Posts Tagged ‘segment’

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


2014 Mazda6 i Sport

Published by Mazda Blogs on February 1st, 2013

Filed under: , ,

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.

Permalink


Tweeter button Facebook button