After being smitten with the clean looks of our Four Seasons 2013 Mazda CX-5, we are finding out that the beauty is more than skin deep. The CX-5 is the second car in Mazda's U.S. lineup to gain the automaker's new Skyactiv suite of powertrain engineering, after the 2012 Mazda3. Rather than opting for forced induction and higher final-drive ratios to find efficiency gains without losing performance, Skyactiv works to optimize a known quantity -the internal combustion engine. To up the engine's efficiency by a claimed 15 percent, Mazda increased the little four-banger's compression ratio to an incredibly high 13:1, added direct injection and electronically variable valve timing, lengthened piston stroke by 8.1 millimeters, and reduced internal friction.
The 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine is paired with an all-new six-speed automatic transmission in our CX-5 Grand Touring, but a slick six-speed manual is available on the base CX-5 Sport. The only option that our tester is missing is all-wheel drive; but the weight savings may be a boon to the compact crossover, given its modest power rating of just 155 hp.
Senior editor Eric Tingwall used the CX-5 for a weekend getaway, bringing along two mountain bikes -- one mounted on the tailgate and one on the roof. "I was genuinely concerned that the additional aerodynamic drag of a bike mounted to the roof might be too much to ask of the CX-5's humble 2.0-liter. I wasn't worried about a catastrophic meltdown, but I did have a flashback to the time I mounted six bikes to the roof of my 2003 Mazda Protege5; 70 mph was only possible if you were drafting a semi, and I averaged less than 14 mpg."
That the 300-pound heavier CX-5 has only 25 more horsepower and an additional 15 pound-feet of torque compared to Tingwall's 2003 Mazda did not bode well. However, "over 300 miles -- most of them at 80 mph -- I averaged about 27 mpg, with a bike on the roof."
He gives partial credit for this achievement to the six-speed automatic. "I had been worried that maintaining 80 mph would result in a constant shuffle between fourth, fifth, and sixth gears. If anything, the CX-5 is slightly reluctant to downshift, as if the car is trying to sweet-talk you into a slower pace." Associate web editor Ben Timmins echoed those comments. "The transmission initially is reticent to downshift," he wrote. "But it responds well to a swift kick of the throttle pedal."
However, not everyone was completely pleased with the CX-5's powertrain. Managing editor Amy Skogstrom, for one. "Yes, the transmission downshifts on command when you need power and the engine is willing, but it sounds and feels as if it's laboring a little too hard just to get up to speed."
Our CX-5 also went in for its first scheduled service appointment at 4955 miles while Timmins had the car, visiting family in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The dealer did a basic oil and filter change, costing us $69.51 -- a somewhat high price due to the 0W20 oil specified by the manufacturer.
Despite our growing affection for our 2013 Mazda CX-5, those of us in Ann Arbor said goodbye to it at the end of this month, as the CX-5 will spend the start of the summer with senior editor Joe Lorio in the New York City metro area. Rumor is he's taking it on an early summer vacation.