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    William Maley

    Review: 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

      We're moving on up

    Mazda has a big dream for itself. It is trying to stand out from the competition by becoming more premium. The first steps of this process took place last year with a refreshed Mazda6 sedan. As we noted in our review at the time, the 6 made great strides in improving noise isolation and material quality. Now, the premium dream is coming more into focus with the redesigned CX-5. Mazda is making some big promises with claims of improved refinement and an upscale look and feel for the interior. We spent a week in a 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring to see if those promises are met.

    The past few years have seen Mazda designing some distinctive looking vehicles and the redesigned CX-5 is no exception. The overall shape is an evolution of the first-generation model with smoother lines and more curves. The small details such as the wider front grille, slim LED headlights, 19-inch aluminum wheels, and a rear tailgate design similar to the Mazda3 really set the CX-5 apart from the competition. The only item that slightly ruins the design is the oversized Mazda emblem on the front grille. This is due to the emblem holding the hardware for various active safety equipment such as the radar cruise control.

    Moving inside, it is clear Mazda has put a lot of effort in making the CX-5 a cut above the rest. The modern design and appointments such as the stitching on the dash and bright trim around the vents make for a very classy cabin. Most materials are soft-touch which add another level of the premium-ness Mazda is pushing. Controls fall readily to hand for both driver and front-seat passenger. 

    The front seats in the Grand Touring come wrapped in leather upholstery and feature power adjustments and heat. It would be nice if Mazda had the option of ventilation to prop up their premium image, but we’re nitpicking here. The seats offer excellent support over long trips and plenty of head and legroom. Back seat passengers will have no complaints as head and legroom are very competitive with other models, and there is the option of heated seats. Cargo space is where the CX-5 falters. Open the tailgate to be greeted with 30.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Fold the seats to expand space to 59.6 cubic feet. It pales in comparison to the likes of the Honda CR-V (39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet) and Volkswagen’s redesigned Tiguan (37.6 and 73.5 cubic feet).

    The Grand Touring comes with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a control knob. It does take some time to learn the various idiosyncrasies such as the touchscreen functions being locked out when the vehicle is on the move and having to jump through various menus to switch between various audio sources. Once you get the hang of the system, it becomes easy to use. Mazda Connect is beginning to show its age with the dark color palate, somewhat dated navigation interface, and the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. 

    Mazda only offers the 2.5L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front-wheel or Mazda’s i-Active all-wheel drive. The engine is where Mazda’s premium image takes a serious hit. Around town, the engine is very peppy and is willing to get speed quickly. But the powertrain feels somewhat winded when power was needed to make a pass or merge on an expressway. Mazda has been working on a diesel engine option that was expected to arrive in the second half of last year, but hasn’t come out at the time of this writing. A fix that I’m willing to propose is to offer the turbocharged 2.5L four from the CX-9. The six-speed automatic goes about its business with crisp and smooth shifts.

    Fuel economy for the CX-5 AWD is rated by the EPA at 23 City/29 Highway/26 Combined. My average for the week landed around 25.7 mpg.

    We have praised the previous-generation Mazda CX-5 as being one best driving crossovers. The new one continues that with agile handling and excellent body control. The steering provides excellent feedback and weight when driving down a winding road. Mazda has fitted their G-Vectoring Control that monitors steering and throttle input, and will reduce engine power to improve overall handling. But as I noted in my Mazda6 quick drive last year, I couldn’t tell if the system made a difference or not. The same is true when it comes to the CX-5. This sporting edge does mean the ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of road imperfections being transmitted inside. The 19-inch wheels don’t help with this and it might be worth considering dropping down to the Touring for the smaller 17-inch wheels. At least Mazda is continuing to improve road and wind noise isolation. Compared to the last CX-5 I drove, there is a reduction in road and wind noise inside. It is almost as quiet as what you might find in a luxury model.

    If I was to recommend a CX-5 for most buyers in 2017, that would be the Grand Touring. While I find the price to be slightly high and the 19-inch wheels make the ride uncomfortable, it was the only way to get a number of active safety features such as radar cruise control and the smart city brake support. Thankfully for 2018, Mazda has migrated a number of those features down to the Touring and Sport trims. If you’re considering a 2018 CX-5, the Touring is your best bet as you’ll get most everything on the Grand Touring at a price that won’t break the bank.

    Has Mazda accomplished their hopes of becoming more premium? The answer is a bit mixed. For the positives, Mazda has been making great strides in improving the noise isolation in their vehicles and the new CX-5 is no exception. There is also the distinctive exterior shape, noticeable improvement in material quality, and the sharp driving dynamics that have made the CX-5 a darling of the automotive press. The negatives on the CX-5 include a slightly stiff ride, smallish cargo area, and certain missing features that would really help with the premium image Mazda is trying to project. But the biggest issue has to be the engine. While 2.5 Skyactiv-G is perfectly adequate around town, it really struggles when more speed is called for. Dropping either the long-delayed diesel or the CX-9’s turbo-four would really do wonders and help foster the premium image.

