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Inside Mazda

Suspension of Belief: How Mazda Made the CX-5 More Comfortable Without Sacrificing Outstanding Handling

Mazda engineers are never really satisfied with anything they do. They’re always looking for the next improvement. Sometimes, that means making dozens of small changes that add up to an improvement that the driver and passengers will notice.

When the engineers started working on the 2017 Mazda CX-5, they had some specific goals in mind, namely ride quality and refinement to match, providing a truly premium experience at a very attainable price point.

“The old CX-5 had remarkably good steering and handling and we wanted to keep that,” said Mazda vehicle development engineer Dave Coleman. “At the same time, we wanted to really improve the drive quality, the comfort and reduce noise. That was a tall order.”

Coleman and his team worked long hours, looking for anything they could do to achieve their goals without compromising what they already had. Innovations like a solid mount for the steering system helped, offering more direct feeling while using Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control to smooth out steering and ride quality. The engineers also implemented new suspension bushing designs.

“Rather than using our tools to make the best-handling SUV in its class handle even better, we used them to keep the handling where it was and to get a more comfortable ride quality,” Coleman explained. “That’s something we’ve been focusing on a lot more than we had in the past.”

“People tend to think of handling as something that matters only to driving enthusiasts,” he said. “But we’ve put a huge effort into the way that the car behaves in completely normal, ordinary city driving. We really pay attention to how you drive around the corner, merge onto the freeway, or even just pull out of a parking lot. We want to make sure the CX-5 precisely follows your exact intended path and whether you have to make little adjustments or corrections in the steering. That’s really what we mean when we’re talking about handling with Mazda.”

Mazda has always been known as a “driver’s car” company. Coleman’s team has maintained that focus, but also gives plenty of attention to the passengers.

“We are putting a lot of effort into the ride quality in the backseat and road noise back there,” he said, “to make sure that the interior noise level in the backseat and the front seat are as close to the same as possible. It’s a lot easier to have a conversation that way.”

Among other improvements made were the addition of door seals that channel air away from the cracks, thicker carpet and even improved adhesives and insulations where the driver and passengers may never see.

“We made a big change in the structure at the interface between the hood and the windshield wipers,” Coleman pointed out. “We dropped the wipers down further below the hood. The back of the hood is a little bit higher so you don’t have that high velocity air flow off the hood smacking into the windshield wipers, so it generates less noise there.”

The detail work to reduce noise also extended around the sides of the new CX-5. Coleman’s team looked at every part of the body.

“The other place where we get less wind noise is in the detailed shape of the seal around the doors,” Coleman said. “Where the window frame meets the body at the top, there’s a little lip seal. That lip is a couple of millimeters longer now. You wouldn’t even notice it, but that makes a much smoother transition as the air goes from the body to the window frame to the glass, and that’s right at the point where noise is generated. We’ve also got new seals at the back of the door. It’s completely sealed now, so there’s no place for air to jump in there and make a little turbulence. There’s a bunch of engineering trickery like that..”

When engineers spend time on the details, the cumulative effect is impressive, making the new generation of Mazda crossover SUVs the best-handling and most comfortable the company has ever made.

“The new CX-5 is much more civilized in every way,” Coleman insisted, “but it still has its heart intact.”