Behind the Wheel

2020 Mazda CX-5 Review: A two-row crossover that makes an engaging, budget-friendly statement

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 has a lot to like.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

These days, just about every carmaker sells a whole range of crossovers. There's a simple explanation for it of course: people buy them by the truckload. But strip the badging off and line them all up and it'll be hard to tell them apart.

To the non-enthusiast, the Ford whatsit is just like the Chevy whatsit which looks like the Honda whatever or is that the Toyota whatever? I can't tell.

They're alike on the inside, too. Steering wheel, high seating position, all-wheel drive (maybe), some luxury accoutrements depending on where it fits in the segment, leather, rinse, repeat.

2020 Mazda CX-5 The model's sculpted exterior is most different from other crossovers at the front, but it's back is not unattractive.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Does it matter which one you buy? At once, absolutely and absolutely not. The Ford whatsit you wouldn't hate having might come from a great dealer, in which case, go buy that. Or Kia might have a great Cyber Wednesday deal running or you might inexplicably like the shift knob in the BMW X# Competizione M Sport GranTurismo and that's what turns your head.

Or maybe you just want a crossover with luxury features that's comfortable, has terrific handling and performance, and great design, in which case you should head straight to your local Mazda dealer and plunk down thirty-thousand-and-something dollars for a Mazda CX-5 and skip all the other stuff. That's what I'd do.

Mazda is the rare carmaker that makes excellent vehicles across the entire range, so you can't go wrong. My tester CX-5 came in an intoxicating Soul Red Crystal Metallic with a Caturra Brown interior. I don't know what makes Soul Red different from regular red, or what a Caturra is, but Mazda's built a fetching crossover. The new Mazda3 is a looker and the CX-5 has the same lineage.
It's aggressive but not shouty, taut but not tense. It's sporty and luxurious. It's driver-focused but refined for everyone else too. It is, to put a point on it, all things to all people.

Except for that infotainment screen. It's a weak point, I'll admit — and so will Mazda, I suspect. It sticks out of the center of the dash, which is fine. It's a good size, and Apple CarPlay looks great on it. You can just reach it, but it's not a touch screen (except when it is). And the stock infotainment system is incredibly annoying.

2020 Mazda CX-5 The touch points of the CX-5 tester were more premium than the price of the SUV would let on.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Generally you control it with a knob and button setup down in the center console behind the shifter (the volume knob is down here too, which is annoying for five minutes and then kind of delightful). It's not the best way to control an interface, but it's serviceable and much preferred to the horrendous touchpad that Lexus insists on installing in all its vehicles these days. But then, once in a while, and only in CarPlay, it works as a touchscreen. But not always.

Yet, this is a mere quibble because the rest of the car is fantastic. My tester priced out at $38,655 in the Signature trim and is filled with nearly every feature on my must-have list, including 360-degree camera, parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats (and heated rear seats, too), a terrific heads-up display, adaptive cruise, an active lane-keeping assist, and a bunch more.

The Signature also includes standard AWD and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 250-horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque engine, and is a total peach. It even runs on standard fuel, although derated to 227 horsepower. Fuel economy with the bigger engine is hurt a little bit, running 22 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, while the smaller non-turbo variant that comes standard in the CX-5 runs 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque but at 24/30 city/highway with all-wheel drive.

2020 Mazda CX-5 Buttons, knobs, and the steering wheel are all easy to reach from the driver's seat.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

A few weeks ago, I tested a 2019 Mazda3 hatchback around the racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club and it was a riot. A note to those who love powerful cars: it's way more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. The Mazda3 was controllable and predictable — exactly what you want in a performance vehicle, and the CX-5 has the same sort of feel. It's much more car than SUV, and in this trim, is part sports car too.

It reminds me of a budget Porsche Macan a bit. Sporty luxury with quality and refinement to spare, only at a much more reasonable price. All those other crossovers might seem basically the same, but the CX-5 stands out. I guess that's why Mazda is selling so many of them.

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New driver assist technology is coming to the Lexus lineup later this year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

New Lexus Teammate driver assistance technology will debut on the 2022 Lexus LS 500h later this year. Its availability is constrained to all-wheel drive models.

The technology was developed based on the Mobility Teammate Concept. This automated driving concept is unique to Toyota sough to enhance communication between drivers and cars, "enabling them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance". The concept sees cars and humans interacting and partnering rather than having automation take over for drivers. This approach allows drivers to enjoy the experience of driving but allowing the vehicle to take over some functions of driver's duties at times. In this way, the tech works as both guardian and chauffeur.

2022 Lexus The company's flagship sedan will get the technology first.Photo courtesy of Lexus

2022 Lexus LS 500h

On the 2022 Lexus 500h, Lexus Teammate will offer two functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.

Advanced Drive is design to "accurately detect driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, braking, and steering commands to maintain the vehicle within the lane, follow other vehicles, change lanes, navigate certain interchanges and traffic jams and overtake slower vehicles." It's a Level 2 functionality that "allows for driving on limited-access highways with partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation".

This description makes it sound a lot like the suite of lane keeping, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control technology that Hyundai offers rather than true Level 3 technology that General Motors's Super Cruise delivers.

Lexus will show operation of the technology on a screen with information displayed like this.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Advanced Park operates similar to how the Genesis GV80's hands-free parking assist technology works. The Lexus tech automatically controls steering, acceleration, braking, and gear changes with parallel parking or backing into a parking space. It uses a combination of 360-degree sensing technologies and a bird's eye view display to perform the task while allowing the driver to monitor progress.

"We are very proud of Lexus Teammate, which is the culmination of five years of close collaboration between our technical centers in Japan and the US. We conducted simultaneous development and rigorous testing in both markets with the goal of achieving industry-leading advanced driver assistance functionality," says Derek Caveney, executive engineer at Toyota Motor North America's Integrated Vehicle Systems team.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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