Despite the fact that I drive a sparsely appointed 2005 Toyota Rav4, I'm a huge fan of technology. In fact, I have a short list of tech features that I must have in my next vehicle, which includes things like a backup camera, USB input, heated seats, remote start, keyless entry and dual climate control.
But after driving the 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring edition, my short list got a bit longer. Taking the CX-5 on a road trip from Atlanta to Orange Beach, Alabama, I discovered three features that I didn't think I needed that I now must have:
Built-In Navigation. Being directionally challenged, I've always depended on either my iPhone or an external Magellan unit to get me from point A to point B. And I've never been one to think that an integrated navigation package is worth the extra cost. I was wrong.
One challenge with an external navigation system is that it's hard to hear it when music is playing. But with the integrated system in the CX-5, the stereo volume automatically lowered when the system gave directions. I kept my attention on the road instead of turning the stereo down and glancing at the screen to figure out my next turn. Plus, I had no trouble using the voice commands to enter an address, giving the built-in system extra points for hands-free safety and convenience.
Bluetooth Integration. I wasn't originally planning to use the Bluetooth integration, but I'm glad I did. My phone stayed tucked away in my purse, so I never had to reach for it when making or receiving calls. The audio quality was clear on both ends, and it was really easy to set up and use.
As an added bonus, the Bluetooth integration enabled me to play music from my phone wirelessly, so I didn't even have to use the USB input. It was pure convenience. With no wires and no hitting the play button on my phone, my music would pick back up right where it left off when I got back in the car.
Dare I say that, with the exception of a few interference issues that left my music skipping like a scratched CD a couple of times, it was a seamless experience.
Blind Spot Monitoring. We started our trip at night, which usually isn't a big deal, but when you're driving a vehicle that's new to you on the busy and complicated interstates in Atlanta, it can be a bit nerve wracking.
However, the blind spot monitoring system in the CX-5 put me at ease. When a car was on either side of the vehicle, a light would illuminate on that side mirror, so I knew to not try to move over. Even better, the system would beep if I flipped the turn signal on when a vehicle was on the same side of the car.
While I particularly enjoyed this feature for myself, I couldn't help but think of how beneficial this would be for young drivers and drivers like my father, who is blind in one eye. This feature is definitely going on my must-have list for my next vehicle.
Hopping back into my Rav4 after I turned in the keys to the CX-5, I let out a bit of a sigh. I have loved my Rav4, but staring at the audio adapter for my iPhone hanging out of the cassette deck and the navigation unit in the glove box while wistfully looking at my side mirrors and hoping for some communication, I had but one thought: I have to have those new features.