Düsseldorf, Germany – It’s rare for a manufacturer to invite a handful of automotive journalists to test drive a car that won’t be part of the brand’s (North American) lineup in the short to medium term. But, as the saying goes: once is unusual. Mazda is currently looking to strengthen its image by tackling the premium segment.
The Japanese division already has a few utility vehicles, and some of them leave the factory with a quality of execution that is very surprising for a general brand, but to reach the most demanding customers, Mazda must also adjust your goals higher, exceed yours. boundaries, think outside the box.
That’s a little we learned from these new medium-sized attacks. At the time of writing, the brand already counts the CX-9, a car that plays in the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder niche to name just these two, but the latter is set to give way to the CX-90, a. a model that, we think, will greatly exceed its predecessor. Mazda is also planning a new CX-70 for North America, an organization that could come to muddy the waters in the middle two-row seating category.
But, for now, Mazda has only revealed part of this new approach in the form of the CX-60, the “slightly smaller” cousin of the upcoming CX-70 – or so it seems. we believe – but this new CX is destined for North American roads.
That’s why we crossed the Atlantic Ocean, more precisely to Mazda Europe’s headquarters in Düsseldorf, where a beautiful fleet of 2023 CX-60 PHEVs was waiting for us. But what’s the point of testing a car that won’t be part of the Canadian strategy?
It is true that at first glance the exercise may seem pointless, but upon further reflection, the CX-70 will be based on the same large platform as the CX-60 or the other two, the CX-80 and CX-90. As for the fact that all of these vehicles will use some variant of this plug-in hybrid powertrain, let’s just say the similarities are increasingly pointing to a revealing essay.
Balance of sports
At first glance, the CX-60 is similar to other crossovers already with curved rear windows, rounded wheel arches that do not use the usual black plastic, not to mention the obligatory rims of a good size. Even the rear lights are reminiscent of those of the CX-5 – or CX-50 as well – while the headlights seem to be integrated into the grille supported by that lower chrome strip. However, if we take the time to walk around the car, we quickly notice that the hood of the CX-60 is longer than usual and that the cabin is placed as far back as possible, a trick used in recent years. Explorer or even its luxury Lincoln Aviator variant.
Mazda is clearly targeting customers who want more sporty handling than the average road, even if the comfort factor must also be respected in this segment of the industry.
A first look at the new electrical mechanics
For this first look at the new protector, the plug-in hybrid option was the only one available for the test drive. So the inline-6 will have to wait…perhaps until the CX-90 is revealed in the next few months.
Delivering 327 PS (or 322 horsepower) and 378 lb-ft of torque, the crossover’s PHEV powertrain also becomes the most powerful in the brand’s history. The powertrain is based on the already familiar naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit, with a capacity of 129 kW (or 173 horsepower) and a 17.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. The clutch connects the petrol engine to the electric motor, which allows the petrol unit to be “cut off” when the conditions allow… to drive the electric motor.
The manufacturer is also taking the opportunity of the launch of the CX-60 PHEV to showcase its new eight-speed automatic gearbox, a unit designed in-house, once again, to save a few cents at the pump. The absence of a torque converter is also one of the characteristics of this transmission, the engineers who preferred a multi-disc clutch, which has the advantage of providing gear changes similar to those of a box. guidance.
The powertrain is longitudinally coiled to increase drivability, while the CX-60 prioritizes rear-wheel drive. But, don’t worry, the two future CXS destined for our continent will be delivered with the brand’s all-wheel drive.
Driving a car
As is typical for a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the CX-60 PHEV doesn’t make a sound when starting, the car summons its electronics at this precise moment. Once the gear lever is placed in the “D” position, however, the car emits a sound unusual for an electric vehicle, a sound that is not artificial, unlike many EVs on the market.
Not surprisingly, the utility also offers four driving modes and pure electrics that change the steering wheel, gearbox and engine settings. For example, in Sport mode, the 4-cylinder is always active, while in EV or Eco mode, the mechanics prioritize electric driving.
On the good roads of the Düsseldorf area, the CX-60 PHEV seemed to be very fast, the organization that remains well planted whether in a demanding curve or on the highway at 180 km / h. The 4-cylinder produces an impressive sound, but it is doubtful whether drivers of German products will be convinced by this mechanical option. Perhaps in the end, the in-line 6-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system will be the one that drivers who are more sensitive to the handling of their car will choose.
Returning to the CX-60 PHEV, the experience also showed the merits and limitations of the new gearbox. In normal or sports driving, the unit showed itself clearly, without hiding the gear change, a feature that driving enthusiasts want to keep. On the other hand, we felt a few “jerks” sometimes, the box that hesitated between two reports. When asked about the topic, Mazda Motor Europe engineer Joachim Kunz explained that modifications would be made to North American vehicles. We can expect a smoother gearbox and perhaps even the disappearance of this electric noise when the car is driven purely on electricity. On this subject, we will have to wait for the arrival of foreigners in our country.
This first contact also brought to light the slightly higher driving position of the CX-60, a specific detail for SUVs, of course, but in a Mazda car, this position seems unusual. For others, however, the interior of the car is very well laid out, while the steering wheel is still pleasant to hold in the hand. The console is perhaps too simple for fans of the big screen, but in this case, it works.
Handling around German cars
New eight-speed automatic transmission
Quality always on the rise
We like a little
Special sound in electric mode
“Premium” 4-cylinder sound?
Similar cargo space to the CX-5, will the North American CXS fare better?