My wife and I went car shopping today.

We both like her Mazda6, but it’s been through the wringer, and doesn’t have all the features we want. Adding them into her current car isn’t all that practical, along with fixing the various things that have started to fail - not the least of which is the headliner, thanks to my wife’s insistence on not using sun shades and reluctance to get tinted windows at my insistence. She hasn’t driven anything much other than my own 6, her parents’ Prius C and 2015 F-150 (and the 2012 F-150 he had before), and a Honda Civic rental car while hers was in the shop a while ago. She’s insistent on something at least as big as her 6, with 30mpg or better, that looks and feels good, and has at least a 5-year warranty.

So where did we start? Yep, Doug DeMuro’s favorite place: CarMax.

While our car was being appraised (a free service, and no strings attached, which is nice), we evaluated nearly every vehicle on the lot, except sports cars, trucks, and minivans. She avoided all the GM products, as she didn’t want another crapbox like her Alero, and is severely underwhelmed with what they offer, though she does think the Captiva (which I despise) is nice-looking, and was surprised at the presence of a Saturn Outlook on the lot, of all things.
Among the many cars on the lot - I’d guess there were roughly 250-300, and she actually got in and played with easily a third of them - she found one she actually loved and would consider if it was the right color and had the right options:

(CarMax’s picture, not mine. I was had my hands full carrying my wife’s purse - which is apparently a bag to carry metal ingots - to take any photos, and CarMax’s are about as good as any I’d take in such a situation anyway)

Yep, a gray Mazda CX-5 Sport. With zero prompting from me and based solely off of going (literally?) door-to-door from car-to-car. In fact, I deliberately tried to distract her from the fact that she was even getting in the CX-5, but she couldn’t be fooled, and walking from a Kia Sportage to the CX, she immediately admired the shape and recognized it as a Mazda, shortly confirmed by the large - and easy to read, kudos to CarMax - price and feature sticker on the window. It was only a Sport, though, as we’re searching for options that are only available on the Touring and Grand Touring trims, and it only had the 2.slow, so we didn’t bother test-driving it.

My wife had some very interesting observations:
-She liked the shifter placement of the Toyota Venza and Honda CR-V, which is up high near the radio.
-She recognized the older Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZ as different versions of her same car, and wasn’t greatly swayed one way or another with them, though I appreciated the available heated and cooled seats in the MKZ - even though this purchase is intended for her, I appreciate the ability to have a fan try to help alleviate what we call “swamp-ass” in the humid summer.
-She felt the Flex was too cavernous, but liked the Explorer (I don’t get it either, but she’s biased against vehicles that look too wagon-like; she walked right past the Ford Freestyle they had amongst the Explorers and Edges). She did note that with the doors closed the Explorer felt too wide, and the door-mounted armrests were somewhat useless. The Edge feels much better overall, but she didn’t like the center-mounted speedometer nor the visibility out the back.
-She acknowledged that the CX-9, Sorento, and Veracruz were nice, but felt too big. A CX-9 is likely high on the shopping list for when my own 6 is ready for replacement, as we’ll likely have kids by then and they’ll need more room than the CX-5, perhaps.
-She was particularly picky about the size of the rear windows in the crossovers and SUVs she actually got in, the worst of which - to her - were the Sportage, Compass, Rogue, and current-body Escape and C-Max. I did remind her that there are backup cameras in most of these, but she was adamant that visibility be at least as good as her sedan, as much as possible, which I mostly echo.
-I convinced her to get in a Raptor. She stated, quite bluntly, “This is too much truck for pretty much anyone.”
-Like me, she likes the overall look and feel - except material quality - of the Five Hundred versus the recent Taurus. However, in her opinion, both are too much of an “old-man car”, which is the same term she applied to all the Lexuses, the aforementioned Lincoln, and the various Buick and Cadillac models.
-I also convinced/coerced her to get in a BMW and a Mercedes. She noted that the Mercedes certainly sounded quiet and had nice materials, but had confusing button layouts and notably cheaper materials in unusual places, like the retractable cupholder cover. She refused to get in the Jaguar XF, much to my chagrin.
-My wife is apparently biased against Infiniti, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, and - here I agree with her - gm. I did convince her to get in a few models from each (except the GMs, why waste the time?) which allowed her to better appreciate certain aspects of the CX-5.

