Tag Archives: Sport mode

Mazda CX-9 Signature

Attractive styling, 3 rows make CX-9 a standout …

Family vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but Mazda’s CX-9 mid-size SUV is among the more attractive 3-row options with its distinctive beak-like nose.

So many SUVs and crossovers are so darned boxy that it’s nice to see a distinguishing characteristic. Amazingly the CX-9’s design dates back to 2016, yet still looks fresh, although I suspect a freshening will be coming soon.

This one was a top-of-the-line Signature edition in a sedate dark Machine Gray Metallic ($595 extra). Black is the only color that doesn’t cost extra, but the smart money is on the Soul Red Metallic that is Mazda’s absolute best, and if you’re paying extra, well, it only makes sense. Plus the neighbors will suspect you’ve gotten a raise.

Still, several people complimented the Mazda’s look and this model is fine for transporting 6 people as there are captain’s chairs in the middle row. I drove it to Indianapolis for the Indy 500, and it comfortably carried three of us and our luggage, then six of us to the racetrack. Oh, the third row is stingy with foot and knee room, but is fine for hauling folks around town.

All CX-9 models also now come with all-wheel-drive, which is nice that a favored feature isn’t another add-on.

With just the color being an option here the Signature ended up at $49,030. A base Sport model that will seat seven due to its middle row bench seat, goes for $36,505, again with AWD. There are four other trims between the two extremes, the new Touring Plus trim that adds heated and cooled front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, plus leather seats, is a prime choice at $41,660.

All will drive roughly the same as the engine, tranny and suspensions are identical.

Watch Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2022 Mazda CX 9 – YouTube

Mazda’s fine 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4 delivers generous power, rated at 227 horsepower on regular gas and up to 250 hp if you sell a kidney and splurge on 93-octane premium fuel. Power is good and smoothly delivered via the SkyActiv-drive 6-speed automatic, which includes a console-mounted toggle to engage Sport mode. That firms the steering some and creates more low-end torque for faster getaways from stoplights. In either Normal or Sport the CX-9 hits highway speeds well before you run out of entry ramp.

Handling is typical Mazda responsive, making the CX-9 among the most fun SUVs to drive, especially below $50 grand. And the suspension is quite adept at soaking up bumps without the ride turning floaty.

A big grille, but not as overwhelming as many, plus it blends well with the hood.

Mazda also employs something it calls G-Vectoring Control Plus that adjusts the turbo engine and applies the four-wheel disc brakes based on steering effort. The upshot is that if a driver eases up on acceleration and begins a turn, the power from the AWD shifts toward the front wheels to provide increased traction. Not a big deal in dry summer weather, but it would be helpful in our sloppy winter and fall seasons.

Inside, the CX-9 interior tends toward luxury, yet the pricing is just below entry-level luxury models by other makes.

A luxurious looking interior with quilted leather seats gives the CX-9 a ritzy look.

The gray SUV went with a black over brown interior design, the seats being perforated brown Nappa leather with quilted leather outer edges and bolsters, plus white piping, all to insinuate luxury. Mazda uses real wood, Santos Rosewood, for trim on the dash and doors, but also adds a thin chrome ring atop the console, which is gloss black and therefore reflects on sunny days.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped with the usual controls on its hub. Plus aluminum trim is used sparsely on the dash and doors, while big Bose stereo speakers fill the front lower door corners. All of this makes the CX-9 look and feel like a luxury vehicle.

This console and dash are easily seen and used while driving.

Seats are powered up front and include heating and cooling there, with just heated second row seats. Rear seat occupants also get their own climate controls and plug-ins for phones and other electronics in the big center console between the captain’s chairs. Third row folks have plug-ins too.

Everyone enjoyed the seat comfort, except the driver. While hip and back support is good, I found the butt pocket to be too hard and my tailbone was burning after about 100 miles. A lunch break was welcome, but the feeling returned further down the road.

Climate controls are easily adjusted via big buttons and knobs below the center dash air vents. However, Mazda’s radio is still clumsily adjusted via a console knob. There is no touchscreen. This remains a huge source of consternation and makes adjusting the radio and other on-screen activities difficult while driving. Good news? The screen is 10+ inches and mounted atop the dash.

The second row is roomy and includes a large console.

Mazda also includes wireless phone charging beneath the dash’s center stack and a navigation system is standard on Signature. However, the nav screen defaults to a fairly close-up view and reverts back to that even after using that center knob to adjust for a longer, say ¼- to ½- mile view to see what’s ahead. Ugh, if I adjust it, I want it to stay where I set it.

In back is the requisite power hatch and the third row seats easily fold forward to create a reasonable cargo area. There also is storage beneath the cargo floor and there are fairly large indentations to the sides behind the wheel wells, great for placing items you simply don’t want to trundle about.

A lot of room in back with row 3 folded down.

Mazda delivers a fine smart cruise control system and the safety equipment we’ve all come to love and demand, such as rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, 360-degree monitor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, and an adaptive front light system.

Other goodies include manual second-row side window shades, 2 memory settings for the driver’s seat, visors with extenders, an inside release for the fuel door and one-step releases for the second row seats to allow for passengers to more easily slide into the third row.

