2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

All new and all good

The new Mazda CX-5 was the last 2017 model I tested and will be the final 2017 review I’ll write. I wasn’t actually sure if I was going to cover it at all, being that one of my freelance journalists did the honors earlier and his review is still available for your perusal, but nevertheless the new CX-5 impressed me so much I couldn’t leave it alone.

I know I’m not alone in my accolades, with most every auto industry pundit praising its virtues. Before I delve into all that’s great about the 2017, as well as its two minor disappointments, take note that the outgoing first-generation CX-5 was already a very impressive compact SUV, so therefore moving up to this second-generation model isn’t a night and day experience. Yet if styling is important to you, and it is for most of us when it comes to our cars, this 2017 CX-5 is a big step forward.

Again, there was nothing wrong with the previous 2016 model’s design, other than five years of continual availability making it look a bit tired. The 2013 CX-5 replaced Mazda’s much-lauded CX-7 and Ford Escape-sourced Tribute in February of 2012, and sales responded from 36,143 compact Mazda SUVs in 2011 to 54,646 that year, while after a full year of the CX-5 solely occupying the Japanese brand’s compact SUV offensive sales jumped to 79,544 in 2013, and then 99,122 in 2014, 111,450 in 2015, 112,235 in 2016, and 127,563 for a meteoric rise.

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While sales are more about corporate bragging rights than anything that will directly affect your life, Mazda won’t want to get too cocky while celebrating as they’ve still got a long way to go before knocking the bestselling Toyota RAV4’s off its lofty perch of 407,594 sales, or for that matter pushing up against the runner-up Nissan Rogue’s 403,465 deliveries, or even the third-place Honda CR-V’s 377,895 unit total, but its growth is a sign that this alternative Japanese brand is on the right track, and therefore it’s safe to say Mazda and its CX-5 are steadily making progress in this hard fought category.

One thing common among all of the top sellers is the appearance of making a play for premium status, this especially true of the new CX-5. It starts with a larger more prominent grille that’s already changed the face of the entire Mazda lineup, while sleek, narrow LED headlights grace each new CX-5 model from the least expensive $24,045 Sport to the priciest $29,395 Grand Touring reviewed here.

Those headlights get auto on/off, automatic leveling and adaptive cornering capability with the Grand Touring, while additional standard Grand Touring gear includes 19-inch alloys with dark painted pockets on the outside, whereas moving inside shows metal and woodgrain inlays, fabric-wrapped A-pillars with integrated stereo tweeters that come as part of an upgraded 10-speaker Bose audio system, satellite and HD radio, a color multi-information display, auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, three-way adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, navigation with detailed mapping, a eight-way powered driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, dual-zone auto HVAC, Smart Brake Support autonomous braking, Distance Recognition Support, Forward Obstruction Warning, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane-keep Assist, and more. Remember what I was saying about nudging up toward premium?

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All of the items you might see in the photos yet have yet to be mentioned are pulled up from lesser trims, including the front and rear LED signature lights, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, noise-isolating windshield, body-colored power-actuated heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, electromechanical parking brake with Autohold, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, leather-clad shift knob, leather upholstery, heatable front seats, air conditioning, 7.0-inch color touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment interface, wide-angle rearview camera, HMI Commander Switch rotating controller on the lower console, dual USB ports and auxiliary input jack, rear seat recline, rear center armrest with integrated storage and cupholders, dual USB ports within that rear armrest, powered tailgate with programmable lift height, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), advanced blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more. If you want all-wheel drive, it’s a $1,300 option across the entire line.

My Grand Touring tester was upgraded with a $1,830 Premium package that added a windshield wiper de-icer, a head-up display style Active Driving Display that projects key info onto the windshield, traffic sign recognition, a heatable steering wheel, two-way memory for the driver’s seat, a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, and heated rear seats.

By the way, my tester’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic is a $595 option, while other paint options include $300 Machine Gray Metallic and $200 Snowflake White Pearl Mica, leaving Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Eternal Blue Mica, and Sonic Silver Metallic as no-cost base colors.

It’s not merely the sum of its parts that makes this SUV special, but rather the way everything is put together and quality of materials used. The CX-5 Grand Touring interior is superb. In fact, it goes further than many premium-branded compact SUVs as far as creature comforts are concerned, including soft padded French-stitched leatherette across the entire instrument panel and all door uppers front to back, which extend farther down the doors than most rivals, an even plusher stitched leatherette used for the side and center armrests plus the sides of the lower console, these all done in a beautiful no-cost optional cream color to match the identical Pure White Leather seat upholstery. Rich? Like I said, the CX-5 GT is finished better than many premium players.

