Posts Tagged ‘featured’

A car writer’s year in new sheetmetal [w/video]

Published by Mazda Blogs on December 18th, 2014

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I figured it would be interesting to parse the figures and quantify my year in cars in a way I’d never done before.

Christmas is only a week away. The New Year is just around the corner. As 2014 draws to a close, I’m not the only one taking stock of the year that’s we’re almost shut of.

Depending on who you are or what you do, the end of the year can bring to mind tax bills, school semesters or scheduling dental appointments. For me, for the last eight or nine years, at least a small part of this transitory time is occupied with recalling the cars I’ve driven over the preceding 12 months.

Since I started writing about and reviewing cars in 2006, I’ve done an uneven job of tracking every vehicle I’ve been in, each year. Last year I made a resolution to be better about it, and the result is a spreadsheet with model names, dates, notes and some basic facts and figures.

Armed with this basic data and a yen for year-end stories, I figured it would be interesting to parse the figures and quantify my year in cars in a way I’d never done before. The results are, well, they’re a little bizarre, honestly. And I think they’ll affect how I approach this gig in 2015.

Continue reading A car writer’s year in new sheetmetal [w/video]

A car writer’s year in new sheetmetal [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata firsthand impressions and notebook scribblings

Published by Mazda Blogs on September 4th, 2014

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2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata - front three-quarter live reveal image

In a temporarily repurposed airport hanger in Monterey, CA, the world caught its first glimpse of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata tonight, and I was fortunate enough to attend in person along with my fellow auto media colleagues, Mazda execs, a couple hundred Miata devotees and, oddly, a fair number of Duran Duran fans. The klieg lights have dimmed, Simon Le Bon is no longer ringing in my ears, and I’m left to ponder what I’ve seen. I’ve scavenged my notes – and my Twitter feed – to give you some details and brief thoughts.

Fair Warning: I can’t claim to be completely impartial (I own a second-generation NB and consider the Miata franchise to be one of but a few sacrosanct franchises in modern motoring), but I will share my honest first impressions of the new car, both good and bad.

Here are my notes:

  • 2,200 pounds. That’s roughly what this car will weigh if we can take Mazda at its word that it has managed to cut over 100 kilos – 220 pounds – versus today’s NC Miata. Given that this car will almost certainly be safer, stiffer, better equipped and more refined, that’s incredibly impressive engineering. In fact, that’s lighter than an NB generation car.
  • First Impression: The new car looks incredibly compact yet sinuous, with tightly snubbed overhangs what designer Derek Jenkins called an “impossibly low” hoodline – impressive in this day and age of pedestrian crash regulations. Largely free of adornments, I think this is a shape that will age well.
  • While still looking like a proper MX-5, this ND trades some of its predecessors’ occasionally cartoonish and friendly rounded lines in favor of something more aggressive.
  • Piercing stare from those small, lightweight LED headlamps contrasts with its large lower air intake.
  • Profile is clean with almost zero character lines but nice barrel to the doors and fenders, with prominent J-kick to doorline retained and better rear-drive proportions thanks to a more harmonious door line/rear wheel relationship. Fender-resident side lenses are a nice design detail that add visual thrust.

Continue reading 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata firsthand impressions and notebook scribblings

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata firsthand impressions and notebook scribblings originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 04 Sep 2014 02:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs

Published by Mazda Blogs on July 31st, 2014

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We all have controversial opinions. Be it whether you think the Nissan Juke is actually pretty attractive, manual transmissions aren’t always better, or you honestly didn’t hate the Pontiac Aztek, we all harbor some persuasion, be it big or small, for which we catch copious flak upon expression.

In recognizing that all of us here at Autoblog harbor at least one viewpoint that stubbornly goes against the grain of popular opinion among auto enthusiasts, we’ve decided to come clean with them right here, proudly speaking our minds in a mature, structured manner – a striking contrast to how these things tend to come up while debated in the office.

We’d also like to invite you to share your unpopular and controversial opinions with us and the Autoblog faithful down in Comments. Don’t be ashamed – this is a safe place.

Continue reading Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs

Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

Published by Mazda Blogs on March 20th, 2013

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After spending some time roaming the Hill Country of central Texas with Mazda’s new Mazda6 and CX-5 with the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine, I got a round with the redesigned CX-9 back in Michigan. The three-row Mazda crossover comes to court in the 2013 model year with the same 3.7-liter V6 engine that we’ve sampled before (still making 273 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque), though the nose that wraps it has been updated with the same “Kodo” design language that marks out the CX-5 and friends.

