When you follow the NHL as closely as I do, you often hear talk about a player’s “intangibles.” Take New York Rangers forward Tanner Glass, for instance. At face value, he could be seen as a waste of salary space; he costs the Rangers $1 million per year and only scored one goal in the 11 regular season games he dressed for. Yet Glass brings a level of grit to the ice and comradery to the locker room. His value isn’t added by the number of goals he produces but by the intangibles he brings to the team.
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD can be looked at similarly. Mazda redesigned its worldwide best-seller for the 2017 model year, and if you look at it by the numbers, it’s both heavier and smaller than the model it replaces—yet it’s by far a much better family crossover than ever before. It’s the intangibles that the Mazda CX-5 excels at.
Before we delve too deep into what exactly makes the new CX-5 better than the old, let’s take a quick look at the changes made. Signaling Mazda’s shift upmarket, the exterior gets sharp new sheetmetal while the automaker ups its game inside with high-quality materials (especially on top-trim CX-5 Grand Touring models like our tester), more sound deadening, and a clean new Audi-esque design. The 2017 CX-5’s wheelbase has shrunk ever so slightly, from 106.3 inches to 106.2 inches, but overall length and width have grown 0.4 and 0.1 inch, respectively, to help boost headroom and legroom inside.
The previous-generation CX-5 was great on a back road, too, but it was one of the loudest crossovers in the class on the freeway. The extra sound deadening Mazda worked into the 2017 CX-5 really pays off. At freeway speeds the cabin is quiet and serene. The sport-tuned suspension that works so well at keeping the CX-5 cornering flat in the canyons is equally well suited to cruising highways. Good suspension damping filters out road imperfections and takes care of big bumps with ease.
Another area where the new CX-5 Grand Touring drastically improves on the old is in the cabin. The old CX-5 Grand Touring was nice, sure, but the new model is damn near luxurious. The materials (with the exception of the cheapo “wood” trim), fit, and finish are all phenomenal. The leather front seats are comfortable, if a bit flat, and the back seats offer up an executive-like center armrest with two USBs and heated rear seat controls. The rear seats are roomier and more comfortable on the 2017 model than they were before, but any adult around 6 feet tall or taller is going to wish for more legroom and kneeroom.
Despite being a more luxurious ride, pricing doesn’t change much on the new CX-5. Our loaded 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD starts at $31,635 and stickered for $34,380—a mere $195 more than an equivalent 2016 model.
A lot like the Mazda Miata, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 isn’t a numbers car. It’s not the quickest or most efficient on paper, but its unique selling proposition versus its segment rivals isn’t in the numbers it produces—it’s in the intangibles it brings to the table. It’s in the way the CX-5 makes you smile when you turn a corner, it’s in the way the engine revs when you put your foot into the throttle after dropping the kids off safely at school, and it’s in the way the CX-5 coddles those in the cabin. It’s the intangibles where the new 2017 CX-5 excels. As for how it stacks up in a head-to-head battle with its chief rival—well, you’re going to have to stay tuned for that.