Posts Tagged ‘Mazda’

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Rolling Through a Superstorm In a Mazda CX-5

December 4, 2012

13 Mazda CX-5 - front profile

 

By Roger Witherspoon

 

            The full moon over the Hudson River was just a faint, fuzzy ball behind the swirling band of clouds marking the passage of Super Hurricane Sandy.

It was a strange sort of hurricane, in that there was virtually no rain. But the gravitational pull of that obscure moon and the winds that roared down from the Hudson Highlands at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour were pushing the river’s salt-water tides to record heights. That made it a perfect time to cruise along the river and watch the effects of a superstorm in action.

It was less than two miles from my home to the river’s edge. But it took time to navigate the normally short, direct route over or around the downed trees, the occasional, bouncing, live wire, broken branches and other blowing debris that littered the streets and highways of Westchester County, New York City’s northern suburb. Periodically, I opened the window of the Mazda CX-5 to listen to the raging wind or the cracking sound of trees coming down, turning down streets that seemed particularly noisy.

At the entrance to a short causeway over a Hudson River inlet, a utility worker emerged from a Ford F-150 truck dripping muddy river water off its hood and put flares across the road, blocking it off.  The Bear Mountain Extension provided the shortest route to Camp Smith, an Army base, and the winding road up to the Bear Mountain Bridge, about 10 miles south of West Point.  The lowest point of the road, he said, was under about four feet of water in a 20-yard stretch, and the river was still rising.

That did not deter the drivers of two, huge, military trucks headed for CampSmith.  The trucks were armored on the sides and bottoms better deflect the blast from roadside mines.  Slowly, the convoy drove in to the fast moving water – and got stuck at the deepest part.

The utility worker called for police support and raced down the roadway. In minutes, dozens of police cars drove onto the causeway, the officers piling out in an effort to help the trapped soldiers.

I left the Mazda at the side of the four-lane roadway and played traffic cop until a real officer came and took over. Then I slid back behind the leather steering wheel, hit the Bluetooth button to connect the audio from my Smartphone to the 225-watt, nine-speaker, Bose sound system, and continued rolling through Superstorm Sandy as the Temptations belted their ‘60s classic “Runaway Child.”

13 Mazda CX-5 - side

The Mazda CX-5 is a mid-sized, five-passenger SUV that is not particularly intended for off-road driving and certainly wasn’t designed for moonlight swims in swollen rivers. But its 19-inch aluminum wheels, and all-wheel drive makes it a pretty secure mode of transport even in abnormal conditions. It is not a Jeep or FJ Cruiser, and downed tree trunks would have brought the CX-5 to a lurching halt. But rolling over small branches and through hubcap-deep puddles and fast-moving streams was not a problem for a well-balanced SUV with traction and stability controls.

While all Mazda’s are marketed under the “zoom-zoom” logo, that speedy phrase really applies only to their sports cars. The CX-5 has a small, 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant cranking out just 155 horsepower – which is pretty anemic when you are taking off. The CX-5 is rated with a towing power of 2,000 pounds, though that may well be a strain for the little engine that could. As it is, the CX-5 has little power for passing, unless you shift into the electronic manual mode and downshift for extra torque. It is an easy maneuver, and in manual mode, the Mazda is extremely responsive and the pickup is instantaneous.

It has the sleek silhouette common among crossovers. And along its sides are soft, subtle lines which help deflect airflow as the car moves faster.  This both reduces drag and lessens the wind noise.

In their design studios, the Zoom-Zoom guys gave some thought to the quality of the interior of the CX-5.  It is a quiet car, regardless of whether the wind is moving at 100 miles an hour or the speedometer is approaching that mark. There is little exterior noise to intrude on the music or conversation.13 Mazda CX-5 - dash

All the surfaces have thickly padded real or simulated leather, accented with chrome and brushed aluminum. It is a five-seater, with the second row designed to actually hold three, average-sized adults.  Each of these seats can fold flat to add to the already ample cargo area. The front seats can be heated, though only the driver’s seat is power adjustable.

If there is a drawback, it’s that the navigation system is mediocre. Mazda uses the Tom-Tom system, which was designed originally for hand held devices and, in that mode, competed with the more popular Garmin.   Tom-Tom is more difficult to use than either Garmin or the standard navigation systems designed for cars. Its personal settings are hard to find, and it is not intuitive to operate. The 5.8-inch screen, on the other hand, is small and individual street names are harder to see. However, the screen is crystal clear, and the backup camera is lighted so you can actually use it at night.

The crossover SUV market is a crowded one and Mazda will have a tough fight to carve its own niche from the likes of a Nissan Murano or Ford Escape. But the Mazda CX-5 offers a lot for $30,000 and is sure to be competitive. It’s a comfortable way to roll, whether running on the open, sunny road, or running away from a runaway river.

13 Mazda CX-5 - rear

 

 

2013 Mazda CX-5

 

MSRP:                                                                        $30,415

EPA Mileage:                        25 MPG City                          31 MPG Highway

As Tested Mileage:                                                   20.9 MPG Mixed

Towing Capacity:                                                      2,000 Pounds

 

Performance / Safety:

 

2.0-Liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC, aluminum  engine producing 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque; all-wheel drive; 6-speed automatic transmission; independent MacPherson strut front suspension; independent, multi-link rear suspension; front & rear stabilizing bars; 4-wheel dies brakes; 19-inch alloy wheels; power assisted steering; anti-lock brakes; blind spot monitoring; Halogen headlights; fog lamps; stability and traction controls; hill launch assist; dual front airbags;  front and rear, side impact airbags.

