by Rick Stella

Mazda Motor Corp. doesn’t typically mingle with luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but it has something none of those brands can offer: a fully-loaded and turbocharged, all-wheel drive crossover for less than $40,000. The Japanese automaker added two premium trims to the 2019 CX-5’s repertoire – the Grand Touring Reserve and the Signature – that both feature a Skyactiv 2.5T engine. The more powerful engine delivers 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, giving them dramatically improved performance.

Though turbocharged engines are common in the segment, the CX-5’s is new. It offers notable upgrades over the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder base engine, which only produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.

The Grand Touring Reserve and Signature trims offer advanced safety technology and standard AWD to firmly plant the CX-5 as a low-cost option to upscale crossovers like the Audi Q3 or BMW X3. Priced at $34,780 and $36,890, respectively, they cost roughly the same as similar crossovers like the Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V.

The entire CX-5 lineup is likely to continue as Mazda’s most popular vehicle thanks to the new trims and modest price. Since the CX-5 debuted in 2013, Mazda has sold more than 2 million of the vehicles worldwide. In the U.S., CX-5 sales topped 150,000 in 2018, increasing nearly 18 percent compared with 2017.

NEW TURBOCHARGED ENGINE

On a test drive of the Signature trim in snow-laden Whistler, British Columbia, the 2019 CX-5 excelled on slick, icy roads while also providing a pleasant highway drive.

The turbocharged engine gave the vehicle a welcome uptick in power. The turbocharged CX-5 accelerates from 0 to 60 in in around 6.5 seconds, two seconds faster than the standard engine.

The combination of i-Activ AWD and the SkyActiv-Drive smooth-shifting six-speed transmission kept the driver in control on snow and ice.

?Even as the crossover downshifted while climbing hills, boost from the lower gear was subtle enough to avoid ice slippage. At the same time, the engine provided enough power to maintain uphill speed. The lack of engine noise also was apparent, especially when punching the gas pedal to the floor. The quiet interior experience added to the cabin’s comfort.

IMPROVED CONTROL

Contributors to the CX-5’s superior handling include the automaker’s G-Vectoring Control Plus and dynamic stability control (standard on all trims), as well as the Signature trim’s standard P225/55R19 all-season tires. GVC Plus sends more power to the front tires in slippery conditions, which helped the crossover maintain traction on Whistler’s slick roads.
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