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What’s more, the woodgrain mentioned earlier sits atop a dense, expensive feeling composite that really makes it seem authentic, while the tastefully applied satin-silver trim looks and feels like genuine aluminum, as is the case for much of the brushed metal accents throughout the cabin. In fact, the CX-5’s interior is so good I’d go so far as to question whether the brand is making a play for premium status.

Mazda has yet to include a fully configurable gauge cluster, but instead features the brand’s classic three-dial design incorporating a tachometer on the left, speedometer at center, and a bright, clear color multi-information display in the rightmost position. It includes a fuel gauge in the lowest portion and a readout showing various functions just above that.

The infotainment touchscreen is the premium sector’s usual fixed tablet-style monitor sitting atop the dash, and while it’s a bit small compared to others in this class, it features smartphone/tablet-like tap, swipe, and pinch functions for easy operation, while the aforementioned rotating dial selector, which is surrounded by buttons for the home screen, audio interface, navigation, favorites, as well as going back, allows infotainment system access functions within easier reach. Consider this a best of both world’s scenario, and a lot more useful than most premium brands that only offer the dial type selector, and most mainstream brands that only include a touchscreen.

I should also mention the HMI Commander Switch dial is beautifully finished in knurled metal, as is the audio system volume knob right next to it, the power mirror toggle over on the driver’s door, and the two dials on each side of the dual-zone auto HVAC interface. This brings up another point, the quality of switchgear. There’s a generous yet still tasteful dose of metal detailing used on much of the various buttons, knobs, toggles and rocker switches, while composite density is very good, as is fit, finish and damping.

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I can’t bring up damping without inelegantly seguing into ride quality and handling prowess, both of which are Mazda fortes. Again, performance is normally a key element separating mainstream and premium brands, and the CX-5 moves into 2017 as one of the most maneuverable compact SUVs through tight city traffic, one of the most agile through high-speed curves, and equally up to pace with its peers on the highway. It’s amply smooth riding too, delivering one of the best speed/comfort compromises in its class.

Then again, it’s hardly a fire breather. Mated to a Skyactiv six-speed automatic transmission, the standard 2.5-liter engine puts out 187 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, which is certainly potent enough to take on the likes of Toyota’s RAV4, Honda’s CR-V and Nissan’s Rogue, but not Ford’s top-line Escape Titanium that hits the road running with 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque.

But does anyone care about ultimate power in a compact SUV? Only in the premium sector, and at the CX-5’s price point it’s certainly not competing against equally featured Audis, Acuras, BMWs, Mercedes, and the like. The brushed metal rocker switch used for employing Sport mode will make you feel like you’re in one of those pricier brands, mind you, this allowing for a bit more punch from the engine, slightly quicker shifts from the transmission, and more revs before gear change, although I recommend leaving it in default mode and going easier on the throttle if you want to achieve my AWD model’s claimed 23 mpg city, 29 highway and 26 combined fuel economy. Incidentally, it does a bit better with FWD at an estimated 24 city, 31 highway and 27 combined.

Complaints? I only wish this Grand Touring had a panoramic sunroof, that’s it. Again, at its price point and premium level of finishing it’s difficult to harp on Mazda for not offering every feature some of its key rivals dole out, so consider my panoramic sunroof complaint a wish list issue.

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The missing panoramic roof would be closer to everyone inside, by the way, being that the new CX-5’s roofline is a bit lower than the outgoing model, as well as marginally longer and wider, and while all of these parameter shifts enhance aforementioned handling they don’t benefit cargo volume that’s reduced by 3.2 cubic feet aft of the rear seats to a new total of 30.9 cubic feet, whereas laying the 60/40-split rear seatbacks flat results in 5.2 fewer cubic feet for a max capacity of 59.6 cubic feet.

If you don’t mind hauling slightly less gear and your kids are ok without a view to the sky, you can’t go wrong by choosing Mazda’s new CX-5 Grand Touring. It delivers big on style, quality, performance and expected reliability, and if all the 2017s are gone by the time you read this review, take comfort in knowing the 2018 CX-5 gets a more fuel-efficient powertrain with cylinder-deactivation that shuts off two of its four cylinders under lighter loads like cruising, plus more. Either way, owning one of the best compact SUVs in the class will mean you’re well cared for.

*Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press Inc. *

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