Listen: If you’re shopping for a crossover, and by all accounts most Americans are, there is no better option on the market than the 2019 Mazda CX-5. When we test drove the all-new 2017 CX-5, we were astounded by its marked improvements over the already-great previous generation. We noted then its biggest drawback was its average 187 horsepower. The CX-5 didn’t feel slow, and it certainly made up for it in other ways, like by delivering superior road-hugging abilities. But, it was probably enough to turn off buyers who do their shopping by analyzing spec sheets.
For 2019, Mazda addressed that exact issue with a vengeance. With an all-new 2.5-liter SkyActiv Turbo good for 250 horsepower, the CX-5 not only leapfrogs bestselling rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but lands squarely in the realm of luxury stalwarts such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
When we drove the 2017 CX-5, we likened the handling to that of a Porsche Macan. Now it has the power to match. Among its direct competition, only the 2019 Toyota RAV4 breaks the 200-horsepower mark, ringing in at 203 (and the Hybrid makes an even more impressive 219 ponies), while the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and VW Tiguan all sit between 180 and 190.
Not only does the CX-5 turbo lay waste to similarly-priced rivals in its class, it out-guns those in the pricier luxury midsize SUV segment as well. The BMW X3 starts at 248 hp, the Mercedes GLC 300 at 241, and the 2019 Porsche Macan at 248. Only the Acura RDX and Infiniti QX50 top the Mazda in power-to-weight ratio, but neither can compete on torque, which is responsible for the pin-you-to-the-seatback feel. And its handling shines even brighter, providing far more road feel than its peers and out-hustling the Acura. The Infiniti’s road manners feel downright sloppy in comparison.
The turbo engine has a couple of caveats, though. It’s only offered on all-wheel-drive models, and on two newly introduced trim levels. Grand Touring Reserve starts at $34,870 and takes everything offered on the previous line-topper and adds auto-folding mirrors, wiper de-icers, ventilated front seats, as well as a heated rear seat and steering wheel.
The 2019 CX-5 was already a standout in its class, a crossover that’s fun to drive — just as we’ve been saying for years. It doesn’t need the extra power, but that’s been on CX-5 shoppers’ wishlists for a while, and it enhances the car’s natural charms. The upgraded connectivity option and luxurious cabin take the CX-5 upmarket in a natural way — with elegant surfacing that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks or hide-away vents. Together, the power and enhanced cabin strip away the excuses we’ve heard from folks on the fence about the CX-5. There’s not much more one can ask for in a modern family vehicle.