C.J. Wilson to ‘Shoot the Puck’ for
Children’s Charity Nov. 3
|Oct. 11, 2013||
CHICAGO—Chicago sports fan and Major League star C.J. Wilson will be heating up the ice as the Blackhawks face the Calgary Flames on Sunday night, Nov. 3, at the United Center.
During the second intermission, Wilson will be shooting the puck for the charity he founded, C.J. Wilson’s Children’s Charities. He will have three chances to help the group win big, which will contribute to the 501(c)3’s mission of raising funds, awareness and youth participation in community service and charitable giving that directly benefits children and their families affected by chronic, life-threatening illnesses or dealing with social or financial challenges. More information about the group can be found at www.cjwcc.org.
The Angels pitcher will also be celebrating the Nov. 2 grand opening of his newest motorcycle dealership, KTM of Countryside, where he will meet with other motocross fans for pictures and autographs. More information about the dealership can be found at www.dirtbikenation.com.
Follow Wilson on Twitter @str8edgeracer.
C.J. Wilson Automotive launches mentor program,
signs Bears rookie C.J. Wilson
|Oct. 1, 2013||
CHICAGO—The Illinois-based C.J. Wilson Automotive Group this morning announced the launch of a new mentorship program for young professional athletes. The first athlete to join the program is C.J. Wilson. Of course, the two-time Major League All-Star and auto dealership principal is clearly not mentoring himself—the C.J. in question is Curtis Junior Wilson, the rookie cornerback for the Chicago Bears.
Eric Vates, general manager of the C.J. Wilson Automotive Group, is excited. “C.J. is a rookie cornerback out of North Carolina State,” Vates said. “His hometown of Lincolnton, North Carolina, has a population of just over 10,500—so he really is a small town kid in the big city. Basically, we are going to look for good, clean young players and set them on the right path. With ‘our’ C.J. as a role model, we expect our athletes to be clean living with heavy community involvement. The idea is to start these guys on the right path with the promise of them paying it forward to the next generation and doing the right thing in the community.”
Vates believes this is the start of a significant and long-term program in the region. “The signing of young professional athletes helps mold future role models for our young people,” he added. “The direction and example that these new athletes receive will be paid forward to future superstars in a continual cycle of development of upstanding young athletic heroes for the children of our city.”
Baseball All-Star C.J. Wilson is fully behind the new initiative. “As a professional athlete, it is important to not only represent yourself the best you can—but to know who is counting on your character, on and off the field,” Wilson said. “Team sports are great for building bridges, and we hope to promote good character within our own team. Eric and I and are happy to have Curtis on ours!”
For the NFL rookie, his ambitions for this season are pretty straightforward. “My goals for the year are to establish myself in the Bears defensive backfield and to represent C.J. Wilson Mazda and the C.J. Wilson Automotive Group as well as I can,” Wilson said.
The Bears player has already displayed explosive pace at the NFL combine earlier this year, setting a time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash—though Vates expects him to avoid speeding in the Mazda CX-5 given to him by the Countryside, Ill.-based dealership.
Wilson also has one further ambition.
“I first heard of C.J. when I did a Google search of myself,” the younger Wilson explained. “All that came up were pictures of this baseball dude and the C.J. Wilson who plays for the Packers. I need to make enough impact to start appearing on the second or third page of one of those image searches.”
The C.J. Wilson Automotive mentorship program will be adding to its roster over the coming weeks, with the signing of young stars from all of the major Chicago sports franchises.
Tickets available for C.J. Wilson's charity
- Marcia C. Smith, Orange County Register
|Published: Aug. 4, 2013. Updated: 6:11 p.m.||
ANAHEIM – Tickets are on sale for Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson's charity bowling tournament, which is scheduled for Sept. 19 at Bowlmor Anaheim.
The fifth annual "Throw Strikes" event — the second in Orange County since Wilson joined the Angels — will feature a night of bowling, a buffet dinner, a raffle and an opportunity to meet Wilson and other Angels players.
Tickets cost $50 and include one game of bowling, shoe rental and dinner. Tickets are available at showstubs.com/cjwilson and at the door on the night of the event, which benefits C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities, the patients of the Hematology Clinic of CHOC Children's and the Hemostasis and Thrombosis Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Last year's event raised $23,000.
