A Tale of Two Test Drives

Last weekend I drove 3 of my top contender vehicles, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. As it turns out, the vehicle I drove on Sunday was the Genesis G70 and that’s what I purchased. That one will get it’s own post, but let’s talk about the two I drove on Saturday first. Those are the Mazda CX-5 and the Kia Stinger.  

Mazda CX-5

I added this one to my list pretty late during research after I happened to watch a video that mentioned the 0-60 time. After reading through the website / brochure and watching reviews I was sure I wanted to drive it. I wasn’t disappointed.

Outside

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  • Looked really great up close. It had graceful but interesting lines, a large grille, interesting headlights and taillights, and neat chrome shapes on the front. The red color looks good online but amazing in person. That’s the color I would have chosen if I purchased it. 
  • They had one Signature model on the lot, which is the trim I wanted. It had the 250 hp turbo engine and all of the features available, which included a heads-up-display, heated steering wheel, full driver assistance, around view monitor, rain sensing wipers, auto high beams, and a 10 speaker audio system. It even had higher end features like steering-linked headlamps that follow the road as you steer, power folding side mirrors, and a completely digital center gauge. 

Inside

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  • The interior was really nice, just like the reviews said. There were soft touch materials everywhere and real wood / metal accents around the cabin. All of the buttons were in good positions and had a solid feel to them. 
  • The leather was a dark cherry brown which looked black from the outside but showed up when you were in the vehicle. It wasn’t nearly as noticeable as the saddle brown in my TL but it was still different and interesting. 
  • The seats were comfortable but didn’t have any fancy features like adjustable side bolsters or thigh extensions. They only had two-way lumbar adjustment on the driver side and none on the passenger. This is the exact same seat setup as my TL.
  • The digital center gauge looked pretty sharp. Cool feature: the CX-5 can recognize speed limit signs, and when it does, it draws a red line on the speedometer showing how far you’ve exceeded it. Neat. 
  • The cooling on the seats was very strong on high, more so than my TL, which was nice. 
  • The infotainment screen was 8” diagonal and worked fine but you can tell it wasn’t the highest resolution. It wasn’t as high-res as our Santa Fe and neither were its multiple cameras. They worked fine enough though so I didn’t think it was a huge drawback.
  • The infotainment system / CarPlay was controlled with a rotary knob when driving and I found it easy to use. My TL was the same so I’m used to it. The knob is on the center console and it was easy for me to rest my elbow on the center armrest and use it. It’s in front of the cup holders so we were a bit worried that cups of coffee or a water bottle would impede its use. We didn’t have any cups with us to try though. 
  • The audio system was good. I don’t think it was quite as good as my TL but it was still nice and would have been fine.
  • As expected, the interior was roomier than my TL. There was a little bit more space in the front, better storage, more space in the back, and much more cargo space. The CX-5 has some of the smallest cargo space in its class but its still nearly 3x the space I had in my TL so that would have been a huge upgrade anyway. 
  • The back seat had a 40/20/40 split, allowing you to just pop the center down for large items without disturbing one of the other sides. Super useful.

Driving

  • The heads up display was wild! I thought it projected onto the windshield but it actually appeared out at the front of the hood. I couldn’t see it because I was looking in the wrong place! It could display a few different things including traffic directions and speed. Having it display the speed so I didn’t have to look at the gauges was more beneficial than I thought it would be and really sold me on having that feature in the final vehicle I purchased. 
  • It had more power than I expected, allowing me to easily merge onto the highway and pass. Because it’s a 4 cylinder the engine was definitely louder and rougher than my TL when pushing it hard, but overall power built pretty smoothly, especially during city driving. It had a good boost to it but didn’t feel spastic or unnatural. Acceleration wasn’t better than my TL but it was very close and I felt like it was a compromise that I could make.
  • Handling was really impressive as well. The steering was tight and it drove like a car. Turning was great and I didn’t feel like I was going to tip over. The suspension was stiff and responsive (not floaty like our Santa Fe) and it took bumps about as well as my TL, which is to say a bit firm but not horrible. 
  • The heated steering wheel only heated the sides of the wheel (not the top and bottom) but I tried it out and it seemed fine. Way better than nothing at all. 
  • The steering wheel was a bit thin for my tastes. In reality it’t pretty average but it didn’t provide the same easy grip as the thicker, sportier wheel in my TL.
  • Road noise was about the same as my TL, not amazing but not horrible.
  • The paddle shifters work really well. They shift almost instantly, which is not the case in my TL. Go Mazda!
  • The proximity key locked the doors automatically when you left the car, which was super cool. This seems to be a standard feature on Mazdas (since I was looking 5 years ago) and I wish more vehicles offered it. 

Overall I was incredibly impressed with the CX-5. It performed and handled much better than I expected. It was roomy, nice looking, full featured, and fun to drive. It also had the best fuel economy of my top contenders at 22/27/24 (city/highway/combined). In fact, the only features that it was “missing” according to The Matrix were perimeter lighting, electronically-adjustable suspension, wireless charging, adjustable side bolsters and thigh extension, and power tilt steering. Otherwise, it had all of the features of my other contenders for significantly less. 

In terms of my test drive experience, my salesperson at Seacoast Mazda was great; he let me drive it wherever I wanted, didn’t try to sell me on anything, but spoke up if I had a question about a feature. I told him I was looking at some other vehicles as well and he didn’t pressure me into buying anything. He said to try out the other vehicles and let him know if I had any interest in the CX-5. That was it. Very nice. 

