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AWD and all sorts of awesome

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport

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All-wheel-drive (AWD) is a nice feature to have but that’s not all the CX-5 AWD Sport flaunts so to get a more thorough feel, I drove it out to Nasugbu to really see what it came to play with. Roughly 268 kilometers of good old-fashioned city and town roads plus a long stretch of highway equals some six hours of seat time in total. That amount of driving not only clears the mind, but bonds man and machine.

If there ever was a beauty pageant for compact SUVs, it would be an utter travesty if the CX-5 wins anything but the crown. Sure, it still uses the almost decade-old design philosophy ‘Kodo’ (soul of motion) and yet it doesn’t feel long in the tooth. Curves aren’t exaggerated, making it look almost bare except for the fact that its minimalist style makes it a rolling, roaring example of ‘less is more’.

Every groove, each line comes with purpose — to enhance aerodynamics and to lend accent to the LED headlamps and taillights — and while the grille may seem a tad Lexus-y, it does a fantastic job of framing the logo, which is an emblem of Mazda’s hometown, Hiroshima.

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At first glance, there’s an unmistakable premium feel to the all-black interior right away. It comes with leather on the seats (front and back), steering wheel and inserts with visible stitching on all three surfaces.

Mazda did well by keeping the seven-inch monitor upright so there’s very little glare when you look at it. The shiny stuff are a few chrome pieces like the frames of the vents and the grille of the 10-speaker Bose system, plus the glossy panel around the shift knob.

Pairing your mobile device is easy as well as operation of the system. Simply touch the screen or use the Command Control Knob found along the center tunnel. The one glitch that may be sorted by a simple system reset perhaps is the Bluetooth connection that muted all my device’s alerts and rejected all incoming calls during each drive.

Its 2.5L SkyActiv-G engine has the biggest displacement in the lineup (the base model is a 2.0L and the diesel uses a 2.2L). 190-PS and 251-Nm of torque are sent to the Smart I-Activ all-wheel drive system using a SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic. Seeing as ‘Activ’ is a part of the powertrain’s every aspect, Mazda made sure the AWD Sport fully lives up it even in Normal driving mode.

Launching this 1.6-ton unit doesn’t take much, making it feel nimble on its feet. The transmission is smooth in the city but when taken through the rolling zig-zag terrain, it sometimes gets flustered by the constant speed changes and braking that it stays on the lower gear a few seconds longer before correcting itself.

As a crossover, it displays plenty of sedan-like qualities. The ride is ultra-supple and very comfortable even over potholes along EDSA. It hardly feels like an SUV because the seats are ergonomically designed to seat you in a laidback position without compromising the view.

Handling is tight and steering is very responsive so a little input is all you need whether you’re crawling in traffic or cruising along the highway. You might want to take corners lightly though as rollover resistance is standard at best due to the vehicle height and 185mm ground clearance.

Overtaking is a breeze — even without the Sport mode — but I must admit that it doesn’t feel as good. If you’re conscious about how fast you’re going (because you’re always on the verge of breaking the speed limit), a heads-up display on the front windshield, which comes standard on all CX-5 models, makes it easy to monitor your speed.

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It comes with Mazda’s i-Stop which shuts down the engine when the vehicle is idle to increase fuel efficiency by five-percent, plus parking sensors, a reverse monitor and blind spot lookout system and six airbags for added safety.

Even with SkyActiv-G tech, the high displacement and AWD layout does sip a healthy amount of fuel, which brings it combined consumption down.

I know P1.980 million is a lot of cash for any nine-to-fiver, but for more grip and that oh-what-a-trip feeling with all the awesome features it comes with, I’d say that’s money well spent.

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

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