"This is the seventh bowling tournament we've done in the last five years, and I'm glad that I can do something to help the charities in the place where I grew up," said Wilson, who grew up in Huntington Beach and attended Fountain Valley High.
The event is scheduled from 6-10 p.m. at Bowlmor Anaheim, formerly 300 Anaheim (321 W. Katella Ave. in The Shops at Anaheim GardenWalk).
For more information, visit leftylefty.com/charity.
Wilson (11-6, 3.49 ERA) will be featured in Fox Sports West's "In His Words" series, premiering after Monday's broadcast of the Angels game against the Texas Rangers.
Smith: Angel C.J. Wilson's mind is always racing
- Marcia C. Smith, Orange County Register
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson photographs IndyCars as they brake hard entering a turn at the Long Beach Grand Prix course in April. Racing has been one of Wilson's passions since he was a boy. (MICHAEL LOPEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)
|Published: Aug. 3, 2013 Updated: Aug. 4, 2013 8:01 p.m.||LONG BEACH – Ten hours before that night's Angels game, C.J. Wilson walked unrecognized through the crowd of racing enthusiasts during the IndyCar practice session at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He wore the race photographer's light blue vest and a backturned baseball cap. Nothing Angels. He lugged around a top-of-the-line Canon EOS 1D X with a 400mm telephoto lens, set up his monopod beside a retaining wall, aimed and began shooting.
Into his sight sped cars around the Turn 11 hairpin. They hauled down Shoreline Drive, their engines humming hard with horsepower, their decaled bodies passing in blurred colors. The air was a thick brew of burnt rubber and exhaust. The noise, the power rattled every part of him.
On this April morning, the two-time All-Star left-hander was exactly where he wanted to be, here, swept up in speed, force and sensory tide of racing.
"But to truly understand what motivates this Rubik's Cube of a ballplayer, you need to know that Wilson is a race-car driver at heart.
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson shares images he took while photographing the IndyCars at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach last April. Racing is one of Wilson's many interests. (MICHAEL LOPEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)
Life is his endurance race. What he does with it takes speed, direction, time and energy. So wasting a second on a less-than-enriching pursuit "just wouldn't be efficient," he said.
That 92 mph fastball the Angels' No. 2 starter hurled Tuesday night against his former Texas Rangers traveled a lot slower than his words that accelerate to keep pace with the racing thoughts from his never-idle mind.
Wilson, 32, can be dauntingly different than most guys in the clubhouse. He can talk photography and cars with second baseman Howie Kendrick, music with catcher Hank Conger and almost anything with anyone – if he makes time to talk.
"He's a smart, eccentric guy who taught me to look outside of baseball and pursue other things with my downtime," said Conger, who took up DJing. "It's good to have time doing other things you enjoy."
Wilson can also speak from experience and with authority about gourmet cooking, oil painting, DJing, Eastern philosophy, screenwriting, learning guitar and piano, studying Japanese and Italian to go along with his fluent Spanish, dancing, philanthropy and stick-fighting martial arts.
Whatever avocation has tugged at his restless, insatiable curiosity and presented a challenge, Wilson has sought to learn and practice through mastery.
He'd mentally tar and feather anyone who'd reduce him to being a singularly focused baseball player. He is just one at the ballpark, the Angels' winningest pitcher this season (11-6, 3.48 ERA) and their starter Sunday.
Pitching, sure, has gotten him trips to the 2011 and 2012 All-Star Games and carried him into this second season of a five-year, $77.5 million deal with his hometown Angels.
But baseball – unlike it is for most players – is merely Wilson's fall-back profession, providing his means to pursue his many interests and his obsession since he was 4 and sleeping in a race-car bed. Racing.
The pitcher's mound is simply where he stands until he can get behind a wheel as the driver or on pit road as owner/race strategist for his three-year-old C.J. Wilson Racing team.
"I've dedicated my whole life to baseball," said Wilson, whose career record is 67-51 through nine seasons. "At some point I'll feel free to take the rewards from that to do something else."
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson photographs IndyCars at Turn 10 at the Long Beach Grand Prix course in April. Racing has been one of Wilson's passions since he was a boy. (MICHAEL LOPEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)
His father, Jeff, used to turn wrenches on a pit crew for a friend's racing team. He began taking Wilson at age 4 to far-flung dirt tracks in Riverside County to see the sprint cars and midgets battle beneath lights.
