Tuesday, June 11, 2013
First Drive: 2013 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport and Mazda6
They say it’s all about the journey rather than the destination; especially when you’re heading to a more familiar place like Baguio. A trip to the Philippines’s Summer Capital is dime-a-dozen these days and often times, it can be taken on a whim with family and friends. Thus, the only differentiating factor is the drive, and by golly, you need a damn good car to stand out. And on this occasion, prayers to the automotive gods were answered in the form of the new Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport and the Mazda6 sports sedan.
The Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport is the newest member of the SKYACTIV family, filling the top-end of the CX-5 line which has been limited to a purely 2WD line-up for some time. It’s the first Mazda to have employed the brand’s new “KODO – Soul of Motion” design language and despite it becoming a regular sight on the roads, remains fresh. The aggressive trapezoidal grille, the subtle wings that extend to the headlamps, the prominent shoulder line at the side, and the short overhangs make it bold and beautiful without being too cartoony. At first glance, it’s actually hard to distinguish the difference between the AWD Sport versus its lesser equipped brethren. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the 225/55R19 alloy and wheel combo filling the wheel arches. In addition to the spiffy wheels, the AWD Sport model adds day-time running lights, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic on/off HID headlights.
Inside is where most of the new equipment comes in. Undoubtedly, the CX-5 is highly regarded for its fun-to-drive attitude, but it does lack in interior toys to keep the occupants happy. That’s all changed with the CX-5 AWD Sport where new distributor, Berjaya Auto Philippines, kitted its compact crossover to the brim. The range-topping CX-5 now has leather seating as standard equipment followed by a power-adjustable driver’s seat, moon roof, and a 9-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system with full Apple iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free with voice command.
As luxurious as the CX-5 AWD Sport is, it really sets itself apart with its slew of safety equipment, some of which haven’t been seen in this particular segment. Aside from the usual 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic brakeforce distribution, the CX-5 AWD Sport also has Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), a Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, and a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). And get this, the CX-5 AWD Sport even has a Lane Departure Warning system which uses a camera mounted near the rear view mirror to analyze and warn the driver if he or she is drifting out of lane.
Priced at a surprisingly affordable P 1,685,000 (given its extensive equipment list), Mazda is confident that the CX-5 AWD Sport can go head-to-head with the likes of the Subaru Forester XT and the Toyota RAV4 4WD. In that regard, they’ve actually beefed up the mechanicals to give an added oomph. Shared with the Mazda6 sports sedan (minus the i-ELOOP brake energy generation), the CX-5 AWD Sport now carries the 2.5-liter version of the SKACTIV engine. This bumps up the power to 184 horses and more importantly, the torque to 250 Nm. This engine is mated solely to a 6-speed automatic and an Active Torque Split AWD system sends the power to all four corners when needed. Despite the increase in engine displacement and the addition of the AWD system, the overall weight penalty is quite modest: at a little over 120 kilograms!
On the drive up Baguio from Mazda Greenhills, the extra half-liter of displacement is immediately satisfying. Mazda quotes a 0-100 km/h figure of around 8 seconds, but in the real world, it feels absolutely quicker. Whether it’s a stoplight getaway or passing slower folks at highway speeds, the CX-5 AWD Sport feels like a well-rounded companion. As an addition, the 2.5-liter sounds somewhat better with a mildly enthusiastic growl past 5,000 rpm. And the fuel efficiency isn’t so heavily penalized: 11.76 km/L on the provincial roads to Baguio via Marcos Highway. For city driving, the CX-5 AWD Sport even comes with an idle start/stop feature called i-Stop.
The relatively low-profile tires do mean that the CX-5 AWD Sport rides firmer than its 2WD counterpart, but not to the detriment of passenger comfort. On the twisty roads, the handling is stable and predictable with excellent dynamism on- or off-road (there was a chance to drive the CX-5 through an off-road obstacle course). The Active Torque Split AWD is 99 percent idiot-proof, but there are instances where you’ll feel some slippage on the front wheels before power is sent back to the rears. There are still no paddle shifters on the CX-5 AWD Sport, but thankfully there’s a manual override on the gated shifter which makes for a blast overtaking cars uphill.
Though the highlight of the SKYACTIV in Motion drive is the launch of the new CX-5 AWD Sport, everyone got the chance to get acquainted with the Mazda6 sports sedan. This is the second Mazda model developed on the SKYACTIV platform and also features the KODO design philosophy. The family resemblance is given, but the Mazda6 does feature minute differences such as the chrome grille highlight actually overlapping onto the headlights. Mazda engineers have even developed a deep red color for the Mazda6: Soul Red Premium Metallic to specifically compliment the KODO design. Inside, the Mazda6 features the “Jinba-Ittai” (Rider and Horse as One) driving experience which appeals to extreme simplicity and high levels of ergonomics. Everything inside the Mazda6 is designed to be intuitive and logical.
The Mazda6 uses the same 2.5-liter SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine but with a new innovative brake energy regeneration system called i-ELOOP. This is the first capacitor-based system; able to fully charge in about 10 seconds of deceleration and can power the car’s electrical systems for one minute. This results in a 10 percent improvement in real-world fuel economy or in this drive’s experience, around 15.38 km/L on the highway. Like the CX-5 AWD Sport, the Mazda6 was subjected to a gymkhana-style precision driving course, where it exceled even when pushed to the limit. Though it still reveals its general weakness as a front-wheel drive car (heavy under steer, nose-heavy through tight turns), it’s a precise and responsive drive.
Mazda always touts the spirit of “zoom-zoom” -- that innate feeling of freedom through spirited driving. It’s quite clear that with products such as the new Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport and the Mazda6, there’s no danger in losing this very appeal. Clearly, Mazda is hell-bent in keeping its sporty demeanor fully intact and terms such as SKYACTIV, KODO, and Jinba-Ittai simply hammer these points home. For car enthusiasts, the automotive gods will keep on smiling, as long as you drive a Mazda.