When I first drove the 2013 CX-5 last year, I found it pleasant if a bit underpowered. That should come as no surprise. The original two-liter SKYACTIV gas engine was only good for 155hp and similar torque numbers. For 2014, Mazda has added a 2.5-liter SKY engine as an upgrade on the Touring and Grand Touring trims. At 184hp and 185lb-ft of Torque, this new mill makes the CX-5 power-competitive with the other non-turbocharged offerings within the class. It’s still not the clear leader in sheer grunt, but it brings enough hustle to keep it in the running in a class topped off by 250-horsepower Escapes and Sportages.
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Driving a different car every week tends to have a disorienting effect – the way stalks function, pedals are spaced, accessories are controlled and even how the fundamentals like steering, throttle and brake respond to your commands all vary greatly from vehicle to vehicle. Having never driven a BRZ/FR-S before, I expect to need my usual two-minute acclimation period before being able to use it with any skill. And yet, my first mile in the BRZ feels like the last mile of a long road trip – as if you’ve spent hours upon hours sitting in the same environment operating the same controls, and by now you know exactly how everything you touch will react to your input. Now this is more like it.
It’s now longer ago than I care to admit, but during the formative years of my driving career owning a powerful, rear wheel drive sports coupe seemed as unobtainable a dream as an acne-free face and a date to the prom. The biggest barriers to entry were my parents who, since they were mostly footing the bill for my insurance at the time, decided which cars made the “obtainable” list in the first place. Dreams of FD RX-7s, Supra Turbos or even lowly 240SXs were quickly dashed thanks to the sky-high premiums for my teenage male self. Even 6-cylinder Camaros or Mustangs, which I viewed as half-hearted substitutes at the time, were verboten. As a result, my path toward front-wheel drive was predestined, and a decade of Honda and Diamond Star sport compact ownership ensued. I loved those cars, but there was always a part of me that craved rear-wheel drive fun, especially when my friends began hopping on the drifting bandwagon that was all the rage in the early to mid-2000s.
Thirty thousand units: it would represent a fantastic month for the Ford Fusion or Nissan Altima, but Mazda isn’t thinking in terms of months. That is the year-end sales goal for the 2014 Mazda6. Mazda sold 42,000 CX-5s in 2012—its abbreviated launch year—and more than 120,000 Mazda3s, but the number crunchers in Irvine are aiming for just 1.5% of what I’ve called the most important segment of the U.S. auto market, and one that represents more than two million sales in the United States each year.
Lead photo courtesy of Scion. Other photos by the author.
I’m writing this only six weeks after driving the FR-S, but it feels like it’s already years too late. Thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, the FR-S was old before it even debuted. Like the Nissan GT-R and the new Chevy Camaro before it, Toyota and Subaru’s joint project came in riding a wave of hype that would shame a lot of west-coast beakers, fueled by daily speculation and rumor seeping out from the innumerable followers of thousands of automotive forums and outlets.
Five minutes after the photo session with the 650i came to an end, my phone rang. It’s Mark, the guy who was driving the Bimmer while I snapped photos.
“Chris, something is wrong with my car. It feels slow, I must be towing a big trailer.”
There was no trailer. Mark had just stepped from a 400hp, twin-turbo BMW into a 2005 Ford Expedition XLT. All 5352 pounds of it.
“I’ll never enjoy driving this again. I’m blaming you.”
Oh, um…alright, then.