The cars coughed exhaust. The rugged tires spit dirt. The drivers took tight corners, their cars dangerously close to colliding. The roaring engines made his heart race.
"It was fascinating," remembered Wilson, who relished a childhood watching any car race – from NASCAR to CART Indy Car to Formula 1 – with his father. "I always wanted to learn more."
He raced go-karts. He devoured issues of "Road & Track," which showcased the sleek style and speed of Ferraris, the same sports car on his favorite 1980s TV shows, "Miami Vice" and "Magnum P.I."
Watching Formula 1 series races introduced him to the McLaren "that blew everything else away with its horsepower and engineering," he recalled. At 8 Wilson started playing baseball. He already knew his family couldn't bankroll his racing career. So he made himself a deal: "If I make it in baseball, I can get a cool car. I can get a Ferrari."
On the walls of his Huntington Beach bedroom waged the battle among his sports interests: sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. and Bo Jackson and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana on one wall; a poster from the inaugural 1977 Long Beach Grand Prix on the other.
Wilson slept in the middle – on a race car bed until he outgrew it around age 12. But even while his baseball skills made him a standout at Fountain Valley High, Santa Ana College and Loyola Marymount, got him drafted in the fifth round by the Rangers in 2001 and signed by the Angels before the 2012 season, he never outgrew racing.
"He once told me that people undervalue their watches and don't make the best use of their time," recalled Robert Champagne, Wilson's friend and president of C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities.
"C.J. has a ton of passion that he puts 110 percent into, but racing, that's the big one. He completely geeks out around cars."
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson explains adjusting suspensions on vehicles he races or his team races during some down time at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. (MICHAEL LOPEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)
When he spent the morning at the Long Beach track, Wilson shot approximately 1,000 photos of cars taking tight turns, battling for position, catching fire and escaping danger.
A family of Angels fans stopped him for an autograph as he passed the staging area for that day's Pro-Celebrity Race.
"I would wax these people if I jumped in a car right now," spouted Wilson, whose Angels contract prohibits him from racing cars.
The closest Wilson gets to racing these days is in the virtual cars of his Griffith Park home's simulator and on "Gran Turismo" and "Forza" video games. He watches only 60 hours of TV a year – all races and episodes of "Bates Motel."
On the crowded Southern California freeways, Wilson resists speeding in his year-old silver McLaren MP4. He uses it to commute to Angel Stadium by way of the 5, 710 and 91 freeways in less than 40 minutes.
Sometimes he's in a Porsche Carrera GT, a Mazda 6, Mazda CX-5 or the Bentley he gets as part of an endorsement deal. He also has six motorcycles.
He has owned 20 cars, seven of them Porsches, including the GT3 RS he took to 165 mph at Auto Club Speedway. And he's still driven to race.
His business plan is to buy four car dealerships and use proceeds to "race cooler cars," he said. He purchased two Countryside, Ill., dealerships last year: C.J. Wilson Mazda and a neighboring C.J. Wilson Automotive Group retailer of BMW motorcycles.
In 2010 Wilson started his Austin-based racing team that has five cars in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series and two in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Challenge. He's still a rookie as a team owner, gaining traction in racing's minor leagues.
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson is considered one of the team's most eccentric players with a broad variety of interests. Motor sports have been one of Wilson's passions since he was a boy. (KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)
The last time Wilson raced a car was in December 2011, between signing his Angels contract and taking the physical. He piloted the No. 36 Grand Am ST Mazda MX-5 for 596 laps, teaming with three other drivers for a seventh-place ES Class finish in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Willows.
In November 2010, the then-Ranger drove the pace car to start the 2010 Texas 500 NASCAR event at Texas Motor Speedway. That wasn't good enough.
In the summer of 2009, Wilson rented a villa at Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, Texas, his home overlooking a sports car country club and road track.
He excitedly talked about those days more than any baseball victory.
"Just like golfers like living around the course," he said, "I was happiest living around the track."
Four mornings a week, Wilson took his Mazda MX-5 Cup car out for practice laps on the 1.7-mile and 1.3-mile courses for 90-minute sessions. He did the data himself, set up the shocks and tire pressure, tweaked the alignment and handling and took tips from the race shop.
"You can do all that stuff on video games but it's more fun doing it for real," he said, shouting over the passing horsepower on the Long Beach track.
Being there, feeling the energy and seeing drivers in firesuits, Wilson's racing jones revved.
