Thursday, March 09 2017 08:11

Test Drive Rockin' the Road - 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 GT vs 2016 Mazda CX-9

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Last month, while the folks at Mazda USA were in Southern California doing an unveiling of some of their upcoming rides for 2017, I was here in Northern Illinois enjoying one of their most recent releases - the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD. Now, I think a lot of readers might not be familiar with a mid-model-year update, as it's far less common these days as it used to be. Quite simply, the CX-5 received some updates to carry the '16 into '17, and hence the 2016.5 moniker. Thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures and some suburbs-to-city adventures I had planned (the Nintendo Switch launch, for one), I was able to spend a solid week with the car, giving it a hands-on evaluation in several conditions. More importantly, I got some real family time in this one, using one of its Mazda siblings (and one of my favorite cars of the past year) for some comparison... the CX-9.

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Review

As a crossover, the CX-5 is middle-of-the-road in terms of size. With seating for five, it's comfortable without being overly spacious, but its size make for some decent mileage - something important for families like ours, where one parent has a highway commute. The combined city/hwy 26MPG is solid (24 city/30 highway), with an estimated savings of $250 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle.

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Review

What Mazda did for their mid-year deal is an update to some of the standard features, packing in a ton of value as standard equipment. I'm talking features like back-up camera, rear cross-traffic alert, power moonroof, etc., and that's barely scratching the surface. The Grand Touring package adds a bit to the price here, but overall we end up with a great-looking vehicle that works well for a family of four.  I ended up using the CX-5 to pick-up our first-ever load of Girl Scout Cookies (proud dad of a first-year Brownie)!

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Review

One of my few gripes with Mazda over the past few years has been their "tablet style" infotainment system, which essentially looks like a tablet that's standing on the dashboard. I was very excited to see that absent on this one, with a more traditional, in-dash screen included. For whatever reason, the forthcoming 2017 CX-5 is back to the tablet thing - not a deal-breaker for me, but I'm not a fan of that choice.

2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Review

2016.5 Mazda CX-5: Starting at $21,795 | MSRP as driven: $34,385 

For larger families, the CX-9 seats seven with fold-down third-row seating. I had the CX-9 Signature AWD edition here at Rock Father HQ last October, and I sorta fell in love with it. It's just a really comfortable and great-looking car, and everything from its Machine Gray exterior to Auburn interior just fit like a glove for me.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

What was particularly striking for me is the audio - the 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2 Surround Sound system. It's no secret that Bose makes some great products, but in this particular configuration, in this particular car, there's something magical happening. 

I took our family to the final night of Chicago White Sox baseball for the season, a page-turner as the name on Comiskey Park was about to be switched from US Cellular Field to Guaranteed Rate Field going forward. Appropriately, it was "Rock and Roll Night," but the Sox still lost. At least our family was traveling in style!

2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

The combined city/hwy 23MPG could be better (21 city/27 highway), with it estimated that buyers will spend $750 more in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle. As you go larger in vehicle, the mileage typically drops, and that's the case here - though the CX-9 hardly feels what I would call "large." It's comfortable, though for our family of four, we really wouldn't have much use for third-row seating as a norm. 

2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

Still, the CX-9 ranks among my favorite vehicles of the past year, and one that I would happily drive on a daily basis.

2016/17 Mazda CX-9: Starting at $31,520 | MSRP as driven: $45,215

Match-Up! Mazda CX-5 vs Mazda CX-9: Which would I choose? For my personal tastes and three-factor review system of style, function and safety, the CX-9 ranks tops, with its stylish interior and exterior just feeling right. But what would I probably buy? For our family, the CX-5 is the more sensible choice when considering the amount of daily drive miles, interior size plus the total price. Both are excellent vehicles, but for the average family, the CX-5 wins out in this match-up, even though I'd be inclined to go with the CX-9 despite the cost. 

Check out MazdaUSA.com to see the full lineup. Thanks to Mazda and DriveShop for coordinating our review vehicles.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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