Saturday Road Test – Mazda CX-5


Mazda CX-5

A Contender

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – One of the most famous movie lines was “I coulda been a contender,” Marlon Brando’s memorable utterance from the 1954 classic, “On the Waterfront.”

Skip ahead to 2016, well at least in model years, and meet up with a bona fide contender in the red hot crossover sport utility market – the right sized Mazda CX-5.

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What sets it apart from the pack is that it is downright fun to drive, with Mazda engineering in just the right amount of handling without doing damage to ride quality.

For 2016 there are some minor styling changes to the exterior, but inside there is now Mazda Connect, (the  connectivity system,) an electric parking brake, and bigger door pockets and floor console box for added storage. Three interior trims are offered, an aluminum-look panel, a metallic finish panel or one in piano black.

Black or parchment leather is offered on upscale models with black or sand fabric the seating surface on other selections.

You will notice the reduced noise level inside, down 10 percent when driving at highway speeds, Mazda claims.

Two four cylinder engines are offered, a 2.0 liter with 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, but you would be wise to step up a notch to the 2.5-liter rated at 184 hp and 185 lb ft of torque. The test car has the latter and it worked in perfect harmony with the responsive six-speed automatic.

You won’t spin much rubber with this combination, but it felt lively in virtually all driving situations with a 0-60 run in the low eight second range.

Economy wise, the tested Grand Touring automatic is EPA rated at 24 mpg city, and 30 on the highway for a combined 26 mpg. In a week’s worth of driving in suburbia and on interstates I registered 25 mpg.

On a long interstate trip, the CX-5 hummed along nicely, the seats never became uncomfortable, all the controls came readily to hand, and the only weak point was the tone challenged audio system, a 9-speaker Bose unit.


I loved the black gauges with white lettering that were an easy read in all lighting conditions. Another nice touch was the larger 7 inch center stage screen, up from 5.8 inches last year. Various functions can be selected via a rotary knob on the center console and that beats a touch screen while underway.


There was ample room front and rear. Mazda says the CX-5 seats five, but four adults might be more comfortable. Rear storage came to 34.1 cubic feet with the second row seats upright, and 64.8 cubic feet when folded, enough to do damage to your account at the big box hardware store.

The top-of-the-line Grand Touring model brought 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, heated mirrors and front seats, dual zone climate control, satellite radio, and leather upholstery.

A $1,505 Tech Package added navi, Smart City Brake support system, LED headlights, fog lamps, and taillights, and an auto dimming rearview mirror. That brake support system uses a laser to detect objects in front of the vehicle, and can apply the brakes if the operator does not at speeds up to 19 mph. And there is more:

The $1,500 i-ActiveSense package added automatic braking at a higher speed than mentioned above, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beam control.

Add in a few other goodies plus transportation and you end up with an MSRP of $34,140 for a well equipped compact sport utility that is also a lot of fun to drive.

The basic Sport model starts at $21,795 with front wheel drive and automatic. Next up is the Touring edition with a base of $25,515. If you are shopping for a compact crossover the CX-5 should be on your test drive list.


Auto News for Oct. 30 – Bentley On ICE!!!!

Auto News for Oct. 30

Should self driving cars be required to pass a licensing test, just as drivers do? The case is made in a new study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. They note that self driving cars have yet to be tested under a variety of demanding conditions such as snow, flooded roadways or being able to recognize downed power lines. In such a situation, the vehicle would be given a provisional license that would exclude, for example, nighttime driving and driving in snow. A full license could then be obtained once future updates to hardware or software are developed.

Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 300,000 vehicles to check for inadvertent air bag deployments. They are 2003 Jeep Liberty and 2004 Grand Cherokee SUV’s for replacement of control modules or sensors. FCA said the defect is present in just one percent of the vehicles. In a separate action, the company is recalling some 2012-15 Dodge Journey models to deal with some electrical issues.

benltey on ice

Bentley is offering the well to do the chance to drive their new Bentayga on ten ice tracks in Finland designed by four-time World Rally champion, Juha Kankkunen. “Power on Ice is an unforgettable four-day experience that provides the opportunity to push a full range of Bentley cars to their limits,” the company said. Also, there is a night time husky-sled safari to an historic reindeer farm and a “traditional smoke sauna.”