"That's Tristan Nunez," said Wilson, displaying a photo he took of Nunez driving an American Le Mans Series Prototype Lites car that morning. "We went to the Skip Barber (Racing School in South Carolina in 2009) together when he was 13."
Wilson hired Nunez to drive for his team at the 2012 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The ballplayer can't race himself. Yet.
"I have four more years left on my contract," he said. "At that point, obviously, there will be enough money left in the bank that it won't deter me from racing anymore."
But he isn't contemplating retirement.
"I'll play baseball as long as I can be an All-Star-caliber player," Wilson said. "The main thing for me is figuring out how to balance the other things."
His life keeps racing on.
The pitch Angels’ C.J. Wilson has to make
for a $1.15 million McLaren P1
- Alex Lloyd, Motoramic
One might say Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson has it all. After a long stint playing for the Texas Rangers ending with his first All-Star game, Wilson signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason worth a reported $77.5 million. Over the past several years, as his success in the major leagues has enriched him, Wilson has indulged in his passion outside of baseball: buying race cars, racing them himself and starting his own race team. He also purchased some of the most exclusive vehicles on the market, and he stands as one of a few 31-year-olds in the world who can afford the upcoming $1.15 million, 903-hp McLaren P1 hypercar.
But first, he had to make a pitch to prove he was worthy.
The McLaren P1 will never become a common sight around the world: the British sports car maker says it will build only 375 P1s, which it touts as the fastest road car in the world, capable of hitting 62 mph in under three seconds. As the eligible customers worldwide far outnumber the available machines, and McLaren wants to keep the cars out of speculators' hands, it's impossible to just wander into a McLaren dealer and sign on the dotted line. To qualify, one needs a list of previously owned cars worthy of Jerry Seinfeld, a wallet deeper than Jay Leno’s chin, and a dedication to the brand akin to Lewis Hamilton (before he jumped ship to Mercedes, of course). None of which guarantees a spot.
Wilson tells me cars have always been his passion. Over his years in the major leagues, he’s owned enough Porsches to start a dealership – including numerous 911 GT3 RSs and a Carrera GT. After his collection outgrew his garage, Wilson had an epiphany:
“I only have one butt and two hands — how am I supposed to drive all these cars,” he joked. “What am I doing with all these things? This is so stupid.”
Wilson decided it was time to sell up and purchase an actual racecar. “If I crash it, it’s a racecar, who cares? You fix it and keep going.”
After selling many of his prized gems, Wilson bought a Mazda MX-5 Cup car – a racing version of the machine auto enthusiasts know to be the greatest affordable roadster on the planet. He then began to race the MX-5 and even started his own race team, gifting young racers the opportunity to prove their skills and use the race team as a promotional tool for his charity work.
Despite his rapidly emptying garage, Wilson kept his prized Carrera GT. He also decided to save space for a Ferrari, but acquiring one became his first introduction to the velvet ropes of the supercar club.
“I did eventually own a used Ferrari 599, but I got dissatisfied by the Ferrari ownership thing almost immediately,” Wilson recalled. “It was like, ‘you have to buy a used Maserati, then you can buy a new Ferrari.’ It was an exhausting process with so many hoops to jump through. I originally wanted a new Ferrari 360 but they wouldn’t sell it me, despite having the cash to drop there and then. After the 599, I vowed never to own a Ferrari again.”
Although Wilson’s love for the Italian brand was tainted, he had a similar affection for the British Formula One team and carbuilder founded by Bruce McLaren.
“I’ve always been a McLaren fan boy, ever since the (Ayrton) Senna days,” states Wilson. “The road car I looked up to as a kid was the McLaren F1. It was completely mind-blowing. I thought that was the best thing ever. It became my focus as a child to one day own that car. The problem is, they cost about $4 million today, and they only made 100 of them. You can’t buy one. You just can’t.”
Wilson decided to purchase the next best thing — the McLaren MP4-12C supercar. While not a hypercar variant like the F1, the 12C ranks as a capable Ferrari 458 fighter that boasts 593 hp and surpasses 200 mph, which Wilson, in true car guy form, drives the wheels off of.
“I use that car almost everyday," Wilson tells me. "I’ve amassed over 7,000 miles already, which is a lot for a supercar in such a short time.”
