In our last compact crossover comparison, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.0 FWD earned second place (out of five contenders) behind the 2013 Ford Escape SE 1.6 EcoBoost FWD due to the Mazda's surprising lack of Zoom-Zoom-ness. After spending a long day on Pacific Coast Highway behind the wheel of a 2014 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD with the new 184-hp 2.5-liter engine, we think the Mazda has a better chance than ever at stealing customers considering other compact crossovers.
Despite the power shortcomings, the CX-5's driving dynamics impressed our staff during the comparison, with Jonny Lieberman saying, "Besides being slow, it's a great little trucklette. Like seemingly all Mazdas, the CX-5 focuses on the sporty side of driving first and everything else second."
For 2014, the 155-hp, 150 lb-ft of torque 2.0-liter I-4 has been restricted to the Sport model, while Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with the new 184-hp, 185 lb-ft of torque 2.5-liter I-4. Those ratings compare favorably to the Escape's boosted 1.6-liter engine's 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. While the additional 29 horsepower and 35 lb-ft of torque may not sound like much, the CX-5 no longer struggles going uphill and the transmission doesn't constantly downshift for more power like it did during the 2013 Mazda CX-5 First Drive. We've tested a 2014 CX-5, which accelerated from 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds, a 1.3-second improvement over a 2013 CX-5 also equipped with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic.
The new engine doesn't give the CX-5 neck-snapping acceleration, but the new-found power puts an end to driver expletives during merging or passing maneuvers. The additional power doesn't seem to come with any ill side effects as the CX-5's confident chassis, composed handling, and direct steering carry over, while the fuel economy hit is minimal. The EPA rates the 2.0-liter engine with the six-speed auto and all-wheel drive at 25/31/28 mpg city/highway/combined, while the 2.5-liter in the same configuration is rated 24/30/26 mpg.
Mazda also has the 2.2-liter Skyactiv diesel engine up its sleeve, which puts out around 170 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. That engine, available in the CX-5 in Japan, would boost merging and passing confidence, while also improving fuel mileage. Though the Skyactiv diesel hasn't been confirmed for the CX-5 in the U.S., it will be available in the 2014 Mazda6 sedan later this year. Whether consumers would be willing to pay a diesel premium on a compact crossover remains to be seen. After our quick drive in the 2014 CX-5, though, it's clear that fewer drivers will have as much of a problem with the crossover's lack of power compared to last year's model
Until the diesel arrives, the 2.5-liter I-4 should provide enough power for those who place a priority on driving dynamics over all else.