Mitsubishi is adding a 300 watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with steering wheel mounted controls to its Mirage sub compact. The package includes a dual 6.5 inch subwoofer in a car that will carry a base price of $14,945.

Hyundai has captured the top spot in the automotive category in the Brand Keys Loyalty Leaders List for 2015. It is the sixth year in a row the automaker has topped the ranking put together by the New York based customer loyalty and engagement company. It assessed 540 brands in 64 categories. Also scoring big were Apple, Nike, Chipotle and Domino’s. Oh, and Sam Adams was the top beer. (I agree)



Auto News for Oct. 28


Say hello to the Lexus LF-FC that its maker says “offers a peak into the design and technology direction of the brands future flagship sedan.” Unveiled at the Tokyo auto show, it is powered by a high output fuel cell system that drives the rear wheels, and also sends power to two in-wheel motors in front. Audio and ventilation can be controlled by simple hand gestures, while the rear seats are designed for those “who enjoy being driven” with a reclining feature and high quality aniline leather all around. At 208.7 inches it is about three inches longer than the Lexus LS.


A 1931 Cadillac Fleetwood featuring 23.7 carat gold leaf clad bodywork, silver external door handles and 24 carat gold plated internal door handles will be the featured attraction at a classic car show in Great Britain. It was reportedly owned by Liberace at one time.

BMW may market a large sedan that will run on hydrogen sometime after 2020. Reuters said it is working with Toyota to perfect a way to compress hydrogen at very low temperature to increase storage capacity and range.

Fresh off its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, Ferrari has posted a record third quarter. New car sales rose 21 percent with strong demand for the 488 GTB, California T, and 458 Speciale.

United Auto Workers Union leaders will now take the proposed contract with GM to the rank and file. They approved the deal yesterday, saying it will improve wages, health care and give members a signing bonus. It would also eliminate, over a period of eight years, the two-tier wage system, a key union goal in its talks with all auto makers. GM also agreed to spend $8.3 billion to upgrade a dozen U.S. plants.

Hyundai has now sold 10 million vehicles here in the United States. It entered the U.S. back in 1986 with a subcompact called the Excel selling 100,000 of them in seven months, an industry record for the most first year sales for an import car company. Over the years, its top selling nameplates have been the Sonata, Elantra, and the Santa Fe/Santa Fe Sport.


Auto News for Oct. 28 (take two) Fiat & VW post losses

A surprise this morning from Fiat Chrysler when the automaker reported a third quarter loss of $330-million due to the cost of vehicle recalls and damaged vehicles in the Tianjin, China port explosion two months ago. Remove those one-time items, and the company reported earnings of 20 cents a share and that would be in line with analysts’ forecasts.

Volkswagen has reported its first quarterly loss in more than a decade after setting aside $7.4 billion to cover the initial estimated costs of the diesel engine emissions case. VW’s third quarter loss came to $1.9 billion dollars and it issued a full year profit warning. The full cost of the emissions case is not yet known.

GM is calling back 1.4 million vehicles for the third time in seven years to fix an oil leak that could lead to a vehicle fire. Previous dealer repairs did not cure the problem as more than 1,300 cars caught fire after a visit to the service department. The latest recall involves 1997-04 Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regal models, and the 2000-04 Chevy Impala, 98-99 Chevy Lumina and Olds Intrigue, and the 98-04 Chevy Monte Carlo, all with the 3.8-liter V6 engines.

Ford is recalling 129,000 Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles for a potential fuel tank issue. It wants to check for possible corrosion under the brackets where the fuel tank is mounted. This condition could result in a fuel odor, fuel leak, check engine light, as well as a possible fire. The recalled vehicles are in states where road salt is used to melt ice on wintertime highways. Ford said it is not aware of any accidents, injuries or fires related to this condition.

