If you're in the market for a Ford Escape with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo engine, promise me you'll at least glance at this crossover first. Why? The CX-5's new 2.5-liter Skyactiv I-4 engine has, in my eyes, eroded the Escape's only remaining advantage: speed.
My abiding memory of our 2013 CX-5 GT FWD -- which was equipped with the 2.0-liter, 155-hp I-4 -- was that it needed just a little bit more power to compete with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape 1.6T. Then again, the CX-5 would leave either one for dead once you showed it some corners. Now, 2014 CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring models pack 29 more horsepower than before, with minimal adverse effect on its fuel economy. (The base Sport model still uses the 2.0-liter.) The CX-5 isn't quick, even with the 19-percent improvement in power, but it is adequately powerful, and drivers will welcome extra grunt, especially when merging or lugging around lots of passengers and/or cargo.
As for the subject of driven wheels: Mazda's all-wheel drive system works perfectly fine, but the added weight (157 pounds) is noticeable behind the wheel, and the CX-5's chassis has enough poise and ground clearance that you could happily make do with just a set of good winter tires and front-wheel drive.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
Yep, this is the engine the CX-5 needed, and it's the one you'll want. I say that having in the last month driven CX-5s with both the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the (non-U.S. market) diesel. The bigger four-cylinder makes the CX-5 feel as zippy and energetic in a straight line as it always has in corners. I actually thought there was more than 185 hp under the hood, a credit to the fact that this is a relatively light crossover, even with the all-wheel-drive system. I'd agree with Ben that the extra traction isn't all that necessary, but neither did I feel that it really hindered the performance. That's a marked contrast to the 2.0-liter version, which barely feels up to the task to powering all four wheels.
The next big update for the CX-5 will be a new touch screen navigation system. And boy, does it need it. The little TomTom flashed the Blue Screen of Death when I tried to interact with a map.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
By swapping in the peppy 2.5-liter four for the anemic 2.0-liter unit, Mazda has given the CX-5's nimble chassis and communicative steering the powerplant they have been crying out for; one that successfully turns the CX-5 into the Mazda of crossovers. If I were buying a CX-5 though, I'd forego all-wheel drive as I think the system's extra weight makes this CX-5 feel slightly less tossable than its two-wheel drive brethren. If you opt for front-wheel drive, the Grand Touring model can be had for under $28,500 and it comes equipped with everything most people are looking for on a new car. If you want navigation, I'd recommend buying a stand-alone unit. The TomTom unit that comes as part of the CX-5's $1625 Technology Package has crummy graphics and is slow.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The CX-5's new, larger engine performs as it should, but fuel mileage is worse (it loses 2 mpg on the EPA combined scale, from 29 mpg to 27 for front-wheel-drive examples). I'm surprised that Mazda is now offering the smaller engine only with the base (Sport) trim level. I think that's a mistake. The 2.0-liter offers a very nice sweet spot of high mileage and lots of space along with a savings of a couple thousand dollars. Plus, I'm sure there are plenty of 2.0-liter fans out there who'd like the opportunity to get luxuries such as leather seats, a sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Those folks will have to buy a used 2013 CX-5.
While you're fixing this error in offerings, Mazda, please make the stick-shift CX-5 available with some real options and color choices. I'd be happy to permanently park one in my driveway.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor