New CX-5 test drive a dream task
Mazda’s new CX5 is close to production and Dave Moore has been testing it with its engineers in Iceland, to sample the company’s holistic Skyactiv technology
Being allowed to drive prototype test mules and being asked by the people who created them not to pull your punches is a dream assignment.
The idea was to sample the new CX-5 away from prying eyes some months before being made available for showrooms and Mazda’s engineers were keen to see what ordinary drivers thought of their new technology.
The label SkyActiv is Mazda’s new technological mantra and it is effectively an holistic twist to crafting new motor cars. It refers to not just the drivetrains, body design and suspension but all these elements combined, contrived to improve the performance of the whole.
By going to Toyota for its plug-in electric and hybrid technology needs, Mazda doesn’t worry about the direction of new technology and can concentrate on its Skyactiv drive trains which redefine familiar internal combustion engineering for improvements in output, emissions and fuel consumption.
Being able to refine its already competitive powertrains and dovetail them into equally refined and lightened body and chassis systems, Mazda says it can match many new tech emissions and economy figures by sticking to its knitting.
The power units involved are the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre direct injected petrol and Skyactiv-D 2.2-litre diesel units. The former has a very high 14:1 compression for most markets and a 13:1 compression for those where 91 octane is more prevalent like ours.
The Skyactiv-G, when compared with the two-litre four currently standard in the Mazda3 has gained a four into two into one exhaust, special inpiston combustion cavities and multiport fuel injectors which help reduce the likelihood of preignition or knocking from such a high compression ratio. Internal friction is reduced by 30 percent, weight has dropped by 10 percent and fuel consumption has eased by 15 percent, while 15 percent more torque is produced.
While the petrol unit works willingly and well in the CX-5s I tried, its remarkable refinement levels and free-spinning nature failed to charm as much as the Skyactiv-D did.
With a 14:1 compression, like the petrol units – which is very low for a diesel – the Skyactiv-D has an enhanced expansion phase after combustion and with a two-stage turbo, its redline runs well beyond 5000rpm, where the engine makes 129kW (up 19kW over the New Zealand market petrol model), while 420Nm – twice that of the petrol unit – peaks at just 2000rpm.
While the turbodiesel will have an inevitable price premium over the petrol engine, I timed the CX-5 using the unit to a sub eight-second zero to 100kmh time, which is in hot-hatch territory and while the Skyactiv-G is brisk enough, once driven, the Skyactiv-D will be the headline power unit.
The CX-5’s Skyactiv manual gearbox was not lightened by way of subtractive engineering but by working up from a zero base. With thinner cases and a first gear that shares with reverse, the transmission is also more compact. With a short, crisp throw, there’s no doubt that the manual helps the diesel along to its remarkable sprint time but it didn’t seem that much slower with the automatic, which proved to be an uncannily pre-emptive unit, capable of slipping though the ratios up and down with a shockfree action.
Mazda has remained with a relatively conventional torqueconverter system for smooth predictable take-offs but the unit minimises slippage and mechanical losses when up to speed by using a tiny multiplate clutch to facilitate lock-up in all six ratios.
Thus the torque converter can be small too and the whole transmission, like the automatic, is lighter and more compact, with many of the previously external workings now included inside the cases.
To all intents and purposes the unit feels like a double-clutch manual when above jogging pace but remains restful and refined at low speeds, while Mazda says it’s seven per cent improved for economy compared with previous autos.
The CX-5’s body has frame structures that employ multiple load paths and have fewer curves and greater use of lightweight hightensile steel.
Bonding replaces welding in some areas and Mazda says the Skyactiv body is 30 percent more rigid and eight percent lighter.
That extra rigidity also helps improve the car’s NVH rating and assists the chassis in delivering a better ride, while electronic powerassisted steering using ratios chosen for a more direct, responsive feel, and redesigned suspension links, and improved location bushes conspire to allow good linear responses at low to mid speeds and enhance high-speed stability.
BRAND NEW: Mazda’s new CX5.