2017 Mazda CX-5 Driving Impressions

Mazda nailed it. We’re not surprised.

Crisp powertrain. Sharp steering. Finely tuned response. Less horsepower than competitors with turbos, but still confident acceleration.

Throttle response is quite sharp, which encourages smooth driving, which is another way of saying it’s not very forgiving of a loose foot. The transmission is programmed to stay in gear longer than drivers might be used to, when the car is accelerating onto freeways. It knows where it is, at least most of the time, by reading your foot.

We got about 150 miles of seat time at the launch of the CX-5, all of them on models with 19-inch wheels, rather than the standard 17s. The ride is usually firmer with bigger wheels because the tire sidewalls are thinner, but ours didn’t feel stiff. Most of the bumps are soaked up. The front suspension is independent strut and the rear is multi-link.

The cornering is precise, with progressive steering that’s firm but not heavy. The torque vectoring helps cut down head toss. Torque vectoring works by making tiny adjustments to the power and traction in individual wheels, in the corners; this improves balance which makes steering and handling more precise. That’s all the driver feels: precision, or rather less imbalance.

Another thing is the steering rack, newly mounted directly to the front suspension for more sensitivity, as in better feedback. But not too much: the solid-mounted steering rack doesn’t transmit too much on bumpy roads.

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