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

South Waikato News - - MOTORING -

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.

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