I had quite recently spent time in our long-term Nissan Pathfinder, so I felt better equipped than usual to suss out the potential high and low points of Mazda’s family-facing CUV.

Driving Notes

  • A combination of a responsive throttle pedal and a surprisingly lively exhaust note made the CX-9 feel immediately sportier than the CVT’d Pathfinder I had just stepped out of. The Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission was surprisingly willing to drop gears and pile on the revs when I put my foot to the floor for a pass on the highway, and I actually never really felt prodded to use the manual mode as a result. Don’t get me wrong, the CX-9 isn’t “fast” in an objective sense, but it definitely feels adequately powerful for a largish 4,500-pound crossover. (Those seeking real speed with three rows would still prefer the Ford Explorer Sport or Dodge Durango in V8 trim, I’d wager.)
  • True to form for Mazda, the CX-9 feels a shade sprightlier in terms of handling than does the bulk of its competitive set. Sitting in the drivers seat for the first time, I was actually a little shocked at how small in diameter the steering wheel is. Better yet, the front end of the large vehicle moves promptly when guided by this sporty wheel, turning in with a quickness that belies the long wheelbase, and offering a shade more road feedback than is typical of this class. I’m not sure how many buyers really care about a kind of “athletic” steering feel when selecting their next kid-wagon, but the Mazda would seem to be the top-of-class here.
  • Overall fit and finish of our CX-9 Grand Touring-spec interior felt nice – I particularly liked the kind of micro-suede door inserts – if a little bit simple. There’s still more hard-plastic surfacing in the CX-9 than I’d gotten used to in our long-term Nissan, and far fewer enticing pieces of technology. Mazda is offering a new-for-2013, 5.8-inch display with which to negotiate the navigation and media controls, but the interface simply serves to make the CX-9 feel slightly less out of date than it would with the older setup. And the Mazda didn’t have the near-luxury feeling that the plusher, gizmo-laden Pathfinder does.
  • There was more interruption from wind and tire noise in the CX-9 than in other similarly sized crossovers and SUVs I’ve been in lately, too. Just a shade louder, mind you, but there was enough wind noise at 70 miles per hour on the highway that I was forced to notice that I didn’t like Mazda’s stereo as much as I had the Pathfinder’s. (Maybe because the Pathfinder’s quieter cabin provided a better sound stage?)
  • While the third-row seating of the CX-9 is clearly not made for six-foot, five-inch guys like me, I did have a seat in the second row to see how it measured up. Beyond feeling a tiny bit lacking in headroom, I found the three-seat-wide second row a place that I wouldn’t have a problem camping out in over goodly distances. My legs and knees had space to move around, and the seat bottoms weren’t overly short or too stiff. In other words: Your tweenage kids should fit just fine.
  • My conclusion about the CX-9 in today’s market is a little mixed. I feel as though most shoppers in this segment are going to want more content, a cushier ride or more interior volume than Mazda is offering us. On the other hand, I don’t think that I’ve tested a three-row crossover that’s quite so fun to drive as this one. That strikes me as a core competency that’s not super valuable for the segment, though it might be more of a niche (driver-focused family haulers) than I understand.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2014 Mazda6 i Sport

Published by Mazda Blogs on February 1st, 2013

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2014 Mazda6

In an automotive landscape dominated by platform sharing, technology exchange and any number of other cross-fertilization/cost-saving/amortization exercises, it’s actually pretty rare that we get to drive a new car that is as “all-new” as this, the 2014 Mazda6. With brand-spanking new Skyactiv architecture throughout – engine, transmission, body and chassis all included – this 6 represents a new era of flexible production and cutting edge running gear for the happily lithe car company.

Our own Jonathon Ramsey did a cracking job of running the Mazda6 through its First Drive paces a few months ago, and sufficiently impressed upon us just how good looking a car this is for the midsize sedan segment. Suffice it to say, now, then, that this is easily the most interesting (and quite possibly the most beautiful) midsize sedan in the segment today. However, as Mr. Ramsey reviewed a fully contented example of the 6 – one equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission – we took advantage of Mazda’s North American launch event of the car to suss out the base Mazda6 i Sport, complete with its six-speed Skyactiv manual gearbox. This may not shock you, but the stripper’s pretty good, too.

