The addition of a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine to the Mazda CX-5 lineup this month was aided by encouragement from Mazda’s Australian operation, the company’s chief marketing officer Alastair Doak told Chasing Cars.
The CX-5 mid-sizer will gain the turbo unit from the large CX-9 and Mazda 6 lineup, making the same 170kW of power and 420Nm of torque on 91 octane fuel. The engine is the fourth in the CX-5 lineup, joining two naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrols, and a twin-turbo diesel.
The turbo engine will be a $2,500 option on the top two CX-5 grades, the GT and Akera, which are both all-wheel-drive. The standard engine on GT and Akera remains a 2.5-litre aspirated petrol producing 140kW/250Nm. The 140kW/450Nm diesel option remains alongside the turbo.
“All the major markets around the world – the US, Australia – said [the petrol turbo] engine is so good, where else can we use it?,” Mr Doak said “There was certainly a lot of encouragement from Australia to add it to CX-5, and obviously, the R&D guys listened to that feedback.”
Doak says the rationale was building choice in the range. “Why not offer it? If people want to buy the turbo, it’s there. If performance is their main focus, that option is there for them. It’s really about maximising choice. We have the ability to offer all these powertrains, so let’s just offer it.”
The 2.5-litre turbo will bring the CX-5 range closer to that of its key rivals, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson. The Tiguan range has three turbo petrols – capped by a 162kW/350Nm unit – and two turbo diesels, while the Tucson offers one aspirated petrol, one turbo petrol – putting out 130kW – and one turbo diesel. With 170kW/420Nm, the CX-5 will be among the most powerful in class, and the torquiest.
The atmospheric petrol engines aren’t going anywhere, though, with the base 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive unit (115kW/200Nm), and all-wheel-drive 2.5-litre (140kW/252Nm) remaining for the time being. “If performance isn’t [a buyer’s] main focus, that option is there for them.” Mr Doak doesn’t think this makes matters overly complex: “This market is a very important one, it’s a growing segment; we have the ability to offer all these powertrains, so let’s just offer it.”
Mazda product planners have predicted the turbocharged engine will account for 12% of sales, which would match take-up of the twin-turbo diesel. So, where will sales of the turbo petrol come from? Naturally there’ll be some cannibalisation of the remaining engines, but Mr Doak hopes the force-fed petrol will bring new buyers into the CX-5’s gravity.
“If people have been looking for a higher-performance petrol option, we didn’t have it previously – now we do. Hopefully it will drive more people to CX-5, ultimately.”
The sales bump the turbo petrol will bring in its first month on sale – the last month of 2018 – will help to make up for some lost volume due to flooding in Japan earlier in the year, which interrupted supply of the CX-5 for Australia. Regardless of the new engine, though, 2018 has been a bumper year for the Mazda SUV, which should notch up 26,000 registrations for its best year on record.
Mazda executives remain openly confident in the CX-5’s dominant position on the SUV sales chart. “This is the sixth year the CX-5 has been the number-one, best-selling SUV [in Australia]”, said senior PR manager Sonia Singh. Mr Doak says he’s “very happy” with performance this year.
The addition of the turbo petrol powerplant represents the second major engine update for the CX-5 in 2018. In May, the diesel engine gained a larger turbocharger, resulting in a meaningful boost in torque from 420Nm to 450Nm, while power increased from 129kW to 140kW.
It’s unusual for a vehicle to be updated so frequently; more common would be engine changes at a mid-life facelift with very small specification alterations on a yearly basis. In recent years Mazda has bucked this trend, instead delivering more meaningful powertrain, refinement and equipment upgrades on a more regular basis.
PR manager Singh attributes the strategy to a decision to empower Mazda engineers to push out new work to market more quickly: “anytime the engineers can improve something, they do…it hasn’t seemed like a strategy, but more like a genuine passion.”
As for whether this will be the final engine update to the third-generation CX-5 – and specifically, whether one of Mazda’s new-generation Skyactiv-X supercharged petrol engines will be brought to the range – executives said it was too early to say.
The Skyactiv-X engine family can be expected to proliferate beyond the fourth-generation Mazda 3, which will be the first Mazda to sport a supercharged ‘X’ motor. “There is a powertrain plan we will probably talk about next year,” Mr Doak says.
In addition to the new turbocharged engine, the flagship CX-5, badged Akera, has come in for substantial interior changes mirroring recent updates to the seven-seat CX-9. However, unlike the CX-9 – which saw an entirely new ‘LE’ model carved out to carry the more luxe interior – on CX-5, the upgrades will be applied to the existing Akera, the highest of four trim grades on offer.
Those upgrades centre on nicer, Nappa leather trim in a deep brown colour, Japanese Sen wood trim, a heated steering wheel, front seat cooling in addition to existing heating, and rear outboard seat heating – plus LED ambient lighting for the cabin. Outside, the Akera switches out to new platinum-coloured 19-inch wheels, differentiating it on the road from the one-down GT, which continues to utilise silver and black twin five-spoke 19s.
“The Akera on this car is essentially the same specification as the [CX-9] Azami LE,” Mr Doak says. “Even though we do offer customer choice, we didn’t need to complicate the CX-5 range even further by having another grade in there.”
The update also sees all CX-5 models sport a higher standard of adaptive safety tech, with the range fitted with AEB in drive and reverse, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, fatigue detection, and auto high beam.
In the past, many of these technologies were reserved for the Akera, so Mr Doak says the focus for the flagship variant has now moved to the interior. “What happened in the past is that there was more safety tech on Akera. We’ve made all those features standard across the range – so when you take that away, you think, what else can we add to the Akera to differentiate it?”
In addition, all grades also receive Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, along with redesigned climate controls.
We’ll be eyes-on with the CX-5 turbo at this month’s Los Angeles Auto Show, with a first drive to follow in mid-December.