2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring Review: Style and Substance By Cliff Leppke Mazda’s CX-5 proves you can judge a book by its cover. Its alluring metallic wrap covers spicy mechanical bits. The expertly tailored steel jacket, Soul Red Crystal Metallic over Parchment, is more than eye candy. This compact crossover splendidly ferries passengers and their gear. Mazda’s sophisticated style sets it apart from its rivals. Those who drive it will think it costs more than its $34,685 MSRP. Its decor and features befit a luxury brand. Your eyes see a lovely update of the forward-lean 1960s look comprised of impact absorbing materials. At the rear, there’s a bumblebee-like butt. Avoid bumping this protruding rump into, say, a light pole. Expect big bills, if you do. Inside, soft materials are gathered with expert stitchery. Mazda covers naughty bits with Victorian zeal. Windshield pillars, for example, are decked in cloth. Metal accents garnish the dashboard. Surprisingly, faux silver-tone wood inlays don’t mar the composition. The nearly fully reclining firm front buckets are supportive. Their pressure points might not soothe some occupants. Rear riders enjoy a contoured thigh-supporting seat cushion. It isn’t a utilitarian slab. These leather-trimmed folding perches evoke a Herman Miller Equa chair due to contrasting zippered sides that join carpeted backs. Mazda’s CX-5 is a civilized machine. It complements its handsome digs with several noise-reducing tricks. Thicker glass cuts wind rush. Floor insulation mutes but doesn’t eliminate road roar. Power comes from non-turbo 187-hp four-cylinder engine via a six-speed automatic transmission. It has all wheel drive called I-Active. Mazda’s efficiency experts tweaked this peppery setup for prompt initial throttle response. The power party, however, sometimes poops out. You’ll notice only adequate go, when transitioning from 35 mph to 55 mph. Sometimes, it hooks up as if saluting, other items it’s flat footed. Sport mode lets the engine rev higher before upshifting. On the highway, engine din is well suppressed. Fuel economy is good: 27.3 mpg overall. The EPA’s numbers are 24 city, 30 highway and 26 mpg combined. Mazda encourages exercising its engine. Precise nicely weighted steering, for example, inspires confidence. Trekking through tight construction zones doesn’t frazzle. In contrast, the Toyo tires whimper while cloverleaf carving; the stability program intrudes, too. Yet, it’s more fun to drive than its rivals. Thoughtful amenities make the Grand Touring special. The rear seat, for instance, has two heaters. Steering wheel switches let you cycle through driver info. Mazda projects color driver-assist icons on the windshield. You’ll see prompts, when there's traffic in the blind spots, or when the lane departure system activates after seeing road lines. This works despite Wisconsin’s bleached highway markings. If you stray, the steering wheel rumbles. There’s a city braking system that recognizes people or vehicles—not tested. Radar cruise control adjusts vehicle-to-vehicle distance. Auto holding brakes clamp the binders until you press the go pedal. Fasten-your-seatbelt warnings don’t blast, when you’re concentrating on backing or parking. The CX-5, however, doesn’t apply the brakes to prevent a roll away if you exit the vehicle with the engine running and transmission in reverse or drive. A power rear liftgate is handy but should open higher. You find the close button on that lid, a wise choice. Due to a lid-mounted lamp, luggage doesn’t block your view at night. You’ll appreciate the convenient 40/20/40 folding rear seatback. Each section releases via levers in the aft compartment and on the seats. The middle shoulder belt’s reel attaches to the seat. Belts, therefore, don’t foil loading luggage. Often, you must remove the rear seatback’s headrests, when extending cargo room. Rear side doors open wide, nearly 90 degrees. There are quirks. Wisconsin’s pocked roads ruffle the ride. The cargo cover doesn’t fit below the rear floor. Since it’s attached to the rear hatch, it lifts itself. The keyless entry system won’t let you re-enter through the side doors if the driver exits from a portal other than the left front. The rear lid saves escape artists. It allows you to climb in, crawl forward and unlock a side door. A camera-based sign recognition device doesn’t work unless the navigation system’s card is inserted. And you cannot simultaneously view fuel economy info and the coolant temperature. Mazda’s CX-5 Grand Touring is true to its title. Its posh cabin, useful gadgetry, good manners and modest cost beckon. Book it to your Mazda dealer.