2014 Mazda CX-5: You Don't Need an X3
November 11, 2013
This isn't a fair post. This is apples to oranges, soap to ice cream, coals to Newcastle. Maybe that last one's out of context, but this remains a fairly useless post which in spite of itself presents, I think, a valid point.
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is not a BMW X3. But I'd say it's just as good. Sure, the X3 might be stitched together better. It's quieter. The switchgear generally has a heft to it that we automotive writers wax about as feeling "substantial" and "buttoned-down." We're all suckers for the way Germans deploy mass and aluminum.
But I'll venture that the CX-5 doesn't leave anything on the table here. The cabin is clean, its control interfaces uncluttered. Minimalist, you might say, another word we lavish on the German marques (something about German artists inventing the aesthetic and a discussion best left for art school). There's no Alcantara headliner, but the materials exude quality. At night, I prefer the CX-5's ambient lighting. The seats might not be BMW level, but Jacquot sat in them for 5,000 miles and called them among the best, if not the best, in the segment. The interior simply feels premium beyond its price.
But you're most aware of the $13,000 difference in the two sticker prices when you lay into the CX-5's pedal, in manual-shift mode, and the four-cylinder scratches past 4,500 rpm and gets pretty raspy in the process. BMW's turbo-four won't make as much of a racket. Or rather, you're more insulated from it. At wide-open throttle, our CX-5 passes 74.0 decibels into the cabin. The BMW, just 66.3 decibels. Side note: At idle, even with direct-injection, the CX-5 is quieter than the X3.
The CX-5 still catapults you up the overpass and down the other side before you get stuck behind a semi, generating power the whole way as you wind it up to 5,000 rpm, upshift, then wind it out some more. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter wants to impress and does, rough edges and all. It's like the Yasil Puig of four-cylinders.
Now you're scratching your head at the tentative threads I've tried to weave here, comparing cars out of class, and a somewhat random one at that (why not a GLK or Infiniti QX50). Our CX-5 prices out at about $32,000. A comparably-equipped X3 goes for $45,000. At the end of the day, get the Bimmer if it makes you feel good, if it's a personal reward for a job well done, if you're trying to impress the girl in 2B. Otherwise, save the 13 grand and get the Mazda CX-5.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 19,970 miles