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The Start of A Tech Project Car

2014 Mazda5 Sport: Say Hello To Tom's Hardware's Project Car
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I have a lot of plans for our 2014 Mazda5; these few projects were just the beginning of creating something more technologically apt for an audience of enthusiasts. The integrated wireless charger is a perfect match for our Nexus 5. It’s like Mazda designed that slot to fit a compatible Qi charger. Paired with Sony's XAV-602BT head unit and Pandora Internet radio, we get in the car, toss the phone on the charger, and stream music without worrying about battery life. Sweet, right?

The back-up camera works well enough for now, though I'm looking to run an RCA cable to the head unit rather than leaning on a wireless transmitter. I've seen some annoying video interference, though that doesn't keep me from seeing what's going on behind the van.

Despite the mileage we've already racked up, I haven't caught anything YouTube-worthy on the dash cam. It'll happen eventually. Fortunately, thanks to a nice, clean install, I don't even notice the camera from the driver's seat.

My toddler loves the iPad in the back seat. She can watch her favorite movies or play educational apps. I even picked up a set of pink kid-sized IR headphones for her.

Our early impressions of the Hellst LED headlights are a little disappointing, though we'll continue evaluating them, gathering more feedback in different situations.

You’re probably wondering what else we have planned for the little microvan. The list is long. Our Mazda5 will serve as a reference platform for double DIN head unit reviews, beginning with Sony's XAV-602BT, a MirrorLink-compatible solution. I'll continue with Pioneer's NEX and a next-generation Alpine, once that's ready. I'm installing a blind-spot monitoring system, one of my favorite driver assistance features, from Goshers very soon.

The factory cloth seats will get a makeover with leather, heat, cooling, and lumbar adjustment. We haven't decided on a system yet, but the Katzkin Degreez solution leverages the Peltier effect and has our interest. An in-car wireless network will be installed eventually, too. Right now it's a toss-up between an outdated Autonet Car-Fi (a router designed exclusively for in-car use) or an 802.11ac home router with a CarPC shutdown controller.

Ultimately, the rear-seat entertainment system will be replaced by a flip-down or headrest LCD with HDMI input so we can run a Steam Machine in the car for real gaming and XBMC. Unfortunately, all of the units we've found thus far have front- or side-mounted ports that preclude a stealthy installation. The stereo will receive attention with new component speakers up front, coaxials in the rear, and a four-channel amplifier. That install will be documented with RTA measurements for detailed analysis of the gains available from aftermarket stereo equipment.

Since Mazda doesn’t equip the 5 Sport with a simple MPG display, we have to go aftermarket for a detailed trip computer. I may drive with a lead foot, but I still like to keep an eye on fuel consumption.

Despite the technology focus of our project car, it'll receive some visual and performance upgrades as well. We have a set of second-generation (2010-2013) Mazdaspeed 3 wheels in the garage awaiting clean-up and new rubber. A mild 1.5-inch drop from lowering springs, Mazdaspeed 3 front brakes, front sway bar, and rear sway bars are in store, too.

Orange Virus Tuning will help us tune the ECU and squeeze out more power. A short ram air intake and catback exhaust system are the only other power mods we have planned at the moment. However, Bob “De janitor” Roberts, formerly of PC Arena and CNET Asia, and owner of Drift Office, is graciously letting us use his dynamometer so we can measure the power gains with each engine mod.

Those are plans for now. We’re open to suggestions if there’s something you, our reader, wants to see installed or tested. The end goal is a fun-to-drive family hauler with upgrades that are applicable as universally as possible with a little do-it-yourself spirit and a day off of work.

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  • 0 Hide
    Gelid03 , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    Looks great cant wait for the rest of the planned mods.
  • 6 Hide
    Amdlova , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    nice mazda 5 you have sir :)  I liked the wireles charge.

    I want see some night vision on car. drive without lights...
  • 0 Hide
    Matthew Busse , June 13, 2014 4:59 AM
    I might have to upgrade the wife's 2010 =)
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:29 AM
    Thanks guys. Next up will be a Blind-spot monitor system from Gosher's, ScanGaugeE, and some sort of wireless storage. Even have a set of Mazdaspeed 3 wheels ready to go, just waiting on tires :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 8:30 AM
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:32 AM
    Quote:
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.


    How do you like the CX9 so far? The CX5 is still one of my favorites to drive. I've yet to get into a CX9 but I do love the Ford Flex, its platform mate.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:08 AM
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:14 AM
    Quote:
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.


    How's the driving dynamics? The CX-9 is supposed to be fairly sporty compared to the usual dreadful driving CUVs.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:16 AM
    It does drive very much like a car. I'm coming from a '02 Durango. I had also test drove the Acura MDX. Very similar ride at a lower price point.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:18 AM
    The first gen Durango's are awesome. I still love how they look. The MDX is nice. I drove the latest one and its a very nice car minus the annoying dual screen infotainment system. The price tag didn't help sway me either. As much as I enjoy driving expensive cars, I'm quite frugal when it comes to my own car :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:25 AM
    It's an SLT+ with the 5.9l and a bad tranny. Interested?? LOL
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:26 AM
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , June 13, 2014 10:24 AM
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.

  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:25 AM
    Quote:
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.



    I wanted to like them so much but the way they're designed, you can't really get proper lighting out of them. If you're in the city and only need close range lighting, sure they'll suffice. However, I live in the country side and being able to see the signs way down is necessary. I ended up pulling them out and buying wiring harnesses to install H9 bulbs. They're 65-watt and 2100 lumens. Life span is shorter but they're only $15 a piece.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 10:50 AM
    Quote:
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.

    I've thought about the possibility of it just being a pressure sensor. The transmissions in these are notoriously bad, though. I haven't decided if I want to bother with it yet or not.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:52 AM
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:14 AM
    Quote:
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.

    No codes are being thrown for it. :( 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:16 AM
    That's odd. Could just need a flush and new filter?
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:18 AM
    Did that less than 10k before this. Went from WI to Badlands and back just fine last year. Did everything to it as far as maintenance right before the trip out. Mechanics are family, so I trust them. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:30 AM
    Yea if its not throwing codes, could be anything from solenoids or clutch packs burning out :-\.
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