First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX-5
The Holistic Approach: Mazda's New Crossover is Skyactiv Showcase
We've sampled Mazda's Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter gas engine before: in the 2012 Mazda3 sedan, and in a Euro-spec version of Mazda's latest and greatest crossover, the CX-5, through the wilds of Iceland. Recently we got another crack at the all-new 2013 Mazda CX-5 -- this time in U.S.-spec, pre-production guise -- and got our Skyactiv zoom-zoom on.
Skyactiv technologies are a holistic approach to improving all future Mazdas through what the automaker bills as "optimized internal combustion and lightweight engineering." To that end, the Hiroshima-based automaker is focusing its efforts on engines, transmissions, body, and chassis development to achieve performance and efficiency goals. The 2013 CX-5 is the first offering with Mazda's entire suite of Skyactiv technologies in one vehicle.
The CX-5's Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter gas engine differs slightly from the unit installed in the Mazda3. It boosts the compact sedan and hatch's already lofty 12:1 compression ratio to 13:1, courtesy of a new 4-2-1 exhaust manifold made possible by designing the engine and chassis at the same time - part of the aforementioned holistic approach. The same manifold would not fit with the engine in the Mazda3 without removing the air conditioning unit or completely reengineering the firewall, something the automaker says will be remedied on the next-generation car.
The direct-injected engine makes the same 155 horsepower as in the Mazda3, and peak torque is up 2 lb-ft, now at an even 150. The compression ratio bump is good for more midrange torque around the 3000 rpm range -- important in the 356- to-574-pound heavier crossover. And impressively, it does it all on 87-octane fuel. Front-drive CX-5s can be had with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. All-wheel-drive models are available only with the automatic.
We first jumped into a CX-5 Grand Touring AWD rolling on 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/55 all-season tires. The U.S.-spec suspension tuning felt composed on the winding switchbacks of the Angeles Crest Highway north of Los Angeles. The ride was smooth, even over neglected sections of the two-lane road. The all-wheel-drive model felt slower than actual road speeds, a testament to the vehicle's refinement and confidence. Mazda claims 61 percent of the chassis is made of up some form of high-strength steel, giving it more rigidity and lower weight -- two main ingredients in fun-to-drive cars. Even the preproduction interior trim didn't rattle on bumpy or pitted road surfaces. Slicing through curves at 60 mph felt like 40 mph. The CX-5's chassis begs you to go faster than you should, an unusual trait in a compact crossover.
That said, the engine seemed to struggle to push the car up the hills at times, requiring lots of downshifting to keep the power coming. Things also got a bit buzzy at the high side of the rev band, but nothing too surprising or off-putting given the engine size and power.
Mazda engineers say they spent lots of time designing the A-pillars and side mirrors for good visibility and low wind buffeting, and their hard work seems to have paid off. The careful design of the body, combined with chassis stiffness and suspension tuning, contributed to a comfortable and quiet ride in most normal commuting situations.
Next we climbed into a Touring FWD model mated to the same automatic transmission. Sport and Touring models ride on a 225/65/17 all-season tire and alloy wheel package. Acceleration in this configuration felt a little spunkier and the steering feel a shade lighter, no doubt attributed to the two-wheel drive, lighter overall weight, and smaller diameter wheels.
Mazda also made a big deal about driver seating position, and it shows. Visibility all the way around is good, which helps in placing the vehicle where you want it, and the center stack's switch and knob layout is logical and easy to access. The soft-touch dash and interior are attractive and the seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. Interior choices are cloth, premium cloth, or leather. Black and black with sand are the two interior color choices and piano black trim and satin-chrome trim help set off the interior. Rear-seat legroom is good for six-footers and features power 40/20/40 folding rear seats.
Mazda aimed for best-in-class acceleration and fuel economy with the CX-5. The automaker says the front-drive, manual trans-equipped models will hit 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, with the automatic only one tick slower at 8.9 seconds. Al-wheel-drive models will take 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph. Mazda also targeted 26/33 city/highway mpg with the manual transmission. Automatic, front-wheel-drive vehicles should achieve the same city mileage and drop just one highway mpg. All-wheel-drive versions are projected to get 25 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. These claims are still pending EPA verification.
Mazda officials were mum on whether the Skyactiv-D 2.2-liter diesel engine will be available later in the CX-5, only saying the engine will be coming stateside in the future. We hope the 300-plus lb-ft of torque turbo-diesel will be available in the U.S.-spec CX-5 (and Mazda6 sedan) -- especially in all-wheel-drive form. Mazda brass wants to know that enough Americans want the diesel to make a business case for the torque-laden oil-burner. Our own Todd Lassa, in his Iceland preview drive, stated unequivocally that the diesel is the engine to get.
No pricing or official on-sale date has been announced, but Mazda said prices would fall into the thick of the compact SUV field. We estimate in the $22,000 to $28,000 range.
2013 Mazda CX-5
|BASE PRICE||$22,000-$28,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/155-hp/150-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3200-3450 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||178.7 x 72.4 x 65.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.8-9.3 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||25-26/30-33 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||102-112/130-135 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.70-0.72 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Spring 2012|