Wilson was astutely aware that a successor to his adored F1 was imminent — so much so that he began lobbying earlier than most for a slot on the list.
“When the rumblings began, I called up my guy at McLaren and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs, I want that car,’” said Wilson. “This was about two years ago, and at that point, they hadn’t even come up with a name yet. ‘I want the new F1,’ I said. I practically begged the guy. I was the first person in the country that asked to be on the list.”
“McLaren directed me to produce a catalog of cars I’ve owned. I listed the Porsches, Ferrari, and McLaren 12C but was concerned, after my Ferrari experience, that at 31 years old, I might not maintain the diversity of cool cars needed to be eligible. But they replied saying it was plenty and I was officially on the list.”
A while later, Wilson was invited to a preview event in Beverly Hills to mingle with a group of wealthy and famous individuals who were also on the sought-after list. “I wondered why I was there,” he confessed. “I was by far the youngest in the room.”
By this point, Wilson had already dropped a sizable 10 percent deposit on a car he hadn’t even seen and knew nothing about. But that night in Beverly Hills, the sheets came off and Wilson saw the car he had already committed to buy. It did not disappoint.
“It looked like a spaceship,” Wilson explained. “I really liked the flow and the smoothness and I think it’ll age really well. I was so excited to put my foot into 903 hp. I have no idea what that will be like.”
He’ll find out early next year. The P1 should be available in late 2013, but all owners must fly to England for a custom driver's seat; with cornering forces sustained at over 2g, McLaren treats the final delivery process like fitting one of their Formula One drivers. Due to Wilson’s baseball commitments, he probably won’t be capable of flying to McLaren’s factory until November, making a deliver date of his P1 likely to be in the spring of 2014.
How much will he drive it?
“I’ll take it out to southern California on a weekend and rip off like 400 miles,” he says. “It won’t be my daily driver, of course, but I’ll definitely put some miles on it. I grew up with humble roots and I just can’t imagine it sitting in the garage. This will be the gnarliest car ever.”
The purchase of a McLaren P1 hypercar is the fulfillment of Wilson’s childhood dreams. It might not be the F1 from his bedroom wall, but the P1 appears to be every bit its 21st-century successor. Come next spring, Wilson will truly have it all.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life," Wilson says, "to own a car like this."
Former Ranger Wilson makes his pitch
in Grand-Am racing
- John Maher, American-Statesman Staff, statesman.com
C.J. Wilson plans to resume racing once his baseball days are over. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
|Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013||
C.J. Wilson, a former Texas Ranger and current Los Angeles Angel, is not your typical baseball player/professional athlete.
Like a lot of athletes these days he does have tattoos, but the large one on his torso says “Straight Edge,” a reference to his commitment to lead a life free of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and promiscuous sex, in harmony with his Taoist beliefs. The left-handed pitcher studied film in college and can read some Japanese, speaks Spanish and is currently working on Portuguese by chatting with his Brazilian supermodel girlfriend, Lisalla Montenegro.
(From left to right) Andris Laivins, Kathryn Singer, and Jenson Little prepare cars at C.J. Wilson’s car shop for this weekend’s Grand-Am racing at the Circuit of the Americas. The former Rangers pitcher is a motor sports enthusiast.
It’s Wilson’s avocation, however, that really sets him apart
“The hobbies in the locker room are golfing and hunting, depending on what part of the country you are from,” Wilson said during a phone conversation with the
Wilson will be at spring training this weekend, not the
“He is extremely committed to racing as a sport,” said the
Wilson, 32, plans to resume racing once his baseball days are over.
“I believe in working your way up from the bottom,” Wilson said. “I would never race in a series where I was an embarrassment.”
His current function, however, is as an owner of a team that was formed less than three years ago.
The race team’s headquarters are in an unassuming, 8,300-square foot warehouse /garage/office on the east end of town, not far from U.S. Highway 183.
“It looks like a jail from the street. It’s not a very attractive building, but we like to keep a low profile,” Laivins said.
Two large haulers are parked in the back, poised to carry the cars on the short trip to Circuit of the Americas, where the team’s five local employees will be joined by about half a dozen out-of-town workers and four drivers.
The team is based in Austin basically because Laivins, a 32-year-old Dallas native, now lives here.
It looks like Wilson will be back home in California for a while. In December 2011 he signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Angels after playing seven seasons with the Rangers. Wilson grew up in Southern California, where his father worked on the pit crew for a race team.
