Posts Tagged ‘quickspin’

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

Published by Mazda Blogs on March 20th, 2013

Filed under: , , ,

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.

Permalink


Mazda MX-5 Miata Super20

Published by Mazda Blogs on December 3rd, 2012

Filed under: , , , , , ,

Mazda MX-5 Miata Super20

The car you see above is the Mazda MX-5 Miata Super20, and as far as we know, it’s the only one out on the road. Oh sure, people have been hotting-up Miatas since the little roadster’s birth some two decades ago, but this Super20 is a hand-crafted Mazda original, first seen at the 2010 SEMA Show and the brought back out for the 2011 expo wearing the color scheme seen here.

It’s very rare that we get to drive conceptual show cars outside of staged ride-and-drive events. Needless to say, when Mazda called and offered us a few days with its sweet little Super20 here in the Motor City, we immediately cleared our schedules.

Over the course of our week with the Super20, both Executive Editor Chris Paukert and I – Paukert being a second-generation (NB) Miata owner, for what it’s worth – were able to flog the little yellow racer. Would this prove to be our favorite Miata yet?

Driving Notes

  • First, let’s get one thing out of the way: It’s unclear exactly how much power is being produced by the supercharged 2.0-liter MZR engine. Mazda’s original press materials suggest somewhere around 250 horsepower for the Cosworth-supercharged mill – a full 83 hp more than the standard, naturally aspirated car. No torque specs were given, but it’s easy to feel the extra thrust of power in the lower end of the powerband.
  • “Despite having a lot more power, the engine is still working way too hard at highway speeds (a sensation amplified by the overly boomy aftermarket exhaust and lack of sound deadening). Time for a taller sixth gear,” Paukert notes.
  • Chris continues, “The ACT street clutch isn’t as friendly in terms of modulation as the stock unit, but it’s easy enough to get used to, and probably necessary considering the extra power the Cosworth supercharged MZR is kicking out.”
  • As for handling, having this extra grunt in the Super20 only proves how great the NC Miata’s chassis is. The Super20 had no issues putting power to the ground with poise, still being immensely forgiving all the while. “It’s enough to make one wish for an intermediate stability control setting with a broader degree of play,” Paukert notes.
  • This thing is a total attention-grabber, and not just because of the unique yellow-and-black color scheme. It’s lower, wider, and looks downright mean because of it. Wherever we took it, the Super20 garnered all sorts of attention from people of all ages (and both sexes).
  • We love the finger-pull door latches – paying a tribute to the ones used on the original NA Miata. A nice homage.
  • Interior is your standard Miata fare, albeit with some suede inserts in the seats. That said, we’d love some more supportive chairs here, as the stock seats don’t provide nearly enough lateral support, something we really noticed while flinging the supercharged Miata around.
  • Weight has been saved throughout the car’s interior, including the removal of the storage and roll bar compartment behind the front seats. A half-cage has been added, as well as a fixed hardtop. Notice how the fuel door release just sort of hangs outside of the center console.
  • We won’t fault the serious NVH issues of this car too much – it was designed to be a concept first and foremost, after all – but man, this thing is loud, and everything inside the car rattles. The fixed roof is no better for sound deadening than the normal soft top.
  • All in, the Super20 makes us wish for a proper stripped-out track day special edition. An all-new Miata is still probably at least two years away, so a more hardcore version would certainly be enough to keep enthusiasts entertained until then.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Super20 originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 03 Dec 2012 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink


2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Published by Mazda Blogs on November 20th, 2012

Filed under: , ,

In what could have been my final time reviewing a current-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, I’ll have to say it was like saying a bittersweet farewell to an old friend. You see, the third-generation Miata (NC) is my favorite iteration of the fun little roadster, and with the next Miata being co-developed with Alfa Romeo, I fear the car might lose some of the “jinba ittai” that has made it incredible track car for the last 23 years. If this was to be my last extended drive in the MX-5 Miata, I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off with it being a black-on-red tester with a soft top, manual transmission and the all-new Club trim level.

Perhaps as a tip of its proverbial hat to the car’s cult following among club racers, the 2013 model year for the MX-5 Miata sees the new Club model replace the Touring trim level in the middle of the car’s lineup. This new model should also be a welcomed sight for buyers who were late in snagging one of the 450 Miata Special Edition units that were sent to the US this year, and with a starting price of $26,705, it is substantially less than the Special Edition car. Like the Special Edition, though, the Club comes with black wheels and black door mirrors, and other key elements helped give the car an eye-catching look that got the car noticed almost everywhere I took it.

Driving Notes

  • The first thing I notice every time I drive a Miata is how balanced the car feels. A low curb weight (less than 2,500 pounds) and an almost perfectly even weight distribution make the car fun to drive in just about any conditions.
  • More fun, of course, is driving with the top down, and the Miata’s manual soft top has to be one of the simplest tops to operate in the history of convertibles. One central latch holds it in place, and it is light and hassle-free to raise and lower. You can even just reach back while at a stop light and raise the roof in about five seconds with one hand.
  • The six-speed manual transmission not only makes the Miata more engaging to drive, it also gives the car more power. Cars equipped with the automatic transmission are rated at 158 horsepower and those with the manual get 167 ponies under the hood, and while I’ve yet to drive an automatic Miata, at no point does the manual’s power feel insufficient. Even better, it is still decent on gas with fuel economy numbers 21 miles per gallon city and 28 highway; I had no problems hitting either number even with a healthy dose of spirited driving.
  • Aside from maybe a Tesla Roadster, there are few cars on the road that feel as small as the Miata. To some, this might be a good thing, but when the average SUV bumper is at face level and getting into and out of the car feels like it should be a part of the Insanity Workout, the Miata might not be an ideal primary vehicle.
  • The 2013 Miata Club represents a slight price increase ($875) over the 2012 Miata Touring, but what you get is a truly unique look without having to make any modifications yourself. The Gunmetal Black 17-inch wheels do a lot for the car, but the Club also gets black side stripes, black headlights, a front lip spoiler, rear diffuser, “Club” fender badges and chrome trunk brackets; inside, the instrument panel gets a new body-color-matching insert and red stitching to accent the black seats.
  • In today’s tech-savvy world, the Miata’s option list is devoid of many options available on most entry-level cars, but for a car that shouldn’t even have cupholders (especially on the manual-equipped models), the lack of technology inside the Miata makes the car feel even more raw and refreshing.

2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 20 Nov 2012 15:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink


2013 Mazda CX-5 [w/video]

Published by admin on September 3rd, 2011

Filed under: , , , ,

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.

Permalink


Tweeter button Facebook button