And Mini is recalling 86,000 Cooper and Cooper S models from model years 2004 to 2005 because the power steering could fail. Mimi has been pressured by the NHTSA to recall the cars.

We should soon learn more details of that tentative contract agreement between GM and the United Auto Workers Union. At least one local will vote on the measure Friday.

With all the emphasis on fuel cell and electric powered cars at the Tokyo show and other venues, one wonders if the day will come when the only gas stations left will be in a museum somewhere. Incidentally, the only station in my hometown where an attendant would pump gas for you recently went out of business.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said motorcycle thefts nationwide decreased six percent in 2014. A total of 42,856 bikes were stolen with California, Florida and Texas leading the list. Among cities, Las Vegas had the most stolen motorcycles while most stolen brand was Honda.


Auto News for Oct 28 – Tokyo Auto Show Return of the Rotary?

Here is a look at the first Press Day at the Tokyo Auto Show. Part two of today’s Auto News will be posted shortly.

mazda rotary13_RX-VISION_H

For some time there has been speculation that deep inside its development labs Mazda was working on a new rotary engine. At the Tokyo Auto Show today, Mazda unveiled a rotary powered two seat sports car concept, called the RX-VISION. It is said to be a front engine, rear wheel drive configuration “powered by the next generation SKYACTIV-R rotary engine.” The company said while “mass production is currently on hold, Mazda has never stopped research and development efforts …” There are a number of technical issues that must still be resolved for the rotary to be reborn, but auto writers note that two anniversaries involving either the legendary RX-7 or the rotary engine will occur in 2017 and 2018 and that might be a dandy time for the unique engine to reappear.


Suppose the day comes when self driving cars are the norm in the world’s largest cities. What will the experience be like? Mercedes “Vision Tokyo” gives us a taste. Strictly a concept, this is not a car but a “Club Lounge” that would seat five in a hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric vehicle that generates its own electricity and would have a range of more than 600 miles. Inside is an oval shaped couch rather than a seat or two with wraparound LED screens, and side windows painted in the color of the vehicle. If the need arises, Mercedes said, a seat facing in the direction of travel can be released and old fashioned driving can be accomplished.

After leading the development and expansion of EV technology, Nissan once again stands at the forefront of automotive technology. By integrating advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI), Nissan is among the leaders developing practical, real-world applications of autonomous drive technology.

After leading the development and expansion of EV technology, Nissan once again stands at the forefront of automotive technology. By integrating advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI), Nissan is among the leaders developing practical, real-world applications of autonomous drive technology.

After leading the development and expansion of EV technology, Nissan once again stands at the forefront of automotive technology. By integrating advanced vehicle control and safety technologies with cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI), Nissan is among the leaders developing practical, real-world applications of autonomous drive technology.

“The future of autonomous driving and zero emissions EV’s” was unveiled at the Nissan stand. The IDS concept is a self driving car that imitates the driver’s own style and operating preferences even when he or she turns driving over to the vehicle. In Piloted drive, where the car does all the work, Nissan said the steering wheel recedes into the center of the instrument panel and a large flat screen comes out. All for seats rotate slightly inward “facilitating easier conversation.” When the driver wants to take control, all seats face forward, the steering wheel takes its proper position and a heads up display shows route and other driving information. Interior lighting switches to blue “stimulating the ability to concentrate.” Both operating modes are pictured. The ultimate goal in all this, Nissan said, is “zero traffic fatalities and zero emissions.”

Honda fuel cell

Honda unveiled the production model of its fuel cell vehicle that it says “fuses the ease of use of a gasoline powered vehicle and values that are unique to a FCV at a high level.” The fuel cell stack is said to be 33 percent smaller than the previous version and as compact as the V6 engine. Lease sales will begin in Japan next March and eventually leasing will make its way to select U.S. locations.

