2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Long Term Update 4
Realizations, with a Side of Appreciation
We wrapped a comparison test that pitted very fuel-efficient compact sedans against one another. It included driving hundreds of miles in a single day. While racking up mileage, I was reminded of a few things, among them, how some high-efficiency powertrains aren't the smoothest operators around.
The general lack of composure had me longing to be strapped the CX-5's leather driver's seat, mostly for want of neck that wasn't sore from incessant bobbing. Although anemic, Blue's naturally-aspirated, super-high-compression, Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter four-cylinder regularly returns 30-plus mpg on its combined fuel economy cycle. And that's with little-to-no strings attached to the engine's livability and smoothness. It's quite fantastic.
My five-mile commute that night in the Mazda felt as if I had gracefully fallen into a pile of fluffy 1200-thread-count goose down pillows after a day of back-breaking yard work. There was no jerkiness from touchy regenerative brakes; no off-throttle stumbling by a CVT or mushy manual gearbox; no turbo spool needing my impatient anticipation. Blue's drivetrain was as composed an LA Phil's summertime performance.
But Blue's motivating mechanisms aren't absent of all imperfections. One-two shifts made by the six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic, for instance, are quick -- almost too quick -- when setting off from a stoplight. Haphazard abruptness also rears its head during downshifts. I've yet to pinpoint what exact combination of speed, steering angle, throttle application, brake input, and wheel slip causes said behavior, but it's safe to say, it's best to be slow and steady with the CX-5's go-pedal so that its gearbox -- and the menagerie of ECUs controlling it -- can sufficiently appropriate the mill's miniscule gusto.
My appreciation of the CX-5's excellent storage-to-fuel-economy ratio was also enhanced following my time in sedans. Without much planning or worry, I can successfully sit four buddies comfortably, throw a mini barbeque and deflated blow-up lounge chair in the covered trunk (along with all our requisite supplies), and still see fuel economy that'll make quite a few eco four-doors envious.
On the topic of cargo, I've many times dropped to my knees and proclaimed my thanks to Hiroshima's engineering gods for their inclusion of handles located on the hold's inside walls. These heavenly levers actuate the fold-down 40/20/40 second row without the need to jump in the car or walk around to the backdoors, which, if you're lazy and/or have your hands full, can be a pain. Every CUV should have them, really.
And what if the paved road happens to lead into a mildly rutted dirt trail? Well, that's when I smile, notice that my digital fuel gauge has barely dipped, and yell, "Sayonara!"