When Mazda invited me to take a Southern Escape to the charming South Carolina Low Country, of course I said yes! It was a chance to experience Mazda’s 2016 crossover lineup of vehicles including the MX-5, CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9 as well as the newly refreshed 2017 Mazda3 and 2017 Mazda6. And all in a lovely southern setting at Montage Palmetto Bluff, a luxury resort nestled along the May River. #OKfineIllGo !

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Upon arrival we were whisked away to our lovely suite rooms, but not without at first feasting our eyes on the fleet cars on the lawn – total #CarEyeCandy! Montage Palmetto Bluffs is a gorgeous luxury property! You can review my Trip Advisor review and see all the pics here.


Mazda and Hill Knowlton PR did a great job of assembling a wide variety of journalists with, I’m happy to report, an equal number of men and women. I mean, let’s face it.. most of us drive and the general populace is 50%/50% female/male. Throughout the 2 day trip it was great to swap stories with other travel bloggers, car aficionados and avid car fans such as Linda Water Nelson, Ken Panton, Jeffrey Gomez, xoxo Lizza, Deb Thompson, Mark Elias and more.

Our first night at the resort, we were treated to drinks on the dock (yes, I made up my own drink called the Boozy Arnold Palmer that featured Sweet Tea Vodka and Lemonade. You’re welcome). We took a lovely leisurely boat ride up the May River to the Moreland Dock area for an Oyster Roast and Pig Pullin’ – what a delightful setting! Plus they had the Miata and the CX-9 prominently displayed so we could “ooo and ahhh” and fawn over them. Which we did.

Mazda USA Active Lifestyle Drive Program at Montage Palmetto Bluff, In Bluffton, SC. Participants test drove cars between Montage Palmetto Bluff and Sea Pines Resort, in Hilton Head Island, SC. At Sea Pines, participants kayaked and explored on bikes. © Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA

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When you think “car presentation” you may think “dry and boring” but Mazda put together an engaging & informative presentation that filled us in on not only the history of Mazda but also their mission, passion and the latest in technology. I’m a storyteller at heart but also a tech nerd so I was eating it up. There was a great lineup of presenters including Engineer of HMI & Infotainment, Matthew Valbuena who really impressed me with his take on Sound Quality reference and how we hear and listen to music. Most of us (including me) have been relegated to listening to music through our crappy iPhone earbuds. The new CX-9 model will definitely be incorporating Mazda’s premium audio goals so listen up for that.

Other impressive upgrades that made me nerd out:

  • Driving layout that actually emulates how the average bear sits in a car (ok, not bear, person but I wanted to use that cliche so I did)
  • Side mirror placement (unobstructed view for easier pedestrian detection and less pedestrian run over) 😉
  • i-Activesense Safety fabulousness: High Beam Control, Lane Keep Assist, Distance Recognition Support Sense, Radar Cruise Control, and a ton more upgrades
  • Sleek Design Elements

Photographs © Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA Mazda Active Lifestyle driving event at Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC.

Next up, we all headed out to the line of cars for a real driving and active lifestyle experience in Hilton Head – we had our choice of kayaking or cycling around the lovely seaside area. I jumped in the CX3 and headed out with Tamara from Mazda – lucky me!

The CX3 handled beautifully (I drove that same model the week before in Illinois – see the car review below) and got us there in time for kayaking. When you live in a land locked state like Colorado, you are ready for a humid sea level experience!  On the way back I drove the Miata MX-5 which handled beautifully!

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© Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA

Photographs © Tim Zielenbach for Mazda USA Mazda Active Lifestyle driving event at Montage Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, SC.


You can check out all the trip photos on Google Collections

The CX-9 was one of the more exciting cars featured – check out my interview with Engineer Matthew Valbuena

Mia Voss

Live from the 2017 @Mazda 6 with a smart R&D Engineer!

For our final evening, we gathered in the lovely Canoe Club at the resort which gave us all a chance to catch up and trade stories of our day and the overall driving experience. Mazda definitely gave us all the opportunity to experience the active lifestyle from the minute we were picked up at the airport (in Mazdas, of course).2016-09-29-07-35-47 2016-09-28-18-38-08 2016-09-28-18-18-59 2016-09-28-18-39-02 2016-09-28-18-38-41 2016-09-28-18-44-21-hdr

Big shout of thanks to Mazda for including me in this adventure! And here’s one more example of Mazda fitting into active lifestyle – I spent the week prior in the Mazda CX-3 carting my nieces & family around in one!