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She also noted - as did I - that CarMax’s offerings were in darn good shape for being used cars. Some had residual cigarette smell, but I know from prior experience that smoke odor is almost impossible to fully eradicate from most porous surfaces. We didn’t see any dents or scratches on the entire lot, which was something we’d been frustrated with when we were car shopping for her the last time when she bought her current 6, which was years before CarMax came to town. You could also see how certain cars wear and tear after actual usage, which was in stark contrast to new car shopping where everything seems new and fancy. The cars were fairly well-laid out and logically sorted - though the larger cars (anything bigger than midsize but not a luxury brand) were between the apparent Luxury row and the minivan row - notably the minivan and large car rows were about half the size of the other main rows. There was also a good amount of space between the cars, such that doors could be mostly opened without danger of hitting an adjacent vehicle, though in honesty the spaces could be wider for the larger vehicles as there’s less room to actually open the doors get in and out than with sedans and compact cars. There was a section of the bloated GM Lambda SUVs that hardly had enough room to squeeze between them, despite being in the same-size spaces as everything else - they really are too large for what they are, to the point that if someone held a gun to my head and said I had to drive a three-row GM SUV, I’d get one of the Tahburbalades before a Travcadilavook. I’ve been to a few dealerships that seem to pack the cars in tightly like sardines, where they aren’t really welcoming to actually being looked at and examined, whereas CarMax had every vehicle unlocked and we were encouraged to get in and adjust seats and stuff to check out features and interior space. There was also zero pressure from the sales staff, and no lurkers like you see at some lots or other retail stores like MicroCenter and Best Buy, which was quite refreshing. We were not bothered at all while on the sales lot, which was almost odd, as there was a fair amount of other folks doing the same thing we were doing, some with their own sales person with them. The appraisal price was fair, and they revealed some things about my wife’s car that I didn’t know were going on - though granted I don’t drive it much - so I may have some fixing to do on it to increase its value, or just find some stealership to buy it for more than it’s worth to us.

Speaking of which, we went next door to the Mazda dealership to check out their inventory of Mazda crossovers, just to see how they were in different trims and to actually drive a CX-5 with the 2.5L. We already know the CX-5 is popular and not a super high-volume model, and has a fairly solid resale price/residual value as a result. The Mazda dealership didn’t have any used CX-5s, CX-7s, and a lone CX-9 buried behind some other vehicles. The dealership definitely kept its cars fairly well packed in, and were locked. The Mazda Monroney stickers, while comprehensive, weren’t exactly well-laid-out, were huge (blocking the view almost entirely on the CX-3 we drove), and the listed price wasn’t in large, easy-to-read print like on the CarMax stickers. Props to CarMax for their sticker layout, I suppose. I think Mazda might do better to use several smaller stickers or perhaps something differently shaped.

As for the cars themselves, we drove a CX-5 Grand Touring and a CX-3 Grand Touring. The interiors are stupendous, and pushes the boundaries of what should be offered for the money - they even put the Mercedes E-Class and CLS that CarMax had on notice. The CX-3 is clearly the cheaper car, without a standard armrest, less sound deadening, and slightly more NVH, but was still within acceptable parameters. My wife also noted that the mirrors seemed mounted too far aft for best visibility, regardless of their pleasantly-large size, blind-spot monitoring, and the rearview camera. My wife is pretty much set on a CX-5 now, too, though whether it be a newer one or a used one remains to be seen. We were really happy with the experience at CarMax, and while we didn’t have a negative experience per se at the Mazda dealership, the fact that they mentioned a weekend sale and were pushing for a same-day sale was slightly off-putting, though that’s a typical tactic; we weren’t pushed to do a finance application or anything and they didn’t push to do a trade-in appraisal or anything. In contrast, CarMax doesn’t have sales, no balloons or goofy displays or gimmicks. Everyone seemed treated essentially equally, whether it was a couple in expensive designer duds, the family with a screaming baby, or my wife and I in comfortable street clothes.

Last of all, and speaking of new Mazda, I did see a new - and fully-licensed/registered - Miata on the road a couple days ago on my way back from lunch. It was Soul Red, and gorgeous. The dealership didn’t have any to drive, sadly.

*footnote* I’m borrowing a friend’s Surface Pro 3 and used it to write this, and I’m coming away fairly impressed. I think I’d prefer a laptop as I rarely sit at a desk to use a computer, and already have a desktop, and as great as the Surface’s kickstand is, it’s not quite right for folks whose laps are partially obscured by a slightly-obese belly. The Type Cover is surprisingly good, and I kind of like that it flexes a little bit when it’s on my lap as it feels a bit more tactile and engaging, especially as I've been using the on-screen keyboard on my WinBook Windows tablet or Lumia 1020 or 1520 to write posts. I would like a bigger screen and a full-size keyboard with a number pad.