Driving Notes

  • We’ll get right down to the meat of it: The manual transmission is far better than the average do-it-yourself gearbox in this segment. Throws of the gearlever are light, short, and easy to put home with confidence. The clutch pedal, similarly, is very low-effort, but with a broad catch point that’s simple to operate in every driving situation we encountered. This isn’t a hewn-from-billet shifting experience, naturally, but it is a manual transmission that can be used with satisfaction in spirited driving, or mindlessly on the shopping run. The transmission is just perfectly suited to the power delivery of the smooth 2.5-liter motor, too.
  • The Sport trim car we tested had zero options – quite a rarity in the media fleet. Still, we found the cabin to be pretty accommodating and comfortable. The most noticeable interior bits on this base-level are the all-cloth seats and the old school head unit where the touchscreen display usually lives. The seats were fine – soft to the touch and seemingly resilient, with just a bit of gloss and texture to make them feel upscale without the cowhide. The head unit, meanwhile, while perfectly functional (and sure to be embraced by the Luddite set in our comments section), was both drab and old-fashioned looking. Naturally, the instrument panel was designed to accommodate a touchscreen – this is the 21st Century, after all – so its lack of one hampers the design. For one thing, the lack of color and brightness afforded by the display makes the dash look sort of dark and dreary by comparison.
  • So, just how inexpensive is the base model Mazda6 i Sport? The literal answer is $21,675 after the $795 destination fee has been added on. That’s pretty good, we thought. The relative answer is, of course, slightly more complicated. In a tooth-and-nail segment like this one, you’d expect pricing among the heavyweight players to be very close, and it is. Still, the new 6 is almost the class-leader. Comparing optionless, base-model MSRPs, plus destination charges, we find this: Toyota Camry is $23,030, Nissan Altima is $22,550, Honda Accord is $22,470 and Ford Fusion is $22,245. Volkswagen’s most basic Passat is just $21,640 though – about a night at the movies with your wife (not the kids) cheaper than the Mazda.
  • Mazda is in zero danger of loosing its ballyhooed Zoom-Zoom appeal with this 6 – the handling experience is impressive. While we were perhaps a bit less bullish about the car’s nimbleness on our test drive through some very hilly, winding Texas Hill Country roads than when cruising through the French countryside (again, see our First Drive), we still found the thing to be pretty tossable. Reactions to steering inputs, especially, were impressively fast for a car this big and long. The steering experience itself was a bit weightless, with not enough of a transition from on-lock to off-lock feeling of heft, but still very accurate and easy to modulate in a quick corner. Suspension response was admirable, too, on fast switchbacks. For all of that, the cruising ride didn’t suffer, though road and tire noise on the freeway was higher than we’d like.
  • Mazda will doubtlessly sell a lot of examples of this new Mazda6 based on its stunning sheetmetal and high levels of content in the middle/upper trims. Good to know that the base car is still pretty sweet then; and still a pleasantly differentiated product in a segment filled with one-upmanship.

2014 Mazda6 i Sport originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 01 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2012 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD [w/video]

Published by Mazda Blogs on January 31st, 2012

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Aging Three-Row Still Light On Its Feet

All of the auto industry’s big-time players are making large three-row crossovers these days, so the segment has become extremely competitive. With stalwarts like the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer at the top of the sales charts, how does a smaller automaker like Mazda compete? Two oft-repeated words: Zoom-Zoom.

The Mazda CX-9 checks the same boxes as its competition: a beefy V6 engine, seating for up to seven, available all-wheel drive and a bevy of technology optio


Flyin’ Miata V8 Targa MX-5 Miata

Published by Mazda Blogs on October 25th, 2011

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Point. Shoot. Grin.

Flyin' Miata V8 Targa MX-5 Miata

Wedging myself into the cockpit of Keith Tanner’s 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata turned Targa Newfoundland podium finisher, I’m struck with the realization that most race cars are the automotive equivalent of a pet electric eel. They look fantastic lounging around, and you may even be struck with the impulse to get close, but the reality is that it’s only a matter of time before it reaches out and lights you up like a cheap string of Christmas lights. This notion is only underscored when Tanner hands me a set of noise-cancelling headphones with an integrated com system.

“Here. You’ll probably want these,” he says. “It can get kind of loud in here.”

With a 400-horsepower General Motors L33 wedged between the fenders of the poised Miata, it’s only a matter of time before the stripped interior resonates with the sound of eight furious cylinders. I ask if there’s anything I should know before I hit the ignition. Tanner says no. I’m beginning to suspect he’s lying to me.

Continue reading Flyin’ Miata V8 Targa MX-5 Miata

Flyin’ Miata V8 Targa MX-5 Miata originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 24 Oct 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv

Published by Mazda Blogs on October 21st, 2011

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Does Technology Make A Segment Leader?

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv

Want to give yourself a headache? Go out and shop for a new compact sedan with the stipulation that it must have seating for up to five passengers and a highway EPA fuel economy rating in the high-30-mpg range or better. You won’t have to look hard, because it seems nearly every automaker is jumping into an already crowded segment and delivering this type of vehicle. Without much effort, we can alphabetically list the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Spend a bit more time, and the list opens up even wider.

Sticker prices, fuel economy numbers and warranty terms are objective and indubitable. Driving dynamics, styling and passenger comfort, in sharp contrast, are subjective. To differentiate itself from the crowd, and win consumers over on both fronts, Mazda has worked hard to deliver a competitive compact that is objectively frugal and subjectively stylish while still being fun to drive.

Enter the new 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv.

Fitted with a new high-compression engine and offered with two new transmissions, the latest of the Mazda’s energy-efficient variants sounds impressive on paper – but so do most redesigned cars at first glance. We recently spent a day in Southern California putting the updated Mazda3 Skyactiv through its paces to determine if the Japanese automaker has really provided us with something revolutionary, or just another round of marketing hype.

Continue reading 2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv

2012 Mazda3 Skyactiv originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 20 Oct 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2013 Mazda CX-5 [w/video]

Published by admin on September 3rd, 2011

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Camouflage Can’t Disguise A Winning Heart

While the recent struggles of its larger countrymen have been well publicized, Mazda finds itself at something of a quiet turning point. It would be hard to blame the Japanese automaker for kicking back and enjoying the warm fuzzies it’s earned over the years with cars like the MX-5 Miata and Mazda3, but as a small company going it alone in a pond full of bigger, better-funded fish, it still has much to prove.

Among the competencies Mazda must demonstrate, it must show it can build the powertrain technology necessary to reach fuel economy goals mandated by the U.S. government, rival automakers and the buying public. The only hybrid models it ever sold here were built under contract, and to this point, no other alternative fuel vehicles have found their way into its North American showrooms. What’s more, Mazda’s last attempt at a styling language, the flowing folds of Nagare, came in for critical praise on the showcar circuit thanks to stunners like the Furai and Ryuga, but the philosophy never really gelled in production form (its awkward, Jokerian pulled-smile and ribbed sheetmetal choices triggered more confused looks than praise). Compounding matters, the company recently announced it was pulling the plug on its iconoclastic RX-8, whose rotary engine and lightweight construction were brand cornerstones.

So… has Mazda lost the plot? As it turns out, not a bit. In fact, after spending a few days grilling company executives and driving prototypes of its forthcoming 2013 CX-5, we think the company seems as clear about its identity and mission as it’s ever been, and the proof is in the CX-5’s pudding. The new small crossover singlehandedly attempts to answer most of our nagging questions by packing Mazda’s new SkyActiv blueprint for eco-friendly enthusiast driving (“sustainable Zoom-Zoom”) and the seeds of Mazda’s new Kodo design language, so we couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.

Shucking off Hurricane Irene’s wrath, we flew to Iceland to get our first taste of the CX-5.

Continue reading 2013 Mazda CX-5 [w/video]

2013 Mazda CX-5 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 02 Sep 2011 11:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2011 Mazda CX-7 [w/video]

Published by admin on August 24th, 2011

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Is Zoom-Zoom More Important Than Room-Room?

2011 Mazda CX-7

2011 Mazda CX-7 – Click above for high-res image gallery

When we think of mid-size crossovers, words like “comfort,” “convenience” and “roominess” are the first things to spring to mind. For some CUVs, those are accurate descriptions, but the Mazda CX-7 also has to fulfill a Zoom-Zoom promise. For the past 11 years, Mazda’s mantra has meant that driving excitement must be injected into every vehicle it builds, whether it’s a roadster like the MX-5 Miata or a minivan like the Mazda5.

Athletic handling is a no-brainer for sports cars like the RX-8, but crossover owners typically expect creature comforts, utility and a smooth ride. We’ve been won over by the CX-7’s sporty genes before, but the crossover field is far thicker and more talented than it was back in 2007 when the CX-7 first hit the scene. Does this Mazda softroader still strike the right balance? We spent a week getting reacquainted with 2011 CX-7 Grand Touring to find out.

Continue reading 2011 Mazda CX-7 [w/video]

2011 Mazda CX-7 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 07 Jul 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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