As my girlfriend and I loaded up the CX-5, which was already 10 months into our one-year loan with 25,000 miles on the odometer, I realized this was my first non-work-related road trip with the Mazda. We were headed to Utah to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Monument Valley, which are all about 10 hours away from our Orange County home. We filled up all 30.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row with camping gear, firewood, food, drinks (and beer, duh), and snacks for the road and made sure our Spotify playlists were at the ready.
We hit the road just in time for L.A. traffic, which is any time of day, really. California State Route 91’s eastbound lanes were clogged, as usual, so I activated Mazda’s handy adaptive cruise control to ease the pain of sitting in traffic, a luxury I now look for in any new car I drive. We eventually escaped traffic and cruised to our motel in St. George, Utah, but not without a stop in Las Vegas for some delicious hand-pulled noodles.
We started early the next day to make it in time to find a first come, first served campsite in Moab. Our campground was still 5 hours away—thank goodness for Utah’s 80-mph speed limits. The CX-5 was laden with stuff and inhaling thin air at an elevation of 6,000 feet, and its engine really struggled, especially on steeper grades. It downshifted to maintain 80 mph, and at times it got a bit scary to pass semis. On the upside, the CX-5’s quiet interior (16.3 sones average at 65 mph, according to a previous test) and thumping Bose sound system made the long drive bearable. And we made it just in time to snag the very last campsite. Phew. We unpacked and set up camp next to the Colorado River under the shade of red canyon walls and cracked open a celebratory beer.
We spent the next two days exploring the touristy sights of Arches, Canyonlands, and the quaint little town of Moab. But my favorite part was traversing down Shafer Trail in Canyonlands. It’s a narrow dirt road that connects to White Rim Road with sheer drops and tight switchbacks sans guardrails. It took a bit of convincing to get my girlfriend to agree to the drive because she doubted the CX-5 could manage. “No faith! We’re in an off-roading beast!” I sarcastically exclaimed. From what I read, we wouldn’t even really need four-wheel drive, though that didn’t stop passing Jeep drivers from throwing puzzled looks our way. Obviously, we didn’t die. The CX-5 felt surefooted the entire time, and its modest 7.6 inches of ground clearance was never an issue.
The next day we continued to our next campsite three hours away in Monument Valley, overlooking the iconic buttes jutting from the desert floor. We did more soft-roading on the Valley Drive, a 17-mile dirt road that passes through the beautiful Navajo Tribal Park. Hollywood should do some filming here. Oh, wait. We made it back to camp in time to watch the sunset over dinner and drinks, stargazed, and watched the Milky Way appear from behind the buttes. Tired, a little buzzed, and still amazed at the day’s sights, we headed to bed.
After watching the sunrise, we packed up and began the 10-hour drive home. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, but after a few hours I was reminded of how uncomfortable the CX-5’s seats are. I’m not a big guy—5-foot-8 and 160 pounds—but I feel like the seat bottom is too small and flat. Other than that, the CX-5 handled our 1,700-plus-mile road trip like a champ and averaged an indicated 26.3 mpg. That’s not the greatest mileage, but overall I’m still impressed with Mazda’s best-seller.
Read more about our long-term 2017 Mazda CX-5: