The 2017 Mazda CX-5's door handles got their own design study. They got their own graphs, maths, and a team of people scientifically analyzing how humans interact with them. There was a whole to-do. And yet, you look at them back-to-back with their predecessors, a Spockian eyebrow reaching to the stars, and wonder what all the fuss was about. But apparently they're better. They're also perfectly illustrative of the entire effort to re-engineer and improve Mazda's best-selling model. At first, the 2017 Mazda CX-5 seems like a sensible evolution of its well-loved predecessor – there's sexier styling, a more premium cabin, and additional features, but the dimensions and engine specs look awfully similar. It certainly looks like one of those "the old car's great, let's not overthink the new one" redesigns. Except it isn't. Dig deeper and you'll see just how much meticulous work – from the door handles to the throttle response – went into making the new CX-5 a crossover that thoroughly trounces the majority of its competition. Take the efforts to make it quieter. According to Mazda's internal measurements, the sound-quelling improvements made for the CX-5's 2016 refresh already made it one of the quietest compact SUVs on the market. That apparently wasn't good enough. To what seems like an absurd degree, Mazda's engineers obsessively examined every nook, cranny, corner, and crevice to sniff out noise and eliminate it. Gaps were filled, insulation was injected, seals were added, air was redirected, glass was double glazed, and carpet replaced plastic coverings. It would seem that the Society of Persnickety Engineers is well represented at Mazda HQ. "I'm not sure how they found some of these," said Mazda vehicle development engineer Dave Coleman with a shake of his head, almost amused by the obsession and dedication of his colleagues across the proverbial hall in the sound-deadening department. (He goes over many of their enhancements in the video below.) And it worked. The new CX-5 is indeed incredibly quiet, even on San Diego's notoriously loud corrugated concrete freeways. It is quiet for a Mazda – a brand previously known for the exact opposite – and the entire segment. Even the fairly quiet 2017 Honda CR-V we drove on the same freeways on the way to San Diego couldn't match it. Actually, much of the driving experience can't be matched by a competitor. The previous CX-5 was arguably the driver's choice in the segment and version 2.0 sends the ball further downfield. The electric power steering immediately impresses – its effort is linear and its weighting feels natural and consistent. There are no different settings; no wildly differing effort levels based on speed. The throttle is also absolutely spot-on, the direct result of the same sort of painstaking fiddling that went into those door handles. The delay between what your foot does and how the engine reacts is quite literally impossible to detect by humans (there was another scientific study about that too), and since the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder is au …
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|MPG||24 City / 31 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||187 @ 6000 rpm|
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