Impreza two

Over at Subaru, the Impreza 5-door concept is said to preview the next generation of that model and the design direction that Suby will follow in the future. The pictured concept is expected to make its formal debut late next year as a 2017 model.

Readers: stick around more auto news will be coming your way this morning.


Auto News for Oct. 27 – NSX Specs Released – Ford 3Q Out


2017 Acura NSX

2017 Acura NSX

Acura has released some technical data on its upcoming NSX supercar. The mid-mounted twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 will crank out 500 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Add in the hybrid system and the output increases to 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque. That should translate to a 0-60 run in just three seconds even and Acura claims a top track speed of 191 mph. A nine-speed dual clutch transmission will be offered. Hybrid technology will result in what Acura calls “zero delay” when the driver punches the accelerator and the turbo is getting its act together. Electric motors will rotate the front wheels immediately when power is demanded for instant gratification. Here are some key numbers:

Power Unit 
Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Power Unit Front wheels: mechanically independent from rear power unit components, two electric motors (Twin Motor Unit); Rear wheels: Twin-turbocharged V-6 gasoline engine with one Direct Drive Motor and 9-speed DCT
Maximum Total System Power 573 hp
Approx. Top Speed 191 mph
Type Twin-turbocharged DOHC V6
Layout  Longitudinally mid-mounted
Displacement 3493 cc
Horsepower – SAE Net 500 hp @ 6500-7500 rpm
Torque 406 lb.-ft. @ 2000-6000 rpm
Maximum Engine Speed 7500 rpm
Power Output Per Liter 143 hp/liter


Integrated Dynamics System Four-mode system: Quiet, Sport, Sport+, Track
Hill Start Assist  
Idle-Stop System
Wheelbase 103.5 in.
Length 176 in.
Height 47.8 in.
Width 87.3 in
Track (front/rear) 65.2 in. / 63.7 in.
Ground Clearance (unladen) 3.7 in.
Approach/Departure Angles 9.2° / 12.9°
Fuel Tank Capacity 15.6 gal
Curb Weight (without options) 3,803 lbs.
Weight Distribution (front / rear without options) 42% / 58%
Seating Capacity 2


Another gizmo, that’s my technical term, will vary the level of engine sounds fed into the cockpit depending on what drive mode is selected. There will be a rather significant 25 db variance depending on how much you want to scare or impress the person next to you.  After a four year development stage, production of the NSX should begin next year. Acura has not disclosed a price, but $150,000 is the figure being kicked around.


Audi’s A8 L 4.0T Sport model picks up 15 horsepower for 2016 for a total of 450. Check the right boxes and you can get a 22-way Comfort front seat with Valona leather and “diamond pattern stitching.”  Pricing for the top-of-the-line Audi begins at $90,500.

mini comvertible

There is also a new Mini convertible on the horizon, the first powered by BMW group engine technology and architecture. Along with 11 exterior colors, two engines will be offered. The Cooper model comes with an inline 3-cylinder turbo rated at 134 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 1,250 rpm. A six speed manual or a six speed automatic will be customer choices. Move up to the Cooper S and you get an inline 4-cylinder turbo with 189 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 207 lb-ft of torque at 1,250 rpm with the same transmission choices. Mini cites a 0-60 of 6.7 seconds with the manual shift and one tenth of a second longer with the automatic. Top speed will be an “excuse me officer” 142 mph. The drop top will go on sale here next March.

Ford, this morning, reported a record third quarter profit and its best quarter ever in North America helped in part by full availability of its aluminum bodied F-150 pickup. Third quarter earnings more than doubled those of a year earlier while earnings per share, a key number for many on Wall Street, came to 45 cents. Some forecasters were looking for 46 cents a share but revenue topped estimates. Net income hit $1.9 billion, a significant increase from the $835 million a year earlier, basically due to strong demand in North America.

The good times in Detroit should continue if the prediction from Kelley Blue Book comes true next week. KBB is forecasting a 12 percent increase in October new vehicle sales. At 1.43 million, it could be the highest October volume since 2001 thanks to low gas prices, lower jobless claims, and low interest rates.

