2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Review - Crossing Over In Style

Fast Facts

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

2.5-liter inline-four, DOHC (187 hp @ 6000 rpm, 185 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
23 city / 29 highway / 26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
24.2 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $31,635 (USD)
As Tested: $34,380 (USD)
Prices include $940 freight charge.
2017 mazda cx 5 grand touring awd review crossing over in style

The look back. That longing glance at your beloved ride as you walk away is a rite of passage for car enthusiasts. One more gaze at the car’s beautiful lines before you walk into the office can help that first cup of coffee kickstart another day of work.

Until I drove the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring, I’ve never looked back at any crossover. Never had the need or desire, since most CUVs have all of the style and personality bred out of them in an effort to attract the widest variety of shoppers. Not the Mazda. The design of this compact crossover is nothing short of stunning.

Assuming the eco-police haven’t incinerated all internal combustion vehicles in favor of gleaming alloy air cars, I can legitimately see a pristine CX-5 rolling on the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours in a generation or two. No, I’m not kidding. The $595 Soul Red paint is worth the extra cash, too — I don’t typically choose red cars, but this color is majestic.

The big shield-shaped corporate grille is prominent, with a smiling chrome moustache that links the narrow headlamps. I’d prefer the hood shutline extended to the end of the sheetmetal — the horizontal line created is a bit distracting. But the contours created by the line that extends from the top of the headlamp, gently rising over the front fender, only to drop gradually along the doors makes the CX-5 look more sporty than a crossover should.

The interior is well thought out, though I object to Mazda’s continued use of the “iPad glued to the dashboard” infotainment screen. While controlling the audio or navigation is simple enough with the large polished knob located behind the shift lever, creating or changing radio presets is an incredibly tedious process that takes too many inputs for each selection.

For whatever reason, when press vehicles are delivered, they tend to have the same satellite radio stations preset no matter the manufacturer. Every car I get has the same dozen or so SiriusXM stations, only a few of which I’d typically listen to on my own. I’m just not into classical music. I typically reset those presets to my favorites. Anyhow, the Mazda’s clickwheel requires at least five or six turns, clicks, toggles, and pushes to change a preset. Paraphrasing the meme, I don’t have the time for that.

Beyond the perplexing audio controls, the CX-5’s interior is a lovely place to spend some time. The plastics on the dashboard feel of a high quality, and the ivory leather trim on the doors and console is soft and supple. I love the plush cushion where my knee impacts the left side of the console, especially. The leather seats on this Grand Touring trim are beautifully supportive, especially in the thigh — where I often feel lesser cushions come up short.

My usual backseat passengers had plenty of room, even when my bride squeezed in the middle between the kids when we had to haul an older passenger up front. Shoulder room was plentiful even with three abreast, and there were no complaints about leg room.

On Monday, I looked at another crossover that coincidentally shares a bunch of similarities with the CX-5. Indeed, the Jeep Compass I drove weighs right around 3,600 pounds, much like this Mazda, and produces around 180 horsepower from a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. Dimensionally, the two trucklets are close, and the as-tested price hovers around $35k for each. But the driving experience is surprisingly different. While the Jeep is soft and compliant on the road, the Mazda CX-5 feels a bit more like a sports sedan, with taut handling and a slightly-harsher ride.

[Get new and used Mazda CX-5 pricing here!]

While the power-to-weight ratio is quite similar, the Mazda feels more spritely both during launch and when merging onto a fast-moving freeway. Perhaps the gear ratios in the six-speed CX-5 are more suited to acceleration compared to those in the nine-speed Compass, but the differences in driving demeanor are striking.

Since it seems the traditional family sedan is going away, it’s time I embrace the crossover. While I still prefer the minivan form for hauling a lot of everything, if you aren’t a packrat like me a compact-to-midsize crossover will likely work well for the statistically average four-person family. With the Mazda CX-5, driving one of these tall wagons doesn’t have to mean selling your soul — indeed, enthusiasts might actually enjoy hustling this crossover around the back roads.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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  • Orange260z Orange260z on Apr 14, 2018

    We recently bought a leftover brand-new 2017 CX-5 GS AWD trim (I think in the US this is called "Touring") for my wife, who decided she had enough with the RWD Chrysler 300S in the winter. Too bad, we really liked that car otherwise, but it was not a great winter car even with winter tires. I'm not a big fan of red cars but really wish we could have found one in the gorgeous Soul Red Crystal Metallic - we ended up with the Snowflake White Pearl Mica due to digging through 2017 leftovers. The GS has leatherette/faux-suede seats, a non-Bose but 6-speaker stereo, no moonroof, manual climate controls, 17" wheels (instead of 18" on the GT) and a little less safety tech. There is definitely room for improvement. I would have to have the option of full adjustments on both front seats, and the ability to drop them lower to the floor. The "pop-tart" display is not attractive, but it is in the line of sight which is good... but as the reviewer pointed out, selecting stations and favorites is maddeningly inconvenient. I'm generally pretty forgiving of infotainment systems - I have no issues with Cadillac Cue or Porsche PCM (circa 2009) - even the PCM is easier to program, and it's generally considered pretty hellish. We compared the CUV to the others in the class - RAV-4, CR-V, Hyundai Tuscon, and the GM Terrain/Chev Equinox. In the end, the combination of the look, build quality, and the drive made us focus on the CX. The interior quality was leaps ahead of the others, even without the leather trim. It may not drive as taut as the previous generation, but it's still miles sportier than the CUV competition. We haven't put a lot of miles on it yet (about 1000kms) but we're pretty happy with it so far.

  • SuperCarEnthusiast SuperCarEnthusiast on Apr 18, 2018

    From the side and rear views, I do not see how the CX-5 is so acclaimed as the most beautiful crossover! I guess i'd you like curves everywhere it is good but I rather like a more square shape crossover!

  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.