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Was The Paint The Brightest Thing Steve Saw In The CX-5?

Does anybody do this color better than Mazda? It’s simply brilliantly. This Soul Red Crystal metallic paint option is just one of many reasons this 2nd generation CX-5 will keep crossover shoppers coming into their showrooms.

The CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling model and it isn’t even close, besting the Mazda3 at a rate of more than 2-to-1. So you’ll have to forgive them if this 2nd act is less than revolutionary.  The old adage goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Whether from the standpoint of its dimensions or its powertrain, the CX-5 is virtually unchanged.  Nevertheless, Mazda says they’ve made more than 250 improvements to it, none more obvious than the styling.  From borderline frumpy before to fascinating now, the design team calls the inspiration for this CX-5 “refined toughness.”  And it really does inject it with a healthy dose of passion.  Don’t you dare skimp on this $595 paint job – it’s now carries 50% greater color depth compared with the previous Soul Red as well as 20% greater brightness.  It is mesmerizing and worth every penny.

So what Mazda is striving for here and in all of their models moving forward is a premium feel. For the past 2 years they’ve been using the phrase “Mazda Premium” – as they describe it “the feeling a driver and passengers get when they step inside.”  And no doubt, this top level Grand Touring trim exudes the premium ambience they’re after.  Simple and clean with tight-fitting trim panels and high-quality touchpoints, Mazda takes the CX-5 into a class above.  You know what else emanates premium?  Quietness.  And with increased sound insulation, that’s certainly been achieved here.  And that helps, because this powertrain is a carryover and pleasing sounds it does make.  So the less you hear of it the better.

The underpowered 2.0-liter engine is thankfully off the table so now all models run with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder.  Output is nearly identical to before, producing a Skyactiv 187 horsepower and 186 pound feet of torque.  The 6-speed auto remains the same too – there is no manual transmission option.  If you don’t need all-wheel drive, a front-drive model is available and of course scores the best mileage.  Those numbers are up a little for the 2018 model year because Mazda has added cylinder deactivation as standard, meaning the outside pistons take time off when not needed.  Efficiency has increased by 1mpg, rated at 24mpg city/30mpg highway.  Best part – I never once noticed it doing its thing.

Another Mazda driving technology in use here is something called G-Vectoring Control – I first experienced it in the Mazda6.  By adjusting torque in response to steering wheel action, GVC if you will uses the engine itself to enhance chassis performance. It’s virtually imperceptible to the driver helping to maintain the intended line on a windy road and building a stronger bond between car and driver overall. Biggest takeaway here – the ride quality is vastly improved; much more compliant than before.

Is good infotainment a make or break a deal for you? Mazda Connect is one of my least favorite systems. I’m not breaking any new ground here but its tiny size, Atari-era graphics, partial touchscreen functionality and lack of features make it the least desirable part of the CX-5.

No CarPlay, No Android Auto, it’s just lame.

From a features perspective, the head-up display with traffic sign recognition is very nice to have, there’s a heated steering wheel, memory settings and heated rear seats. It’s all sized just right, too.  It feels like the passenger to cargo volume proportions are directly in the sweet spot for a compact SUV.  There’s lots of high end safety features here like auto high beam control, radar cruise control and much more.

So to summarize, the new CX-5 gives you the daring styling, gorgeous red paint, lots of standard features and quieter, more refined ride. The cabin is elegantly simple, the Bose sound system hits the spot and pricing is right in step with the competition. On the downside, would Mazda please give us more engine! I know zoom-zoom is in the past but this isn’t very exciting. And while the CX-5 has built its reputation as the driver’s alternative I don’t notice much if any separation anymore.

A number of factors including added weight and peak torque starting later in the RPM range result in a surprising slow down in standing start acceleration.  The previous CX-5 could hit 60mph in 7.8 seconds.  This one clocks in at 8.8 seconds.  We all know Mazda focuses more on driving dynamics than on power numbers and at that they do a fine job but guess what?  It’s time to deliver both.  The Sport mode doesn’t add much either – just more buzziness from the engine.

This 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD with the Premium Package and a couple of other small options comes in at $34,285. Go base and you can get one for around $25,000.