Auto News for Oct. 26

Just before the clock struck twelve and GM workers could have hit the bricks, the automaker and the United Auto Workers announced tentative agreement on a new labor contract. No details were released and the proposal will now have to be approved by the union leadership team and then members. The tentative deal was reached just 17 minutes before midnight. “We believe that this agreement will present stable long-term significant wage gains and job security commitments to UAW members now and in the future,” said union President Dennis Williams.

For the first nine months of this year no one sold more vehicles globally than Toyota, some 7.5 million and it topped VW as the world’s best-selling brand. The full impact of the VW diesel engine scandal was not reflected in this report since sales figures were totaled up just two weeks after the VW news broke. GM was third in worldwide sales.

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The first 2016 Camaro will roll off the production line at GM’s Lansing Grand River Assembly plant today. Previously the car was assembled in Canada. The third generation Camaro was unveiled to the public last May. It shares a platform with the Cadillac ATS and is smaller and lighter than the 2015 model. Performance has not been overlooked as the SS model comes with a 6.2 liter, 455 horsepower V8 with an available six speed stick or eight speed automatic.



Saturday Road Test – Hang On!!!

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Corvette Stingray

Everything You Expected

First Drive

By Ron Amadon

BOYDS, Md. – So much in life, it seems on occasion, doesn’t live up to one’s expectations.

Perhaps we expect too much, or the product in question has been so diluted that it is living strictly on reputation.

Fortunately, there are still instances where the product meets legendary expectations. Fear not lovers of the automobile – the Corvette still fits that description.

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Breathes there a human who has not come down with an instant case of auto lust as a Stingray passes them by?

Even though my first exposure was a new black convertible way back in 1958, and later a white ’63 split window, I still eagerly look forward to climbing behind the wheel.

And there I was ensconced in a brilliant blue coupe at a “first drive” event backed by a local group of auto writers and industry professionals.

While one can outfit a Corvette with the high performance 6.2-liter, 650 horsepower V8 with 650 lb-ft of torque, those who are unlikely to take their car out to the track every weekend might want to look to the more base models. It’s not like you are suddenly downgrading to a turbo four with a four speed manual!

Instead, there is a 6.2-liter V8 with 455 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm or check the performance exhaust system and up those figures to 460 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque with a redline at 6,600 rpm.

The first drive Stingray had the seven speed manual transmission with short throws and rev matching that enhanced the driving experience. “Rumble, growl, rumble growl,” from the butterfly valves in the exhaust – I love it!

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For those who will drive their Corvette in rush hour traffic, an eight speed automatic with paddle shifts is available.

Z51 equipped models will deliver a pulse quickening 3.8 second run to 60 with the stick, yet the automatic is one-tenth of a second quicker, Chevy claims. There are three trim levels, 1LT, 2LT and 3LT.

Because the temperature was nearing 80 on this rare autumn day the carbon fiber roof panel, standard on all coupes, was removed for the full open air experience. A transparent roof panel is available.

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A nice interior touch was the right sized, leather clad, flat bottomed 14.1-inch diameter steering wheel that carries over to 2016 models.

Also carried over is the Performance Data Recorder, part of navi system, that will give you a read out on track speed, rpm, g-force, lap time and more. A front mounted camera will also record the event and the video can be downloaded for display and boasting later over brews with friends.

For me, handling on some “S” curve side roads was impeccable – what else would you expect? It was so good, I simply had to go back and try it a second time. (So would you!)

Seldom did I get much above fourth gear on my drive such is the amount of satisfying torque available. Slam the right pedal to the floor, and your bod is shoved immediately (!) into the seat, your hair stands on end, and you are thrust forward with great alacrity – a heart pounding, soul enriching experience not unlike the jet pilot who made a very steep, full throttle ascent out of an air base in Spain to escape a massive thunderstorm back in my Air Force days. It was a bit faster than Christopher Columbus’ departure.