There also is a sunroof, but it’s among the smallest I’ve seen the last couple years, just covering the front seats. Most SUVs and crossovers now offer dual-pane panoramic sunroofs, which I would expect the next generation CX-9 to include.

How’s this for handsome door panel styling and trim?

Also be aware that the center console is rather wide and leads to a bit smaller footwell space for the driver and front seat passenger.

Finally, on the practical fuel economy front, the EPA rates the Mazda at 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. I managed 25.9 mpg in mostly highway driving with three of us aboard and our luggage.

Hybrids will do better, but for its size (nearly 200 inches long) and weight (just over 4,400 pounds) the CX-9’s figures are more than competitive.

For families needing space, comfort and AWD, Mazda’s CX-9 is a solid, stylish, sensible choice.

FAST STATS: 2022 Mazda CX-9 AWD

Hits: Stylish looks, good power, sporty handling and smooth ride. Quiet interior, 3 rows of seats, power hatch, wireless charger, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, smart cruise and solid safety devices, big climate buttons, large screen, sport driving mode, good mpg.

Misses: Console-controlled info screen is a clumsy pain, navigation defaults to close-up view even after adjustment, no touchscreen, small sunroof and firm butt pocket makes driver’s seat tiring on long drives.

Just can’t get enough of this nose and how it blends with the hood and lights. Bravo Mazda designers!

Made in: Hiroshima, Japan

Engine: 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo I4, 227 hp/ 310 torque (250 hp, w/93 octane gas)

Transmission: SkyActiv-drive 6-speed, automatic w/Sport mode

Weight: 4,409 lbs.

Wheelbase: 115.3 in.

Length: 199.4 in.

Cargo: 14/4-71.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 20/26

MPG: 25.9 (tested)

Base Price: $47,435 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $45,883

Options:

Machine gray metallic paint, $595

Test vehicle: $49,030

Sources: Mazda, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

Hyundai’s Sonata just keeps getting better … 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited

Hyundai’s Sonata is back on track to being a major challenger to the likes of Toyota’s Camry and others in the crowded mid-size sedan market.

Hyundai’s last generation Sonata wasn’t nearly as attractive as its predecessor. This one is a sharp looker with a distinctive nose and improved profile. That will snag buyers attention, but its new 8-speed automatic transmission and improved ride should seal the deal, along with price.

Always a high-value car, the 2018 Sonata has a lot going for it. Admittedly I tested the top-level Limited 2.0T that is heavy on sporty performance, and all the bells and whistles. But wait until you get a load of the price.2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited

But first, the “Machine Gray” (metallic gray) Limited touts Hyundai’s strongest engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that delivers a peppy 245 horsepower and a 260 torque rating. As with many cars and crossovers today there are a number of drive modes for the driver to select.

There’s Eco, which garners the highest gas mileage at the cost of power, Comfort, which is the middle ground of handling, power and ride, and Sport, which firms the steering and pumps up the power. That was great for accelerating onto the highway or away from a crowded traffic light when a lane change was in order. Continue reading 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport

Stylish Lexus IS350 remains true to its calling …2017 Lexus IS350

 

When we are lucky, good things don’t change, much!

This week’s luxurious example is the Lexus IS350 F Sport, a certified BWM 3 Series fighter, and a near identical luxury sport sedan to one I drove two years ago, right down to the Atomic silver color.

Not much has changed, which is mostly good. If you were to look back at my previous review you’d see the same pluses and minuses, so the only downside is that the negatives have not been addressed. Still, they aren’t deal breakers.

2017 Lexus IS350Essentially the IS350 and BWM 325i are dimensional clones, just one reflecting the more luxurious leanings of its Japanese maker, while the German make stresses performance. Lexus began challenging the iconic BMW in 2005 as it tried to lure more young executives away from the German make with its new IS sedan.

The current model though draws a distinct line in the styling sands by delivering an edgy style that BWM would, apparently, never attempt. The Lexus boasts a big in-your-face grille and crisply creased body. As I said before the IS looks quick even as it lazes at the end of the driveway. Continue reading 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport

2017 Lexus RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h perfect for a comfy, long haul …2017 Lexus RX 450h

Mostly my test drives are a couple hundred miles around Southeast Wisconsin over the course of a week, but this week was a rare exception when I drove the Lexus RX 450h to Omaha and back, more than 1,100 miles.

As many a high-end suburban household has discovered, before me, the RX is a perfect prescription for an enjoyable highway drive. And the 450h, the hybrid model, adds fine fuel economy to its other attributes of style, comfort, ride and room.

The RX, which some claim started the crossover fad, is stylish with a grille that no amount of overstatement can describe beyond large and aggressiveness. It’s distinctive, and not many vehicles can make that claim.2017 Lexus RX 450h

Overall the RX looks chiseled and modern and with its C-pillar blacked out at its base the Lexus’s roof appears to float. Pretty cool for a crossover!

