2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Review

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2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Hypes: Top Handling SUV, Dramatic Interior Upgrade
Gripes: Another 25hp Would Be Welcome

The stormiest week of the winter really put this Mazda SUV to the test. The mid-size CX-5, which was redone for 2017, proved more than a match for the worst road conditions of the year. This compact package generated exceptional traction in heavy standing water thanks to full-time all-wheel-drive coupled to a set of 225/55R19 Toyo A36 mud and snow radials that dispersed water like jet dryers. In conditions where other motorists struggled to stay on the road, the MX-5 charted a deliberate and predictable course through the slop without ever losing grip. Nearly a week’s worth of such conditions conclusively proved that the CX-5 really has its act together in the inclement traction department.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Not only did the CX-5 prove skid resistant, but all its ancillary systems were up to the challenge of bad weather as well. Front and rear window defrosters immediately eliminated dampness in the cabin. The optional Premium Package 1G ($1,395) added a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats to the standard heated front seats. The extra money also buys you an informative “Active Driving Display” with traffic sign recognition, plus a windshield wiper de-icer for frosty morning swipes. The interval wiper system coped perfectly with the incessant changes in rainfall, the extra large rear view mirrors covered a wider spread than normal, and the standard power open/close tailgate hastened loading and unloading in the rain. All in all, the CX-5 is perfectly suited for use as a winter/ski vehicle.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

But how does it perform in the dry? There too, it garners top honors. Mazda, being the company behind the world’s most successful sport car (Miata MX-5), has infused the CX-5 with most of its sibling’s attributes – fine handling, excellent balance, and intriguing appearance. On the handling front, this SUV boasts independent front and rear suspension systems, with anti-roll bars at both ends. Such a sophisticated package is far from standard in the affordable SUV segment, and Mazda’s attention to physics pays off when you put the spurs to the MX-5 on a back road. The anti-roll bars dramatically inhibit lean, while the independent suspension at each corner sucks up bumps without impeding overall stability or comfort. Those rain master Toyo tires prove equally adept in the dry thanks to their sticky TW 300 treadwear rating.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda designers have upgraded both exterior and interior appearance with this latest iteration of the CX-5. Sheetmetal is adeptly sculpted according to the strict principles of what Mazda terms “Kodo” styling. Curves are graceful, arcs elongated, surface modeling understated. Inside the very habitable cabin, the striking parchment interior of our test vehicle contrasted splendidly with its Soul Red Crystal Metallic ($595 extra) exterior. The almost white leather trimmed seats looked peacock plush, with perforated seating surfaces, and triple row stitching on the bolsters. The dash face too showed extra attention to detail with its double stitched horizontal seam, and driftwood inserts which matched the door panels. In both utility and looks, the interior of the CX-5 exceeds expectations for a vehicle with a base price of just $30,945.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Mazda has generally eschewed CVT transmissions in favor of gearboxes containing real gears rather than rubber bands. The CX-5 holds with that tradition, offering a well-arrayed six gear split which can be manually controlled from the stubby console-mounted stick. Once you ascertain that bumping the leather covered shift knob forward for downshifts and backward for upshifts, you’re in full control of the 6-speed Sport Mode automatic. Another electoral decision is quality of ride and handling. A switch behind the gear shift lever enables you to select Sport Mode for your driving preference as well. This option tightens steering response, while also engaging manual mode on the gearbox. The transmission will not upshift until you direct it to do so, though it will automatically select first gear when you come to a stop. Although the six forward gears are well spaced to keep the engine on full boil, you will need to work the transmission fairly hard to maximize performance of the 187hp inline four. With 3,600 pounds to motivate, the Skyactive-G 2.5 liter engine is sometimes hard pressed to meet your acceleration demands. The Sport Mode gearbox, however, helps overcome the slight power shortfall.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring

  • Engine: 2.5 liter inline 4 Skyactive-G
  • Horsepower: 187hp
  • Torque: 185lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24MPG City/30MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,685
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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