When all was said and done, and the Stingray was back at the starting point, I thought, if this car does not rattle your bones and nervous system, one’s level of consciousness needs to be immediately checked.

So hats off to Chevrolet and GM for their willingness to continue the Corvette tradition of performance, handling and comfort, at a world class standard and delivered at an affordable price. I think that somewhere, Zora Arkus-Duntov is smiling.

For 2016, the coupe carries a starting price of $56,395 and the convertible has an MSRP of $60,395.

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Auto News for Oct. 23 or 727 Horsepower

King edition

We may be seeing a limited renaissance of the horsepower wars! Ford, in partnership with Richard Petty’s Garage will be produce a very limited number of special-edition Mustangs that will crank out up to 727 horsepower, or 20 more than the Dodge Hellcat. (Over to you, GM.) In the production run of 300, there will be 243 Mustang King GT’s, 43 Mustang King Premiers and 14 King Premier Convertibles. The 5.0-liter Ford V8 gets fortified with a supercharger adding 235 horsepower to make a total of 670 hp. If that is not enough, you can order Petty’s Garage Mustang with an additional 57 hp bringing it up to a pavement twisting 727 hp. Ford dealers are now said to be taking orders with prices ranging from $67,495 for the King Edition to $90,495 for the King Premier.

Forty-thousand United Auto Workers Union members have a new contract this morning with Fiat Chrysler. After rejecting the first proposal, 77 percent of voting members approved the second one. Workers will get a pay increase and the company will eliminate the two-tier wage system over the next eight years, a key union demand. The focus of talks now moves over to General Motors.

GM meanwhile announced it will add 1,200 workers at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, the last facility it operates in the city. (It is on the border with both.) GM is adding a full shift at the plant that will produce the new flagship Cadillac, the CT6, in the first quarter of 2006. It will be available with a 400 horsepower twin-turbo V6 with an eight-speed automatic and rear wheel drive. The CT6 is pictured.

On the other hand, GM will lay off 510 workers at two Michigan plants. One produces the Chevy Sonic and Buick Verano that are not exactly in hot demand with the current low gas prices. The second factory produces the slow selling Cadillac ATS and the CTS. Some of the workers could be called back when the second begins production, at some point, of the next generation Camaro.

The average auction price for VW diesels has dropped 16 percent since the news broke of the emissions crisis. The average auction price for gas powered VW’s fell 2.9 percent, according to Kelley Blue Book. It said some auctions are holding off selling diesels.



Auto News for Oct. 22

Consumer Reports has dropped its recommend rating for Tesla citing a number of problems reported by owners. In its annual reliability survey, CR said owners have reported problems with drivetrains, power equipment and charging equipment among other things. Now Elon Musk has Tweeted that “Consumer Reports reliability survey includes a lot of early production cars. Already addressed in new cars.” He noted that CR has reported that “97% of owners expect their next car to be a Tesla (the acid test.)”

Backers say more than 50 vehicles will make their debut during press days at the Los Angeles Auto Show starting November 17th. Among them will be a redesigned Buick LaCrosse, Range Rover Evoque convertible and the 2016 Nissan Sentra. Scion will introduce a concept car which shows the company’s design direction in the future


How many pizzas can a Chevy Spark hold? Eighty if it is a specially modified Spark developed by Domino’s and that includes a warming oven. Domino’s took out all of the seats, well with the exception of the driver’s, and will deliver 96 of the cars to franchises in more than two dozen markets.

Early returns indicate strong member support for the second proposed contract between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler. The Detroit News said more than 70 percent of union members supported the pact in some plants. It said support is so strong, it is mathematically impossible for the deal to fail.

There was one big hit on Wall Street yesterday – Ferrari. Its shares closed six percent over the initial asking price in its market debut. Fiat Chrysler sold a nine percent stake in the storied automaker to fund a long term growth plan.

Subaru is co-sponsoring a giant-screen, 3-D documentary that will celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service. The film will be released in IMAX and giant screen theatres worldwide in February of 2016.