The BMW M340d Touring is surely the best long-term test car I’ve ever lived with. Fast, economical and fun to drive with more than a hint of undercover cop car vibes, it ticked all the boxes.
But since giving the car back to BMW, and thanks to a new Woodford trailer we’ve been loaned, I needed something that could tow. Because I like ‘left-field’, it had to be something a little different and decent to look at, which is why I set my sights on a Mazda CX-5 with - much like my Porsche 944 - a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder naturally-aspirated petrol engine. Not the obvious choice for towing, but there’s a reason we went for it, and I’ll get to that shortly.
The car in question is this top-spec GT Sport CX-5 with all-wheel drive, 194bhp, an automatic gearbox and a tow bar. Yes, it’s an SUV, but its distinctive looks and gunmetal grey 19-inch wheels give it presence and it is - for me at least - a car I look back at when walking away. It’s also in Soul Red, arguably the best car colour, since it’s shared with ‘Phil’, my NA MX-5
The thing I like most about this car, though, is Mazda’s refusal to downsize the engine and add a turbo. It’s an old-school marriage of displacement and natural aspiration to prove that big engines need love too. The Skyactiv-G unit uses cylinder-deactivation while cruising which, on paper at least, enables it to achieve 35mpg. On a good run, and without any weight on the back, that’s near enough the figure I’m getting on a long journey.
I’ve had the car for a couple of months now, and early impressions have been good. The interior is spacious, the dashboard is attractive and uncluttered, and there are well-sized physical buttons for all functions - no messing around with screens to get to climate controls here.
On the move, the first thing you notice is the ride. Mazda is known for its sporty setups, and the CX-5 is no different, with firm spring rates that mean the car never really settles on the road. At low speeds this is fine, but above 50mph - and compared with lower-slung estates - the ride is best described as ‘jiggly’. Again, though, this is a high riding SUV, so ride is almost always compromised.
And now, to what this car is like to tow with. The answer: actually much better than I expected. The petrol engine takes some work (and a fair amount of noise) to drag cars uphill, but keep on top of the gearing, and it’s got plenty of torque and power to cope. Its kerb weight of 1719kg also gives it a maximum train weight of 4140kg, the very upper limit of anything we need to tow.
I’ll report back soon about life with a left-field SUV, but for now, let me know your thoughts about it - would you pick one over an estate, and if you had to choose an SUV, is the CX-5 on your radar? Because if not, it probably should be.