 

Interior / Comfort;

 

AM/FM/Sirius Satellite and HD radio; 9-speaker, 225-watt, Bose surround sound system; iPod, MP3, and USB ports; Bluetooth; navigation system with 5.8-inch touch-screen; backup camera;  tilt & telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel with fingertip audio and cruise controls; powered sunroof; fold-flat rear seats in 40/ 20/40 split; leather seats; heated front seats; powered driver’s seat – manually operated passenger seat.

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Mazda 6: The Zoom-Zoom Car

May 22, 2011


By Roger Witherspoon

 

            The literature of automotive promotions has certain distinct characteristics.  It comes in a glossy brochure, has a host of high quality photos, and wears out the standard thesaurus with multi-syllabic adjectives describing the quality of the vehicle’s interior and the exhilaration that comes from driving a well made car.

Only the folks from Mazda have the notion that adults have enough on their minds without being reminded that, well, they’re adults. And when they describe their cars in their glossy brochure, state up front that “children put it much better and simply call it Zoom-Zoom. It’s why we build the kind of cars we do.”

The kinds of cars I built as a kid were powered by rubber bands. There was one experiment with jet engines loaded with gunpowder and sugar. In the end, it literally flamed out. But for about 10 glorious seconds, it zoomed across the empty armory parking lot, at times seemingly airborne and, for my money, was the most wonderful thing on wheels.

The Mazda 6 has a 272-horsepower V-6 using regular gasoline instead of a rocket engine using solid fuel. Standing outside, the sound emanating from the twin exhausts is a low rumble, not a flaming roar. And from inside, there is no sound at all except for the melodic 88s of Keiko Matsui emanating through the Bose sound system, even when the world is flying by at 100 miles per hour. And at times, it was easy to imagine that my jet car was back, bigger and better than ever, taking me on a long overdue ride with wheels barely touching the pavement.

In reality, of course, Mazda’s don’t fly and if the wheels aren’t on the ground you are probably in trouble and need to slow down. But the 6 has a finely tuned independent front and rear suspension which seemingly puts a layer of cotton between you and road and gives the feeling of gliding instead of rolling along. It is, however, definitely a power glide – the 6 is intended to be a sports sedan and, for the most part, Mazda succeeds.

            That power plant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with an electronic manual mode that responds about as quickly and effortlessly as an actual stick shift. The stability and traction controls help ensure a road-hugging trip regardless of travel and weather conditions.

            On the outside, the designers took pains to give the 6 a sportier look than the average mid-sized sedan.  So they borrowed cues from their RX-8 sports car, with the outsized hump over the 17-inch, aluminum alloy, front wheels to accompany a long, sloping hood. The curved grill is more of a grin than a sports car’s grimace but this is, after all, a family car.

   A lot of thought was given to the design of the interior to make the various controls extremely easy to see and use – day or night – in addition to being convenient and attractive. The controls for the entertainment and climate systems on the center console in the middle of dash were not only easy to see, but large enough so you could not miss them in the dark. The entertainment system, for example, with its backlit red light, featured FM/AM and Sirius satellite radio, as well as a 6-disc CD player, and auxiliary control for the iPod, USB and MP3 connections. If you touched one of the buttons, it was surrounded by a soft blue light. The 6’s entertainment and Bluetooth systems can also be controlled or voice activated from the leather, retractable, steering wheel.

The test car, which had a price tag of about $28,500, did not have a navigation system or backup camera. Adding those refinements – which tend to be expected in sedans these days – would push the cost up to the $30,000 range, where it begins to have more direct competition with the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. The seats in this model were manually operated and cloth. But they were wide, comfortable, and easily adjustable. Having leather, power operated, heated seats would push the sticker price up further.

The interior also features a powered sun roof, which gives both light and a feeling of spaciousness to the car. The rear seats can fold flat in a 60/40 split, thus increasing an already large trunk. In addition, there is enough leg and headroom in the back for pair of passengers who are well north of six feet tall to travel in comfort.

Mazda is still an also-ran in the mid-sized sedan market providing the all-purpose family car. But with the 6, Mazda does have a respectable contender.

 

2011 Mazda 6

MSRP:                                                                                              $28,405

EPA Mileage:                        18 MPG City                          27 MPG Highway

 

Performance / Safety:

 

3.7-Liter, DOHC V-6 engine producing 272 horsepower and  269 pound/feet of torque; 6-speed automatic transmission with electronic manual mode; 17-inch alloy wheels; blind spot monitoring system; 4-wheel disc brakes; traction and stability control;  dual chrome exhaust;  independent front & rear suspension;  fog lights;  dual front airbags; side and side curtain airbags.

Interior / Comfort:

 

AM/FM/ Sirius satellite radio; 6-disc CD and MP3 player; iPod and USB ports; 6-speaker sound system; auxiliary audio input jack; power sunroof; tilt and telescope, leather steering wheel with fingertip audio, and cruise controls; Bluetooth.

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