Car reviews - Mazda - CX-60
Fuel efficiency across the board, silky smooth turbo-petrol six-cylinder engine, capable dynamics, spacious seating front and rear, polished look and feel inside and out
Room for improvement
Tyre noise, PHEV ride quality and driveline refinement, heavier steering, low-end vibration and reduced towing capacity of diesel engine, price now overlaps premium Germans
It’s bigger, better, and more expensive. But is the CX-60 a more resolved SUV package?
18 Jul 2023
By MATT BROGAN
MAZDA is charging at pace into the premium car realm, becoming a brand that – in its view at least – is an increasingly more worthy contender to the likes of Lexus and Genesis.
Over the coming year, it will release three ‘premium’ SUV offerings that aim to elevate its status among Japanese manufacturers, presenting customers with a more technologically advanced, luxurious, and dynamically competent vehicle range than it ever has before.
The first vehicle to assert itself as “Mazda Premium” is the freshly launched CX-60 – a vehicle that is positioned as a larger, more luxurious, and more expensive alternative to the highly popular CX-5.
Riding on the company’s all-new longitudinal architecture, and offering electrification across the range, the CX-60 is the first to feature an inline six-cylinder powerplant and the first to offer a plug-on hybrid option.
It is priced from an ambitious $58,800 through to $87,252 plus on-road costs, giving it some overlap on premium rivals including the Audi Q5 (from $67,900 +ORC), BMW X3 (from $83,100 +ORC), Lexus NX (from $61,900 +ORC) and Mercedes-Benz GLC (from $79,269 +ORC).
Dimensionally, the CX-60 is 4740mm in length (+165mm more than the CX-5), 1890mm wide (+45mm) and 1680mm tall (unchanged). It rides on a 2870mm wheelbase to offer 50mm more front seat shoulder-room and 50mm more rear-seat legroom than the CX-5, and 477 litres of cargo space with the rear seats in place – 29 litres less than the CX-5.
Mazda will offer the CX-60 in three grades, with three powertrains and with four option packages, as outlined here.
As a minimum, all variants arrive as standard with alloy wheels, LED headlights, a powered tailgate, digital instrumentation and infotainment screen, wireless phone charger, proprietary satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, and a 360-degree parking camera.
All variants secure a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Three engine offerings see the CX-60 available with Mazda’s all-new turbocharged 3.3-litre inline six-cylinder unit in petrol and diesel format, alongside a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) which combines a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder with an electric drive motor.
The most affordable powertrain is the 3.3-litre petrol six, which combines a 48-volt mild hybrid system, a turbocharger and direct injection to produce 209kW and 450Nm, enough to deliver a 6.9-second 0-100km/h sprint time claim. Fuel economy figures are listed at 7.4 litres per 100km on the ADR Combined cycle and braked towing capacity at 2500kg.
Sharing the same displacement as the spark ignition mill is the turbocharged diesel six-cylinder which offers 187kW and 550Nm and accelerates from standstill to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds. ADR Combined cycle fuel consumption is listed at 4.9L/100km and braked towing capacity 2000kg owing to packaging and cooling constraints relating specifically to the diesel model.
The quickest, most powerful, and most frugal of the trio is the PHEV offering, with 241kW and 500Nm to accelerate 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds and consume just 2.1L/100km on the ADR Combined cycle. The plug-in model can travel up to 76km on electricity alone, utilising a 17.8kWh lithium-ion battery which may be charged in 2.5 hours on a 7.2kW AC charger. Like the petrol model, the PHEV can tow up to 2500kg (braked).
All variants offer a 150kg tow ball down weight.
All powertrains are married to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all feature all-wheel drive. The i-Active all-wheel-drive system features a rear-axle torque bias to deliver a sportier driving feel and enhanced cornering grip under acceleration, Mazda says.
Mazda also claims the CX-60 offers improved dynamic performance when measured against the (predominantly) front-wheel driven CX-5 range, thanks to its longer wheelbase and more balanced north-south engine platform, which puts more weight between the axles and yields improvements to suspension geometry (double wishbones at the front, multi-link at the rear).
Mazda has made a point of offering a vehicle to suit a range of buyers within its CX-60 range. With fourteen variations to choose from – and several option packages – there is a broad selection available to those shopping the $60-90K five-seat SUV bracket.
What’s perhaps more interesting, at least to the more attuned of those attending Mazda’s national media launch of the CX-60 this week, is not only the expected variation in character between the trim grades and driveline offerings, but also the dynamic temperament of each model when sampled over identical terrain.