“That’s where I fell in love with the sport,” Wilson said “Winning a race — just the thrill of passing — you don’t get that in baseball. Baseball is start and stop. Racing is constant. You’re calculating a lot more stuff in racing. In baseball you throw the ball, there’s a result and then … well, you can sit there and tie your shoes.”
Wilson said he first raced on a track in 2006, and in 2010 he was part of the driver rotation that won the E-1 class in the team’s Mazda MX-5 at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, an endurance race held annually at that California track.
“If I was an under-the-radar guy, I would still be racing,” Wilson said. His budding racing career, however, was sidetracked when his baseball career suddenly blossomed and he went from just another guy in the bullpen to a valued starter who was 31-15 in his final two seasons with the Rangers.
In addition to a race team, he also owns a car dealership and a motorcycle dealership in Illinois.
“I’ve got employees. If I get hurt (racing) there’s no safety net for them,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s team runs Mazda MX-5s that are lighter than most of the cars in their class, 2,300 pounds without the driver. With 200 horsepower and a top speed of perhaps 135 miles-per-hour, they’re a little under-powered compared to some of their brawnier competitors. Grand-Am regulates the specifications of the various makes of cars to keep the competition close.
“It’s kind of a small, nimble car, we can go around corners faster, but it’s a harder place to pass than a straightaway,” Laivins said. “Any time we’re at full throttle, we’re at a disadvantage with the other guy. There’s a lot of tracks we go to, like Daytona, where we have no chance.”
Laivins said while the team was leery of two straightaways at Circuit of the Americas, there was a chance the tight turns at the track would be helpful.
He added, “Nobody has raced here before. Nobody has been on this pavement before. I think that spices things up a little bit.”
Mazda CX-5 Tuned By MLB Pitcher CJ Wilson
is a CUV Fastball
|By GEORGE KENNEDY
Posted: October 23, 2012
CJ Wilson is a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Like all of us, when we’re not at work, we have other hobbies and interests. Unlike most others, Wilson’s major league salary means that his hobbies may be of a different echelon than yours.
One of Wilson’s interests is auto racing- Mazdas in particular. The major-leaguer owns CJ Wilson Racing as well as CJ Wilson Mazda in Countryside, Illinois. His daily driver is a CX-5 crossover. Just because he doesn’t drive G-Wagens like some of his coworkers doesn’t mean that he can’t enjoy the same kind of personal touch that helps a daily driver stick out in a crowded parking lot.
To that end, his racing interests and his auto dealership have teamed up to develop the CX-5 Tuned by CJ Wilson. The equation starts with a 2013 Mazda CX-5 GT, and adds a custom coilover package developed with ProParts engineering. The CX-5 features Koni dampers, Breyton 19-inch wheels, BFGoodrich g-force Sport COMP-2 tires, and a MAZDASPEED cold air intake. According to Wilson, “We wanted to enhance the SkyActiv philosophy even more, making a vehicle that was even more fun to drive and beautiful to look at while further improving the already class leading MPG figures.” He continued, “This car is actually my daily driver- so the real key was to make sure that it remained compliant over the potholes and bumps you encounter on real roads.”
Though certainly an enthusiast brand, few vehicles outside of the Mazda3 have been getting the lovin’ touch from MAZADASPEED. With that, its refreshing to see such an approach taken to a car that buyers might not immediately associate with performance driving. In addition, with SEMA around the corner, we know that aftermarket projects can often go awry. It’s refreshing to see a tasteful performance-minded daily driver. With the crossover market burgeoning, hopefully this is the first of a growing trend of refined aftermarket crossovers.
Photo credit: CJ Wilson Racing
BEHIND THE WHEEL | 2013 MAZDA CX-5
Laudable Fuel Efficiency Even Without Electricity
Mazda North America
FRESH FACE The CX-5 is Mazda’s first production vehicle to carry a new design language the company calls Kodo. More Photos »
|By CHERYL JENSEN
Published: September 21, 2012
There is no vehicle more important to Mazda right now than the CX-5.
The five-seat crossover wagon, which went on sale in February, has been the main beneficiary of the company’s research and development efforts over the last three years, making it something of a showcase for Mazda’s strategy and intentions.
