2024 Mazda CX-5 Carbon Turbo Edition by Ben Lewis

We recently spent some time in the Mazda CX-50, which would seem to be designed to replace the current CX-5, which is their best-selling model. Mazda replaced the CX-3 with the CX-30, and the CX-9 with the CX-90. So were we wrong. Maybe, as the carmaker continues to offer the CX-5, so we felt it was good time to drive one again and see how it shapes up against the ’50.

Zircon Sand Persuasion

One thing that gives away that this is a 2024 is the new Carbon Turbo Edition, which wears an exclusive paint color that Mazda calls Zircon Sand Metallic. It’s an interesting color that seems to be a bit polarizing – some loved it, and others didn’t. We loved it. If it’s not your cup of tea (or sand?) you can also get the Carbon Turbo in Rhodium White.

Those familiar with the CX-5 will find that little has changed on the CX-5 for this year, and that’s good – this is an elegant design that still looks fresh.

Up front is a prominent blacked-out grille that’s handsome but not overdone, with angled LED headlights and a significant power bulge in the hood that gives off an angry, aggressive vibe.

The profile is sporty yet clearly SUV, with a tall stance, and a nice amount of greenhouse. There’s a crisp shoulder line that runs across the fenders and doors, and creates a muscular look, while blacked-out trim, fat 19-inch, black alloy wheels and a scooped-out lower door says capable and tough.

Like the front, the rear has an elegant take, and the signature scooped LED taillights are pure Mazda, with a sporty rear wing on top for some aero cred. It all comes tied together with a blacked-out lower fascia and round dual exhausts that hint at the turbo power under the hood.

Bespoke Interior

Mazda has already been making some of the nicest interiors – giving off a very Audi-like vibe, and with the Carbon Turbo models, they’ve stepped it up even more.

The first thing that strikes you about the Carbon Turbo’s interior are the Terracotta leather-trimmed seats, that offer a lovely contrast to the Zircon Sand exterior. Adding to the look, there are black synthetic suede inserts on the seat, while terracotta stitching on the door trim, center console, armrest and shift boot upscale the vibe, along with a black headliner that makes things cozy. Another plus – the front seats are heated and cooled, a real luxury touch.

This is on top of the already-delightful CX-5 interior, with a horizontal dash that creates a sense of width, and all the plastics have nice graining and a softness that feel expensive to the touch. Pop down into the supportive seats, and there’s a chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel and proper shift lever – all located in a way you’d expect from a sport sedan.

Another sporty note is the gauge package – following the handsome and thoughtful design we’ve seen in other Mazda models. There’s a digital speedo display in the middle of the cluster, flanked by a nicely-sized 8,000 rpm analog tach and useful combo gauge.  

Info-tainment is handled by a 10.25-inch touchscreen display that sits big and beautiful on top of the center dashboard. You’ve got all the goods like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Mazda Connected Services and in-car Wi-Fi hot spot.  There’s also a handy spot for wireless smartphone charging at the front of the console.

We have to say, we’ve gotten used to Mazda’s Multi-Function Commander Control, an Audi-like large rotary controller, surrounded by small switches and a handy volume knob. While other makers use only touchscreen, or create a digital sweep of connected dual displays, we find the CX-5’s system works exceptionally well.

While we always like the driver’s seat, the rear seats are adult friendly, and they lay down flat for plenty of cargo room. Interesting note – the larger CX-50 actually has slightly less maximum cargo room. Go figure…. One thing we did note, on our previous CX-5 we had only a manual rear hatch, but on our turbo model it’s powered – as if we needed another reason to opt for the turbo!

Turbo Please!

We’ll admit, we’re conflicted here. The last CX-5 we drove was the 187-horsepower non-turbo and we marveled at how well it went, making us think the turbo wasn’t necessary. Well…. this tester is turbo, and yeah, we’re seduced by the power!

Seduction starts with that powerful turbo engine.  Something however is up with how the numbers are reported – last year Mazda said 256 horsepower, and not they say 227 horsepower. Not sure what’s going on there, but at least that nice fat 310 lb.-ft. of torque remains.

No matter what the number, the Turbo engine is a thrill, pulling smoothly and powerfully off the line with a nice throaty sound. The 6-speed automatic is quick and responsive, while paddle shifters add to the fun. We especially liked the handy Drive Mode switch next to the shifter, and we enjoyed clicking into Sport Mode – which turns the speedometer face a nice angry red.

Mazda is the company that brings us the Miata, so it’s no surprise that the CX-5 is a superb handler. Steering is nice and precise, and has some weight to it, giving good feedback. The All-Wheel Drive system helps dole out all that power and with G-vectoring, it’s fun to give the boot coming out of a turn and feel it hunker down and go. And if you do decide to go beyond the pavement, the CX-5 also features an Off-Road Mode and Hill Launch Assist.

We’ll stay on the pavement thanks, enjoying the well-balanced suspension that also provides a smooth, supple ride, making the CX-5 a perfect dual-purpose machine…weekday commuter, weekend sports car – with room for five! No other compact SUV offers this delectable blend of road manners.

Mazda also continues to make sure you feel well protected, and our tester included standard Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure and Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.

How Much Green for Zircon Sand?

We’re always pleased about the affordability of the CX-5. You can get into a 2.5S Select with standard AWD starting at $29,300, and for a well-equipped, luxurious and fun to drive SUV that’s exceptional value.

Our top-of-the-line Carbon Turbo Edition started at $37,000 and featured that beautiful Zircon Sand Metallic paint ($450), rear bumper guard ($135), and Mazda Navigation ($450). Add in $1,375 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $39,140.

Competitors would be the big dogs in the segment, like the Honda CR-V at $37,965 a fine all-rounder, but the CX-5 is the driver’s choice. And of course the Toyota RAV4 at $41,770. The Toy plays more in the off-roady vibe, another good choice, but a very different vibe.

And if you’re thinking about the sibling CX-50 it comes in a bit more expensive at $44,675.

Stylish, luxurious, and that great Mazda drive –and let’s not forget turbo power – the 2024 Mazda CX-5 Carbon Turbo is our favorite small SUV!

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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