package and two optional add-ons, a $100 rear bumper guard and $200 retractable cargo cover bringing the total MSRP to $30,340 (including the $795 delivering, processing and handling fee).

My 600 mile week long test drive included two round trips from Los Angeles to Palm Springs darting in and out of traffic on Southern California freeways that included the hilly 60 freeway and some unavoidable bumper-to-bumper, start-and-stop traffic. My 600 miles in the CX-5, mainly on the highway, achieved more than 30 miles per gallon and was comfortable for me, the driver, and my passenger for the 2 hour plus commute. The 14.8 gallon fuel tank capacity in the front-wheel drive CX-5 model that I tested would have taken about 400 miles had I let run to empty.

My objective in every review is to determine whether I would buy this car, specifically, I wanted to see if the CX-5 would be the ideal vehicle for downsizing from a larger SUV by providing enough space with much-improved fuel economy and it did. My first impression was the beautiful lines and look (visual), the quality sound of the door closing and great Bose sound system (auditory) and, maybe, most of all, the solid feel behind the wheel (kinesthetic). The ride felt firm, not floaty, which helps carsick-prone passengers avoid feeling nauseous. On that note, when you get your new CX-5 or any vehicle with voice activated features, learn the instructions on your own before subjecting passengers to ongoing misinterpreted voice commands. The telematics were intuitive with a quick cellphone bluetooth sync.

The 34.1 cubic feet behind the second-row seats took luggage for 3 people that included a folded wheelchair and walker for my mother who could easily enter and exit the CX-5's 2nd row seat because of the low step and good accessibility. Visibility was much better than expected and the rear camera reverse feature was excellent. The ergonomics were good with intuitively-placed steering wheel controls and the 5.8-inch in-dash touch screen providing access to Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity as well as iPod audio playback. The nine-speaker 225-watt Bose sound system came through crystal-clear with a variety of listening choices like digital AM and FM radio, Sirius and Pandora. My KNX buddy Frank Mottek sounded even better.

Bottom Line: Mazda has sold 17,811 CX-5 vehicles in the first three months of 2013 after a record sales month in March. The 2014 CX-5 Grand Touring front wheel drive model at a $30,340 MSRP with its IIHS Top Safety pick and virtually every vehicle tech feature that you could want or need, fully deserves all the accolades as a fuel efficient city and highway multi-purpose crossover that still has the benefit of a firmer ride with confident handling and plenty of cargo space.