It's difficult for me to get excited about crossovers. I try hard not to be the stereotypical car guy: ignoring the fact that the rest of the world loves these tall hatchbacks, while yelling, station wagons make more sense! until I've voided my lungs of air. Deep down I am that guy, but I work around it. Historically the Mazda CX-5 is one crossover that has been quasi-immune to my knee-jerking. It doesn't weigh two tons, offers a manual transmission (in poverty spec, but still...), and looks faster than its competitors. Most importantly, the CX-5 can round a corner without wobbling like a Slinky at the top of the stairs. No item on that list of plaudits would likely crack the top ten desirables for average small CUV shoppers. So, for the 2016 update, Mazda instead upgraded the in-cabin experience along with the requisite nips and tucks to the exterior. I borrowed a 2016 model CX-5 to see whether or not those concessions to comfort affected the car-nerd stuff. And to see if the Mazda could still be my go-to CUV recommendation. Driving Notes The engine options are unchanged for 2016. You can still have the fine, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with its 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, or its wimpier 2.0-liter lil' brother. My fully spec'd Grand Touring came with the bigger engine, which feels adequately powerful for the class, but not quick. In an era where turbocharged engines are everywhere, revving the Skyactiv 2.5-liter up to its torque peak at 3,250 rpm takes some commitment. I'm annoyed that there's no manual offered with the 2.5L (a combo I can have in both the Mazda3 and Mazda6), but I don't hate the automatic transmission. The six-speed unit is unobtrusive 99 percent of the time; something I regretfully can't tell you about certain nine-speed autos. There are no paddles to play with, but you can tap the shift lever up and down if you're struck by a need for total control. With a new center console and dash, and the addition of the Mazda Connect infotainment system, the '16 CX-5 feels like a new vehicle from behind the wheel. An attractive, pliant, leatherish material swaths the neat console and surrounding real estate. And the perforated leather seats feel damn near upscale. I think that Mazda Connect's version of the central control knob (with handy adjacent volume knob) is almost luddite-proof in its simplicity. There's no latency between twisting and reaction on the screen. Better still, menus use clean graphics and offer fast loading times from one to the next. The touchscreen works well, which I appreciate as an advocate for this technology. The navigation system was a weird little nugget of joy, too. Graphically speaking, the Mazda software can''t touch the epic 3D cityscapes you see in BMW or Audi products. But it's easy to read on the go, has smooth animations and makes finding or entering your destination quite simple. The Grand Touring spec for 2016 comes with ... - Leather Interior Surface -
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