    The 2017 Mazda CX-5 is so close to the premium edge. It just needs a few more tweaks to reach it.

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-5, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Mazda
    Model: CX-5
    Trim: Grand Touring AWD
    Engine: 2.5L Skyactiv-G Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic
    Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
    Torque @ RPM: 186 @ 4,000 
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/29/26
    Curb Weight: 3,693 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
    Base Price: $30,695
    As Tested Price: $34,380 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Premium Package - $1,830.00
    Soul Red - $595.00
    Retractable Cargo Cover $250.00
    Cargo Mat - $70.00

    Edited by William Maley

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      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
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      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
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      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
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      Alternative:
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      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
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      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
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    • By William Maley
      I rarely get the opportunity to drive two different flavors of the same vehicle within a short timeframe. But that's what happened in the fall when I had the chance to drive the new Hyundai Sonata in its standard and hybrid forms. The Sonata has always been a favorite of mine as it offered a lot for a midsize sedan, with a surprising price tag. It has also come very close to being at the top of the class, but falling somewhat short due to one thing or another. This new version has the chance of changing that.
      Very Polarizing Design

      The consensus from several readers on Cheers & Gears and various social media sites on the Sonata's design was of dislike. Many found the design to be a bit much and overdone. I found myself in the minority as I was impressed by the lengths Hyundai went. The flowing lines and raked roofline reminded me of the 2012 Sonata which gave notice to other automakers to step up their game. Little details such as the bars the run along the outer edge of the hood to the headlights to a distinct rear-end treatment make the Sonata stand out.
      If there is an issue I have with the Sonata's design, it is the grille. I find it to be slightly cartoonish due to the large size and shape.
      Simple, Yet Elegant Interior
      If you're worried that the polarizing ideas from the exterior make their way inside, don't. The interior is surprisingly sedate with clean lines and a simple design. Hyundai should be commended for using a lot of soft-touch plastics and leather on various surfaces. It makes the Sonata look and feel more premium than its price tag may suggest.

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      Tech Galore!
      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
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      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
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      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
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      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
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      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Despite being one of the best sellers in the luxury crossover class, the Lexus RX lacked something many competitors offered; a third-row option. Lexus rectified this a couple of years ago by stretching the RX's body and adding a third-row to create the RX L. I spent some time in the RX 350L Luxury back in the fall to find out if Lexus has another winner or if this a half-baked attempt.
      You can tell the difference between the standard RX to the longer L by looking for a floating roofline treatment. This is due to Lexus blacking part of the c-pillar to help disguise the added bulk. It doesn't fully work as looks somewhat half-baked. At least Lexus was more successful upfront where non F-Sport models get a new mesh insert to replace the horizontal slats, along with a revised bumper. When equipped with the Luxury Package, the RX is a plush and pleasant place to spend time. The leather upholstery feels nice to the touch and the use of contrasting colors (cream and brown in my tester) help make it feel special. Lexus has finally added a touchscreen for the RX's infotainment and it makes a huge difference. Gone are the litany of issues I have noted in previous models such as, Being precise with your finger movements when selecting an item Becoming very distracting to use when on the move Not the most intuitive controller Now using Lexus Enform or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is not an exercise in frustration, but one of ease. My only complaint is that I wished Lexus moved the screen slightly more forwards. It is quite a reach to use the touchscreen. Those sitting in the second row will not have much to complain about as head and legroom are plentiful for most passengers. The same cannot be said for the third-row. Getting back here is difficult as there is not enough a gap when the second-row seat is moved forward. Once back here, space is non-existent with your head touching the headliner and legroom from nothing to something bearable depending on where the second-row is set. The one upside to the longer RX is cargo space. With the third-row seat folded, you get about seven extra cubic feet of space compared to standard RX. Power comes from a 3.5L V6 used in several Lexus and Toyota vehicles.  For the RX 350L, it produces 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. My tester came with all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard. Performance is adequate as you'll be able to keep up with traffic or make a pass with no issue. Those wanting a bit more performance should look at something like the upcoming Acura MDX or Volvo XC90. Comfort is still a key hallmark to the RX. Bumps and potholes become mere ripples when driven over. There is also a noticeable lack of road and wind coming inside. The RX 350L feels like a stop-gap solution until Lexus finishes up their upcoming three-row crossover due out within the next couple of years. The third-row isn't all useful for carrying passengers and is best to fold down to expand cargo space. If you need a third-row, there are much better options such as the Volvo XC90. But if you really want an RX, stick with the standard two-row version and pocket the cash you saved for something nice. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RX 350L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RX
      Trim: 350L Luxury
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,597 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
      Base Price: $54,700
      As Tested Price: $63,540 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      12.3" Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-Speaker Premium Audio System - $3,365.00
      Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert Braking - $1,865.00
      Running Boards - $640.00
      Color Head-Up Display - $600.00
      Second-Row Captain's Chairs - $405.00
      All-Weather Floor Liners with Cargo Mat - $330.00
      Cold Weather Package - $315.00
      Mudguards - $155.00
      Door Edge Guards - $140.00
    • By William Maley
      Do you need a V8 engine in your flagship luxury sedan? That's a question I posed myself when a Genesis G90 equipped with a 5.0L V8 engine was dropped off for a week. The standard G90 with the twin-turbo V6 offers an impressive amount of performance and refinement. But the V8 offers much more power, along with some extra goodies you cannot get with the V6. 
      Since our last visit with the G90, Genesis has given a bit of a facelift. The front end prominently features a new diamond-shape. I found myself growing to like it, even if I thought it was a tad too large. But I can see this becoming a point of contention. Other changes include new wheels and a restyled rear end that makes the G90 look a bit cleaner. No changes of note for the interior. It still is very luxurious to sit in and the controls are logically laid out. The only item I'm sad not to see is the new 12.3-inch digital cluster that is found in the all-new G80 and GV80. Opting for the Ultimate means back seat passengers get their own screens mounted behind the front seats. This allows you to tap into the G90's infotainment system to play audio, check various information, and look at the navigation system. Ultimate models come with the larger 5.0L V8 producing 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as an option. The V8 is a bit of a tough sell when compared to the twin-turbo 3.3L V6 as it slower off the line and not as flexible whenever you need to accelerate quickly. Both engines also are similar in terms of refinement, offer a muted engine note. The only place I found the V8 to be slightly better than the V6 was in my average fuel economy. The V8 returned 24.7 mpg, while the V6 only got 20.3 mpg. A combination of the V8 G90 being rear-wheel and not all-wheel, along with more miles being done on the highway likely contributed to the better fuel economy figures. Ride quality is still on the hallmarks of the G90. With the adaptive suspension in either SMART or Comfort, the G90 glides along any road surface with nary a bump or pothole coming inside.  Around bends, the G90 doesn't feel at home with a fair amount of body roll. There is a Sport model to help reduce this, along with adding more weight to the steering. For the as-tested price of $76,695, you are getting quite a lot of equipment. There are LED headlights, Nappa leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, power sunshades, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, memory settings for seats, and much more. The only way I could recommend the G90 Ultimate is either if you're operating a livery service or just want a V8 engine no matter what. Otherwise, you'll be happy with the G90 Premium and its twin-turbo V6. That said, the current G90 is starting to show its age, especially when compared to some of the new Genesis models such as the G80 and GV80. A new model is coming down the pipeline and if the recent models are any indication, the G90 has a real shot of becoming one of the best luxury sedans. Disclaimer: Genesis Provided the G90, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Genesis
      Model: G90
      Trim: 5.0 Ultimate
      Engine: 5.0L GDI V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 420 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 5,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19
      Curb Weight: 4,817 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, Korea
      Base Price: $75,700
      As Tested Price: $76,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A

      View full article
  • Posts

    • That's a great reference point and it really puts this flight into a better perspective on how impressive it was. 
    • You can't call yourself "science guy" and then say no point of going to space.  Science has always been about discovery of unknown and pushing the boundaries of known.  If people wouldn't be willing to expand and learn and discover, we still would live in the original caves we came from and hunt with spears.  There are so many innovations that came  out from trying to push the boundaries, exploring.  Exploring space gave a huge amount of things we use daily now.  Take as an example that small helicopter flight that this whole discussion started.  Flying on Mars is an equivalent of flying on Earth at 87000 feet.  Current Earth record for the helicopter flight is about 41000 feet. I think it is in our nature to be curious, to explore and to expand.  Either it is good or bad is up for discussion. 
    • I'm very much a science and technology guy, and I'm pretty sure space launches and the moon missions, etc have all happened.   But being cynical, I've never seen much point in going to space (beyond launching satellites).. seems like a big money pit...billions and billons of $$$ wasted that could be put to better use to improving life on Earth, IMO.    I don't see the value in spreading the scourge of humanity into the solar system, humanity will destroy itself here eventually...better to contain the destruction wrought by humans to Earth.     
    • There are so many effing reasons to believe we actually went.    https://youtu.be/UT23ogeC1nI
    • Been a crazy Tuesday, so playing devils advocate and yes it is an established FACT, I agree with you on. But still stirring the pot to see what rises!  
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