There is a distinct ‘flavour’ between the diesel, petrol and PHEV line-up that extends not only to the performance underfoot – and associated fuel economy – but to the way each option delivers propulsion, and how it rides and handles.
Starting with the 3.3-litre petrol (G40e) – the engine Mazda predicts will take the lion’s share of sales Down Under – we find terrifically smooth and lag-free performance metered accurately via a creamy smooth eight-speed auto.
Politely energetic, and with a rousing soundtrack at higher RPM, the petrol unit is eager to develop torque from low in the rev range (2000-3500rpm), gathering pace with the kind of effortlessness you’d typically associate with inline sixes from a certain three-letter German marque.
At higher engine speeds, the G40e hustles around slower traffic, building momentum with near indistinct gear shifts to propel the circa-1900kg body on to speeds that quickly border on licence-ending.
But once settled back to a more docile pace, the petrol-powered CX-60 is evidently more Jekyll than Hyde. Mechanical noise falls to a whisper and the ride serene. The only intrusions observed on test were a mild thrum from the large-diameter wheel and tyre combination and a slight breath of air from the wing mirrors.
The G40e is, in our view, the pick of the litter when it comes to ride and handling, too. Although it is not the most eager corner carver of the trio – that title goes to the PHEV-powered P50e – it by far provides the sweetest blend between comfort and conviction, absorbing lumps and bumps with grace, while also offering grin-inspiring confidence in the bends.
That is not to say the diesel-powered D50e is anything to turn your nose up at. It is just a decidedly different vehicle. While the compression ignition engine might only be 40kg heavier than the petrol, it is weight that makes itself known in pointing accurately into turns.
The front-end also feels a little firmer in ironing flat high frequency creases in the road; and while we’re only taking fractions of feel here, it is something most drivers will observe when driving the G40e and D50e back-to-back over an identical route.
Still, with passengers and luggage on board the D50e proved a congenial travelling companion, eating mile after mile with little fuss and offering acres of torque for hill climbing and passing. With almost all its available energy on tap from under 3700rpm, the diesel mill is impressively strong and acceptably quiet, again using the transmission to avoid higher engine speeds. Which we found offered mixed blessings…
While avoiding the top of the tachometer did help the D50e to maintain a quiet cabin – and to effectively utilise all that torque – the tendency to hold higher gears generated some driveline vibration at suburban speeds that is out of step with the refinement felt elsewhere, and particularly in the G40e.
Finally, it’s the turn of the P50e – the plug-in hybrid CX-60 – which we must say is the most intriguing, most expensive, and, perhaps obviously, the heaviest of the three.
In answering that final point, Mazda appears to have dialled up the spring rate of the PHEV model which – combined with larger diameter wheel and tyre package in particular – makes for a brittle ride at even suburban speeds. It is not unfair to say that every pockmark and knot in the road is felt in the cabin, the tighter springs also transmitting more road noise at both town and country speeds.
The transmission is also far busier that it is in the MHEV petrol and diesel duo. Even under electric-only operation the eight-speed unit runs up and down its ratios often, emitting a supercharger-esque tone through the transmission tunnel at the same time.
However, the P50e is a noticeably faster vehicle off the line and has a lot of gusto to offer at just about any speed limit. It grips tenaciously to corners, despite weighing 2100kg or more, and seems almost as frugal at highway speeds as it does in stop-start traffic.
Which leads us to what is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of Mazda’s newly developed premium drivelines – particularly when measures against its ‘mainstream’ four-cylinder offerings: fuel economy.
On test, the G40e returned an average of 7.3 litres of standard 91 RON unleaded petrol per 100km, which we felt could be improved upon once the engine was ‘run in’, and with more judicious use of the right foot. The D50e consumed 6.4L/100km over a similar route – a number that again will likely improve once the engine frees up – while the plug-in hybrid P50e hovered around the 3.0L/100km mark, even when pushed. Keep in mind, however, the PHEV model requires 95 RON or higher premium unleaded.
In summing up, it is probably obvious now that the CX-60 range does offer something different depending on your preference.
City buyers will likely appreciate the ability to run the CX-60 as a plug-in hybrid and will be less affected by the busy transmission and firmer ride while rural customers will no doubt see the benefit a torquey Grand Touring diesel can offer, particularly on long, open runs.
But for the rest of us, the petrol-powered CX-60 is by far the best all-rounder. It is a strong, efficient, mostly quiet, and wonderfully refined vehicle that raises our expectations of the Mazda brand considerably. With deft handling and a mature ride, the package feels well suited to Australian conditions, and Australian families – assuming of course they are prepared to stump up over $60,000 for the privilege.
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