High-Altitude Driving Impressions - 2014 Mazda CX-5 Long-Term Road Test

2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Mazda CX-5: High-Altitude Driving Impressions

October 15, 2013

2014 Mazda CX-5

Last weekend I took our 2014 Mazda CX-5 to the southern Sierra for a day hike up Mt. Langley. The trip meant driving up to about 10,000 feet with four adults loaded in the CX-5. It served us well.

I've always thought the CX-5's power is adequate, and passing on California 395 in the pre-dawn hours was relatively easy. As we started up the mountains the road wound around enough to prevent using wide throttle openings, but the CX-5 maintained good cornering speed, which helped keep our momentum up. Power was obviously diminished above about 7,000 feet where the road got serious about going uphill. Even then, though, given the load of people, I never thought about a lack of power.

The Mazda CX-5's strongpoint is its transmission which offers full control of every gear and rev-matched downshifts (more use when descending). Manual shifting was the key to consistent speed.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor


  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    "Manual shifting was the key to consistent speed." If that's true, then there is a problem with either the power output or the auto tranny shift programming...or both. No grade logic? No accelerometer input to tell it you're cornering, going uphill and with the throttle opened, so don't upshift?

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    The more I read about this crossover the more I like it, especially in comparison to the Santa Fe. A good tranny makes for happy motoring.

  • cx7lover cx7lover Posts:

    @Fordson1... did you actually read the post at all?

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Yeah - I read the post. If an auto-trans vehicle needs you to resort to shifting manually in order to maintain speed on a grade, something is wrong. He says the key is "manual control" - by which he means holding it in a lower gear manually to keep it from upshifting, which would kill his forward speed because it doesn't have the power to pull the longer gear. Josh goes on about how it had enough power and the transmission is so great, but if both or even either of those things were true, he would not have to resort to outsmarting the box and keep it from gear-hunting in order to maintain speed on those grades. He is contradicting himself.

  • gloss gloss Posts:

    Or maybe he just prefers having control over things. I'm pretty sure the Skyactiv automatic is considered one of the best on the market.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    I took it to mean that the tranny would normally upshift for fuel economy--like most new cars today. Manual control means you are willing to sacrifice fuel economy for control in a less-than-ordinary driving situation. This is certainly not ordinary. In older cars without all the auto/manual shift option, you had "D" "3" "L". Again, for the probably rare instances you need to keep at a lower gear, even with grade logic (like my wife's old Odyssey)

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Even a good automatic transmission is going to upshift sooner than you'd want it to on a grade because they're still going for efficiency. Manual control is a perfectly acceptable method to get the power you need while allowing the transmission to be calibrated for fuel economy. And since it does have such a good manual mode, I don't see the problem.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    "Even a good automatic transmission is going to upshift sooner than you'd want it to on a grade because they're still going for efficiency." No - this represents a failure of the grade logic it's programmed with. Regardless of the grade, the load, the speed, the engine speed, air density, etc. if the programming, while you're JUST trying to maintain a steady speed...nothing fancy...allows the tranny to upshift, lose speed, then downshift, gain speed, upshift, lose speed...rinse, repeat - it's flawed. Also, he indicated that he was trying to carry speed through curves - so it should have sensed the fairly high lateral acceleration caused by that and declined to upshift in a situation where that could interfere with the cornering set the vehicle had taken. This vehicle is going to be driven while heavily loaded, up grades, down grades, in high-altitude low-air-density conditions, by people who neither know nor care anything about engine power curves, gear ratios, air-density/engine power curves, etc. It's a mom-and-pop CUV (and more on the mom side than the pop side...), not a sports car. Sorry - JMO.

  • gloss gloss Posts:

    You seem very worked up about this.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I'm just beside myself, gloss.

  • legacygt legacygt Posts:

    Manual shifting the automatic transmission on grades does not represent a failure of the transmission. I don't know if the CX-5's transmission senses grade, air density etc. But I know what it doesn't have: eyes. Nor can it read the driver's mind. When I plan shifts I know the way I want to drive and I can see the road ahead. I will not upshift if I see that the grade gets steeper or continues for a long time. I will not downshift if I know I'm just about at the top of the hill. The car doesn't know this and can't. Maybe the autonomous cars of the future will know where they're gong and anticipate elevation changes, other vehicle behavior, etc. But for now we can only expect so much from automatic transmissions. And every single post/review (including this one) raves about the CX-5's automatic.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @Fordson1 I doubt that the perfect grade logic has been invented because as legacygt points out, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder. I would bet that good grade logic for one guy would equal "too much downshifting and noise" for the next

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