2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand TouringPosted on June 12th, 2012
Skyactiv technology stretches gas mileage for five-passenger crossover
By Nina Russin
Two years ago, Mazda introduced new fuel-economizing technology called Skyactiv. The idea was to improve efficiency for a traditional gasoline engine enough to be competitive with hybrids and diesels. Skyactiv, which first appeared on the Mazda3 compact hatchback and sedan, now comes to the 2013 CX-5 crossover.
During my 200-mile test drive I averaged 31 miles-per-gallon: two better than the 29 mpg EPA estimate. With average temperatures well over 100 degrees, I ran the air conditioner throughout the week. On a road trip down to Tucson, I also fought 30 mile-per-hour crosswinds at speeds of 75 miles-per-hour. The elevation gain between Phoenix and Tucson is 1000 feet.
Pricing for the base grade starts at $20,695. MSRP for the front-wheel drive Grand Touring model tested is $27,045 excluding the $705 delivery charge.
The upscale model comes loaded with comfort and convenience features, including leather upholstery, keyless start, power driver’s seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, TomTom navigation system, satellite radio and more. It also includes some advanced safety features such as blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera.
Building a better mousetrap
Internal combustion engines are inherently inefficient. When I went to mechanic’s school in the 1980s we learned that the average engine loses about sixty percent of its gasoline energy due to incomplete combustion and internal pumping losses. Since the advent of on-board computers, engines have gained about 20 percent efficiency. That still leaves a lot of room for improvement.
From what I’ve just said, it should be obvious that there’s no magic bullet for improving fuel economy in a traditional four-stroke engine. To achieve their goals, Mazda engineers reexamined every aspect of vehicle design and engineering. For example, they utilized an extremely high engine compression ratio: 13:1. In order to prevent detonation, they reconfigured the pistons and modified the exhaust to help the engine breathe better. Unlike most high-compression engines, Mazda’s two-liter block can run on 87 octane gasoline.
Direct injection delivers gasoline into the engine cylinders without passing through the valves. This reduces the amount of uncombusted gasoline which goes out the exhaust as carbon monoxide.
Engineers used a chain drive rather than a timing belt. Chains are noisier than belts, but have the advantage of not wearing out, saving the driver an expensive repair procedure. Timing belts can also slip as they get older. Most drivers don’t notice small deviations from factory timing settings, but they can cause the car’s fuel economy to drop.
The six-speed automatic transmission on the test car utilizes friction couplings similar to a dual-clutch gearbox, and the infinite gearing of continuously-variable designs. A lockup synchronizer in lieu of a torque converter saves energy lost through fluid couplings.
The continuously-variable design produces smoother shifts than a dual-clutch setup, which is essentially an automated manual. The only obvious shift shock I noticed during the test drive was during wide-open throttle.
The final step was to make the body as aerodynamic as possible and minimize weight. While crossovers can’t match passenger cars for aerodynamic efficiency, .33 coefficient of drag for the CX-5 is a pretty good number. Engineers used ultra-high strength steel in key areas of the chassis to enhance torsional rigidity and decrease mass.
The base front-wheel drive model with the six-speed manual transmission weighs 3208 pounds, which is quite light for a this type of vehicle. The test car with the automatic transmission weighs 3272 pounds, while the fully-loaded all-wheel drive variant weighs 4323 pounds. All-wheel drive variants lose about four miles-per-gallon average fuel economy as a result of that weight gain.
Test drive in southern Arizona
This past week I drove the new CX-5 around the Phoenix metro area as well as on the weekend road trip to Tucson. My overall opinion is that the CX-5 is a lot of car for the money, with the versatility to function as an only car for buyers with active lifestyles.
The engine has plenty of power for average driving situations. Because the block produces almost as much torque as it does horsepower, acceleration in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway is quite good. I had no problems passing slower vehicles on the highway.
Steering response from the electric power unit is also good, with plenty of assist at lower speeds and a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson setup in front and multi-link coil springs in the rear with stabilizer bars on both axles. The compliant ride keeps passengers comfortable on long road trips.
I noticed more road and tire noise than some competitive models. At some point, sound deadening materials can add significant weight to a chassis: something the Mazda engineers were trying to avoid. Since the CX-5 is a very light car for its size, I also felt the effects of the crosswinds more than I might with a heavier car.
Blind spot monitoring on the test car illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes move into the driver’s blind spots. It’s a wonderful feature which makes driving through dense traffic much easier. The rear view camera enhances visibility when the driver shifts into reverse, and helps him to monitor cross traffic in parking lots.
Inside, the CX-5 seats up to five passengers. Rear seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. The Mazda CX-5 meets our bicycle-friendly criteria.
I find it odd that designers made keyless start standard but not keyless entry. It seems kind of silly to have to use the key to open the car up but not to fire the ignition.
I found both the driver’s seat and front passenger seats quite comfortable. Power adjustments for the driver should enable individuals of all sizes to have a clear forward view, ample leg and headroom. Second-row outboard positions have plenty of leg and headroom. A floor tunnel and the center console bin take up some legroom in the middle, but small adults should be fine for trips around town.
Standard dual-zone climate controls on the test car accommodate the driver and front passenger. On the first day of the road trip, the air conditioner had a hard time keeping up. Since the ambient temperature on the highway was close to 110, I assume that this won’t be a problem for most buyers. However, those living in areas with extremely hot summers should consider a lighter exterior and interior color. The black leather on the test car interior worked against us.
I found both the gauge cluster and center stack displays easy to read in bright sunlight. A digital display in the gauge cluster gives the driver speedometer and trip meter readings, instant and average fuel economy as well as driving range.
Designers did a good job of adding storage compartments, bottle and cup holders around the passenger compartment. A standard USB port allows the driver to plug in a music stick. Bluetooth interface is also standard on the test car.
The spacious cargo area can accommodate a weekend’s worth of luggage and some moderate sized camping equipment with the rear seats in place. The CX-5 tows up to 2000 pounds: not enough to meet the ALV towing criteria, but adequate for some smaller trailers.
The Mazda CX- comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Mazda’s three-year/36,000 mile warranty includes complimentary roadside assistance.
Mazda builds the CX-5 at its Hiroshima, Japan assembly plant.
Likes: An affordably priced crossover with exceptional fuel economy, and a high level of standard comfort and safety features.
Dislike: Upscale Grand Touring model has keyless start but not keyless entry.
Model: CX-5 FWD Grand Touring
Base price: $27,045
As tested: $27,840
Horsepower: 155 Hp @6000 rpm
Torque: 150 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 26/32 mpg city/highway2013, Best Value 2013, auto review, CX-5 Grand Touring, Mazda, performance, pricing, standard safety
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