The CX-5 carries the full complement of a technology package the company calls Skyactiv, an umbrella for the hardware and processes Mazda says will enable it to meet federal fuel economy standards for the coming decade — and do it without hybrid systems or electric powertrains.
Skyactiv is meant to chart a new course for the Zoom-Zoom company, which is angling to increase its share of the United States market to a tiny 2.5 percent, from today’s minuscule 2 percent. The powertrain portion of Skyactiv was introduced in the 2012 Mazda 3, the company’s best seller, helping that car to achieve E.P.A. fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
But the Mazda 3 was not all-new, and Skyactiv is more comprehensive: it is a philosophy that underlies the engineering of new lightweight engines, transmissions, chassis and body structures. The goal is to create performance-oriented vehicles that are also fuel-efficient.
Other automakers have been pursuing these goals as well, but without formulating a unified approach.
“Where Mazda is different is that there seems to be an integrated approach where Skyactiv covers all the bases,” said Mike Omotoso, senior manager for global powertrains at LMC Automotive, a market research firm.
The diet program has worked. The Skyactiv 2-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine in the CX-5 is 10 percent lighter than the 2-liter engine available in the 2012 Mazda 3 and MX-5 Miata. The manual transmission is lighter by 4.4 pounds, a sign of how determined Mazda’s engineers were to drop weight. The body structure is 61 percent high-tensile steel, making it lighter and stronger, Mazda says.
The CX-5 replaces the Tribute crossover, which was based on the Ford Escape. It is a completely new vehicle that brings nothing from the Escape.
Typically, even vehicles billed as all-new use major components from a previous generation. But Mazda didn’t want what it saw as a “piecemeal approach,” said Tim Barnes, the company’s product planning and strategy director. Among the benefits that came from making a fresh start were fuel economy bragging rights: at 35 miles per gallon, the CX-5 gets better highway mileage than any competitor in its class sold in North America, including hybrid models.
It is a valid claim, though it glosses over some of the fine print.
First, the 35 m.p.g. figure is for the front-wheel-drive Sport with a manual transmission, which Mazda said would account for about 5 percent of sales.
So the other 95 percent of buyers are looking at either 32 m.p.g., if they choose an automatic transmission with front-wheel drive (and 26 m.p.g. in the city), or 31 m.p.g. if they choose all-wheel-drive (25 m.p.g. city). The front-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Escape is rated at 33 m.p.g. highway and the Kia Sportage matches the CX-5 at 32 m.p.g.
On roads around this part of New England I found the E.P.A. estimates for the CX-5 easy to match or beat. On separate trips to Connecticut and New York City, the all-wheel-drive CX-5 test vehicle averaged 31, 32 and 33 m.p.g. on various highway segments.
But fuel efficiency has been achieved at the expense of power, which could be a problem for a company that promotes its Zoom-Zoom image.
The 4-cylinder engine, which uses direct fuel injection, is rated at 155 horsepower and 150 pound feet of torque, and it struggles to move the all-wheel-drive CX-5’s 3,426 pounds. The engine strained coming out of a rest area to merge onto busy Interstate 91. Just before that, it couldn’t handle a long, gradual hill at 65 m.p.h. without the automatic’s shifting down from sixth to fifth gear with only a driver aboard.
In a Motor Trend test comparing the CX-5 with four classmates, it posted the slowest zero-to-60 time, at 9.4 seconds. But perhaps it is unrealistic to expect blazing acceleration from a 155-horsepower engine, especially when all automakers have to meet higher fuel economy figures. Say goodbye to the free lunch.
Yet the lack of spunk is a bit puzzling given that Mazda engineers weren’t forced to use a 10-year-old engine or transmission. And the deficiency is all the more puzzling considering the engine’s high compression ratio of 13:1 — which Mazda boasts is “on par with the world’s highest-performance racecars” — and the free-flowing design of its exhaust manifold.
Mazda could have tuned the engine to produce more than 155 horsepower. But it exercised restraint, said Jeremy Barnes, a Mazda spokesman, to ensure that the CX-5 could use 87-octane gasoline. “Someone who takes into consideration the cost of fuel is someone who would walk away from a vehicle in this class if it required premium fuel,” he said.
Instead, Mazda took advantage of the exhaust system’s innovations to provide a broader torque curve than that of the Mazda 3, although both vehicles share similar peak torque figures.