But loaded down with boxes and luggage and two passengers the RX proved it can haul and do it comfortably. We folded down the rear seats, triggered the power hatch and piled in suitcases, overstuffed boxes and photo equipment. The RX swallowed it all and we could even see out the back window, mostly.

Ride is luxurious and smooth. Highway driving (and there was plenty) was a breeze and we barely felt a jiggle or bump inside the Lexus. As with many luxury vehicles there are several ride modes here, Eco, Normal and Sport. Normal was fine and provided moderate steering feedback and good acceleration from the 3.5-liter V6 combined with an electric hybrid system to create 308 horsepower. Continue reading 2017 Lexus RX 450h

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE

New VW Golf Alltrack brings fun to wagons …2017 VW Alltrack

Volkswagen brings a little fun to the small wagon market, which is a niche of a niche these days, but certainly compares well with small crossovers.

But instead of a tall boxy AWD vehicle, the Golf Alltrack is a decidedly leaner machine that looks downright sporty compared to a crossover. In fact, the Golf Alltrack is an offshoot of the Golf SportWagon, same basic vehicle, but raised a seemingly minor 0.6 inches for a 6.9-inch ground clearance and uses VW’s fine 4Motion system for grip.

The silver test wagon, which VW aims to compete with Subaru’s Outback and Crosstrek, was the mid-level SE model. The S with manual transmission starts at $26,670, while the test unit listed at $30,530 with no options and an $895 delivery charge.2017 VW Alltrack

What you get is a dandy handling, light and quick wagon that will haul quite a lot. Like most crossovers and such, it could go on minor-league muddy, rutty, non-paved surfaces, but really is aimed at on-road use. That’s thanks to the 4Motion system that runs the car at 90% front-wheel drive and 10% of the power in back most of the time. Once slippage is sensed, it splits the power 50/50. Continue reading 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE

2016 Scion iA

 

Scion iA a snazzy low-cost small sedan

Scion iA, Mazda2, hatchbacks, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic, entry-level sedansRarely has so little felt like so much.

Scion delivers possibly the highest value car for the entry-level market and does it with a good looking small sedan that is value priced and yet looks and feels much more like a mid-priced compact sedan.

The new iA, and we could quibble about the name, is a delight. Based on the Mazda2 platform, the iA delivers much more than the Mazda, which is a small hatchback. While I love hatchbacks for their usefulness, this sedan simply feels like it can take on and beat the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic, to name a few competitors. Continue reading 2016 Scion iA

2015 Chrysler 300S AWD

Chrysler nails full-size luxury with 300S AWDchrysler1

Remember full-size cars that were comfortable for five adults? Probably not, unless you’re of a certain age.

A few remain, the distinctive and elegant Chrysler 300 being one of the better efforts. First, it looks great with a big grille and chiseled lines that have only been somewhat softened around the nose for 2015 along with LED taillights added.

There are a variety of 300 models, but one feature, AWD, separates the big Chrysler from most other full-size cars. The bright metallic red test car was the sporty S version with AWD and a strong 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing. The V6 creates 300 horsepower and 264 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Acceleration is quick and responsive. Getting up to highway cruising speed is a breeze and the 8-speed automatic shifts easily and uses the engine’s power well. Sport Mode is standard on the S and it allows you to adjust the transmission, throttle and steering at the press of a button. Sport mode on means heavier steering feel, longer shift points and more responsive throttle. Those with a racier driving attitude will appreciate the change, others can pass on the S and go with a lesser 300 model.

chrysler3Handling is decent, a little body lean in hard cornering and the rear-drive (normally) car pushes some in corners too, but then you probably won’t be driving it that hard most of the time. Continue reading 2015 Chrysler 300S AWD

2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

Sonata loses styling pizazz as it attempts to blend into mid-size marketsonata

Looks aren’t everything and price isn’t either, but on both, the new 2015 Hyundai Sonata falls short of its predecessor.

The previous Sonata, the South Korean car maker’s mid-size sedan, featured chiseled good looks with a side accent line that gave it a fresh, energetic look that borrowed more than a bit from several recent Mercedes-Benz models. But as with all mainstream car firms, once they experience a little success, they blah-down the styling to make their cars look more generic. So it is with Sonata. While pleasant looking, it reminds of a Ford Fusion from the rear and nearly every other mid-size sedan in profile.

Too bad, looks HAD been Sonata’s secret weapon until now.

Its price also has been a major selling point, as have the prices of most Hyundai and Kia models. While the tested Sport 2.0T with 245-horse turbocharged I4, is reasonably priced, starting at $28,575. It’s loaded with a monster $4,950 “Ultimate” package that pushed the Venetian Red (metallic red) test car to $34,460, including its $810 delivery fee. By way of reference, last week’s similarly equipped Subaru Legacy with a boxer 6-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, was about a grand less.

For the record, a base Sonata SE with a 2.4-liter I4 that creates 185 horses starts at $21,960. As with most mid-level sedans today, there’s also a hybrid starting at $26,810 and a Limited 2.0T, much as this was equipped, starting at $34,335. So you could get into a Sonata at a lower cost than the test car. A 1.6-liter I4 turbo model is coming soon too, as an Eco model. Continue reading 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T