2014 Mazda CX-5: What a Great Automatic Transmission
March 3, 2014
I already knew I liked the six-speed automatic transmission in our long-term 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring before my road trip to Healdsburg, California, and back. But 932 miles on the road gives you plenty of time to think, and I'm pretty much in love with this transmission now. In fact, it's one of the top three reasons I might buy my own personal CX-5.
You see, the 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that's standard on the CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring trim levels is good. But there's no denying that it's a little thin on torque and, accordingly, doesn't feel as potent as it might when you're climbing grades or initiating a decisive passing maneuver. And although it never sounds bad, the power delivery feels and sounds a little reedy when you're working it hard.
But I rarely thought about these minor shortcomings during my drive, because the automatic transmission largely compensates for them by making so many right choices.
As we climbed the El Tejon Pass on the Grapevine section of Interstate 5, for example, there was no unnecessary shuffling between gears. Depending on the steepness of the stretch, the engine speed might be at 3,000 rpm or 4,000 rpm, but it was clear the transmission knew exactly which gear was needed in any given situation. That sounds so simple, but I don't think I've experienced that in any other automatic-equipped small crossover SUV, including the ones with the supposedly smarty-pants continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).
After I crossed the I-580 Richmond-San Rafael toll bridge visible in the top photo, I came upon some pretty cutthroat East Bay traffic. Here again, the Mazda CX-5 was a pleasant companion. It's not the quickest crossover in this class (I'd go for an Escape with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine if I wanted that), but the transmission does such a nice job of reading your intentions (as expressed through your right foot) and making the most of what the 2.5-liter engine has to offer.
Lately, my husband and I have been talking a lot about buying a current-generation Mazda 5 (which of course has Mazda's older, but still rather likable 2.5-liter engine and five-speed automatic transmission). But after this road trip, the CX-5 is looking like a much stronger candidate, even though it lacks sliding rear doors.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 25,722 miles