It is worth remembering that there is more to performance than raw horsepower. When it comes to the handling part of the equation, a driving enthusiast would choose the CX-5 over the Honda CR-V, despite the CR-V’s 185 horsepower and higher torque.
On back roads here, I found the CR-V’s body motions were not as tightly controlled as the CX-5’s, so the Mazda’s handling on winding roads was more nimble and confident. The Mazda’s steering has a fairly tight on-center feel and is predictable. On a really rumpled surface, the CX-5’s ride was a bit choppy, verging on harsh. But that’s a small price for such driving fun.
In the federal government’s crash testing program done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CX-5 received an overall rating of four stars, with five stars being the best; frontal and rollover ratings of four stars; and a five-star rating for side-impact protection. It received the highest rating, Good, in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s moderate frontal overlap, side, rollover and rear crash protection tests.
Pricing starts at $21,790 for the entry-level Sport model with a 6-speed manual transmission, the only trim level with a manual. The manual-shift Sport is not available with all-wheel drive.
Sport models with a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive start at $23,190. Front-wheel-drive Touring models start at $24,990, and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring at $28,140. Add $1,250 for all-wheel drive.
The total for my all-wheel-drive Grand Touring test vehicle was $30,415 with the $1,325 Technology Package, which includes a navigation system, high-intensity headlights with auto-leveling and adaptive front lighting that worked well on dark roads in rural New Hampshire.
Because Mazda has chosen to aim the CX-5 at the heart of the compact crossover segment where it sees future growth, it has discontinued the CX-7, which straddled the small and midsize crossover segments. But the CX-5 is larger in some important interior dimensions than the CX-7 was.
It has almost an inch more rear legroom and more cargo space. Without folding down the second row seats, we fit in a bulky wheelchair, unwieldy walker with wheels and numerous travel bags. When more space is needed, flexibility is provided by the 40-20-40 split seats.
Controls for the radio, navigation and climate are knobs — and knobs are nice. Unlike Ford’s touch screens, they do not incite anger. The front seats are supportive and well bolstered to keep the driver in place during fun-to-drive moments.
How much of a difference Skyactiv will make to Mazda’s bottom line is the huge underlying issue. Sales of the CX-5 are expected to be in the 41,000 to 45,000 range annually, and Mr. Omotoso of LMC Automotive expects that the CX-5 will increase Mazda’s sales by 5 to 10 percent, which could help the company sell 300,000 vehicles in the United States. That’s not happened since 1994.
Through August, Mazda’s year-to-date sales are up 11.8 percent. The company said its plan for the current fiscal year was — and still is — to sell 290,000 vehicles.
Beyond the practical matters, purchase decisions often hinge on visual appeal, and here Mazda has given the CX-5 a fighting chance with a new styling theme it calls Kodo. It has been shown on design studies before, but the CX-5 is its first use on a production vehicle.
Kodo translates roughly to “soul of motion,” which Mazda says is about capturing power and focusing on proportions with a more sophisticated overall look. As expressed in the new grille alone, the Kodo theme gives the CX-5 a far more attractive appearance than other Mazdas; it will show up on the 2014 Mazda 6.
The CX-5 is a welcome addition for crossover drivers who want some sport along with utility — and good fuel economy as well. They just need to practice a little patience.•
INSIDE TRACK: Less zoom, more room and plenty of fun.
Wilson pairing with car dealership, White Sox
- Anthony Andro, FoxSportsSouthwest.com
Los Angeles pitcher C.J. Wilson owns a Chicago area car dealership that sells to customers who are hoping their White Sox can beat out the Angels for a postseason spot. (Courtesy, C.J. Wilson Racing)
|August 14, 2012|
No one has ever accused Los Angeles pitcher C.J. Wilson of solely being focused on baseball.
The Angels All-Star left-hander also dabbles in photography, music and auto racing just to name a few of his hobbies.
Auto racing is one of the many hobbies of
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson.
(Courtesy, C.J. Wilson Racing)
Now you can add the title of car dealership owner.
Not just a car dealer either, but one in the Chicago area that sells to the same customers who are hoping their White Sox can beat out the Angels for a postseason spot. If that weren't enough to rile up White Sox fans, the dealership is the sponsor of the club's postgame radio show and an in-game promotion.
While Wilson owning a dealership in the Chicago area that sponsors an opponent's radio show sounds strange, the purchase of C.J. Wilson Mazda was an opportunity too good for