2020 Kia Stinger GT1

This is a car I’ve been following since it came out in 2018. It looked phenomenal and had everything I wanted on paper. Reviews were pretty good and I was very excited to drive something with a 365 hp twin turbo V6!

Outside

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  • The outside looks great. I drove a blue one and it looked really nice. The front looks really sporty and the lights are awesome with all of the LED grid details. It looks great from the side as well, if a bit long and awkward toward the hatch. 
  • I think the fake vents on the hood were silly but they weren’t that offensive. 
  • The back looks OK but I think the tail lamps were a bit small and the way they wrap around the side is a bit weird (especially because the wrap-around part is just a reflector). 
  • I ultimately wanted the top-end GT2 trim, but they only had a GT1 on the lot. The engine is the same, but the GT2 is missing low beam assist, power trunk, surround view monitor, heads up display, Nappa leather, 16-way driver’s seat, 12-way passenger seat, and heated rear seats. I obviously didn’t get to play with any of those features but I still got to experience the engine and the all wheel drive.

Inside

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  • Ingress and egress are tight. I bumped my head on the corner of the door opening getting in and my hair touched the ceiling. I had to lower the seat to get enough space. I’m 5′ 10″. The low seat required me to hoist myself out of the car when I was done driving it. 
  • Overall the interior is pretty nice. It is simple but the materials are soft and things seem to be in logical places and are easy to use. Buttons felt good. The leather on the seats felt nice and the controls were well laid out. Kia offers a red interior that looks really nice in the photos. I was considering it. 
  • The doors had vertical handles for grip, which I really like; they were one of my favorite places to rest my left arm and grip while driving my TL. The door knobs were also metal and felt nice in my hand.
  • The infotainment system was very responsive and graphics were very sharp. It had a semi-gloss finish that increased the contrast and made the colors pop. It’s nearly identical software to what’s in our Santa Fe and is very clear and easy to use. CarPlay worked pretty well too.
  • The audio system was amazing. It was super loud at 10/40 volume. It is probably a better system than my TL. 
  • The steering wheel was chunky and had a flat bottom. It was very easy to hold and kind of fun too. 
  • The screen between the gauges had sharp graphics and could display interesting info like turbo boost and torque. It was responsive and interesting.
  • The gear shifter was chunky and easy to pull. I really like the wide design of it. 
  • I fit comfortably behind the driver’s seat when adjusted for myself which was a good indicator that the boys would fit in the back fine. I measured the distance from the edge of the back seat to the back of the driver’s seat and it turned out a respectable 7”… until I did the same measurement in my TL: 10”. Hmmm. 
  • Overall I liked the interior feature set and design, but there was something about the sculpting of it that made it feel very tight. I didn’t feel like I could move my elbows around and it felt too cozy for me. I had a similar feeling when I drove an Infinity G37 in 2014. 
  • This is picky, but I felt like there was a lot of black and silver and not much else. My TL had lots of different shapes and curves; there was black, gray, and brown. I’m also not a fan of circular vents; I don’t know why, but I’m a traditional rectangular person.

Driving

  • I expected the performance to blow me away and it did, kind of. When I wanted to go fast it went fast, but there was definitely a bit of lag to it. I’d press on the gas and it would start to accelerate and then WHOOSH, it would go. It made the ride a bit too herky-jerky for my liking. That may have nothing to do with the Stinger itself and really is just the way the engine works. My G70 has the same exact engine and can have the same exact behavior, I just think I’m know how to use it better now. 
  • Steering was tight and felt really good. The suspension was responsive like the CX-5 but it took bumps much more smoothly. I was extremely surprised by how well it took bumps while still being responsive.  It was far smoother than my TL and really quite comfortable. 
  • The engine was loud during acceleration but not as loud as the CX-5. It had more of a deep sporty growl than the tinny sound of the CX-5. It’s also “enhanced” through the audio system, which can be turned off. Overall it’s not bad. 
  • The back window was virtually useless. It is long but not tall and only offered about a foot of visibility. Good thing it has a backup camera. 
  • The paddle shifters were quick and seemed to keep me in gear longer than they did on my TL. The gear shift could be popped into manual mode for complete control. 

Overall the car was really nice but the interior felt tight to me. I liked it but didn’t fall in love with it so I questioned whether it was worth the $15k premium over the CX-5. I still needed to drive a G70 anyway before moving closer to a decision. 

My Kia dealership experience was incredibly different than Mazda. Whereas the Mazda dealership let me drive and go, the Kia dealership really wanted to sell me a car that day. I decided to humor them to see what they could offer and find out what they’d give me for my trade. The first offer they gave me was not good and I made it very clear. 

We were there longer than we intended and they got really desperate. They gave me the whole “it’s the end of the month, we’ve had a bad month, we need one more sale, what can we do to get you into a car today” thing. They were willing to order me the trim and color I wanted as long as I purchased that day but I continued to tell them that I wanted to drive a G70. They tried to tell me that the G70 was the same car and continued trying to pressure me into purchasing. 

Obviously I didn’t cave. The dealership experience had nothing to do with my purchase choice. Overall I found the Stinger to be an awesome vehicle and I may still have purchased it if the G70 wasn’t available.

 

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