While there’s premium goodness in the inclusions and finish of Mazda’s CX-60, this six-cylinder petrol G40E’s drive experience lacks the required polish
The everyman Japanese brand has carved out an enviable place in our market – strong sales, reputation for reliability and decent blend of engineering class and driving dynamics.
Little wonder this new mid-size five-seater with premium aspirations, brace of straight-six combustion engines and rear-biased platform had me tickled. The CX-60 would, I thought, be a fascinating point of difference for buyers gorging on our market’s sugar rush of SUVs.
But there are cracks. The CX-60’s smooth good looks are appealing if hardly revolutionary, and while the cabin finish, style and comfort help justify the new model’s premium-pushing price, the drive experience does not.
Its harsh ride and unresolved gearbox are chief culprits here, but – thankfully – not the turbocharged straight-six petrol and diesel engines I was so looking forward to. Maybe I’m part of the Old School brigade, but there’s something about an inline six that just feels properly prestige.
Mazda’s new engines can’t rival BMW’s, Mercedes-Benz’s or Jaguar’s six-pot back catalogues, but its boosted 3.3-litre petrol and diesel offerings pique the interest of those favouring larger displacement donks.
Wisely or not, it’s an antidote to brands surging ahead with EVs in these transitional times. Mazda’s new Large Product Architecture platform is optimised for six-cylinder combustion engines, all-wheel-drive and a rear-drive bias, while able to house plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electrification too. But not, we’re told, full EV.
Let’s talk numbers. The petrol we’re testing uses 48-volt mild hybrid tech and offers 209kW and 450Nm, the latter from just 2000rpm. Its diesel stablemate is also a mild hybrid, pumping out 187kW and chunky 550Nm. Range flagship’s the PHEV with 141kW/261Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder and 100kW/270Nm electric motor, for 254kW/500Nm combined.
The petrol grades – called G40E – open at $60,400 plus on-roads for the Evolve. Mid-spec GT leaps up in price to $68,400, while range-topping Azami is $73,600. The diesel versions – D50E – add $2000 to the petrol grades.
The PHEVs – P50E – get true prestige pricing. An Evolve is $72,900, GT $80,900 and Azami $86,100. The latter, with a $2000 option pack, means you’re looking at around $95,000 drive away. No small sum for a Mazda midsize SUV.
Our test CX-60’s the range-topping petrol Azami with SP pack, weighing in at around $80,000 drive-away.
Seems expensive? Mazda’s idea is it must offer such products to its brand-loyal customers to prevent them jumping ship to prestige marques when they achieve higher spending power.
Inclusions and presentation must reflect the lofty price tag Mazda asks for its CX-60, and bar a few notable omissions, the specification’s generous once moving out of the entry-level model. It gets seriously premium-rivalling once you climb the grade tree.
Optional Vision and Luxury packs ($2000/$4000) can improve active safety (see section below), technology and luxe on Evolve and GT, while only Azami buyers can option the very flashy Takumi or SP packs.
If it’s your bag, the $2000 Takumi adds pure white Nappa leather trim (if you’ve got messy kids, just don’t), cloth dashboard panel with Kakenui stitching (doily-like, and also not suitable for grubby fingers) and white maple wood console and door trim inserts. It’s an acquired taste.
Of more universal appeal is the $2000 SP Pack, as fitted to our tester. Exterior trim and alloys go all black, while the cabin scores tan Nappa leather trim, suede finish dash panel and doors (also tan) and two-tone steering wheel. It’s gorgeous.
The biggest oversight in spec is no air suspension or adaptive dampers available; things which are commonplace on prestige SUVs. Considering the dodgy ride exhibited, this would go a long way to adding the polish this CX-60 deserves.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Mazda is evaluating adaptive damper technology for future introduction.
A positive of the petrol CX-60 is its hefty 2500kg tow rating. Diesel versions – bucking the trend – are substantially lower at just 2000kg.
Here’s where I reckon Mazda’s dropped the ball.
The suspension setup is overly harsh for a family SUV, the ride simply too firm around town. I sat in the back for an extended period to see why the kids were complaining, and their uncomfortable grumbles were warranted on urban trips. It’s all a bit mystifying.
Here’s a delightfully appointed mid-size SUV pushing the plush, yet Mazda’s given it a chassis better suited to back road carving.
The brand’s no stranger to a very well setup vehicle. Its CX-5 mid-sizer is a class standout in terms of ride/handling balance. Has been for years. For the CX-60, they should have favoured a cushier ride than the CX-5’s. Something more pillowy like a Genesis GV70’s setup would surely better suit this car’s character?
At low speeds, on this car’s standard 20-inch wheels, the ride gets very jarring. Then, confusingly, on a faster bit of road, it can feel a bit bouncy and unsettled if you hit a decent-sized bump.
Then, just to confound me, on a fast, smooth corner the CX-60 actually handles quite well for such a big rig. Steering’s solid and turn-in is keen, while the balance, grip and all-wheel-drive give you confidence to carry decent speed through twisties. This impresses, but I can’t stop feeling this is a car where comfort must be prioritised over cornering ability.
On fast country roads it proves reasonable fun. That keen handling is backed by a rorty note from the silky-smooth six-cylinder. In Sport mode the response is excellent, the exhaust tune pleasingly muscular and it seriously shifts. There’s lusty performance while in salubrious surrounds, and the 3.3-litre feels like a proper strongarm during backroad playtime.
Mazda’s developed a new eight-speed automatic here, using a multi-plate clutch plus an integrated electric motor to boost efficiency and throttle response. The science and reasoning behind it are sound, but it sadly joins the suspension as a chink in the CX-60’s armour.
Again, on a backroad the eight-speed’s very well behaved and slick to shift cogs. Low speed is a different matter. It occasionally gets flustered, stutters when called into swift action, and on a couple of occasions it hesitated alarmingly and performed a really clunky gearshift.
When pulling away it sometimes feels like gears are in treacle, robbing it of the smoothness required of a premium car. When up to speed, the 48-volt mild-hybrid system allows the engine to completely turn off while coasting, saving fuel. But when the engine fires up again, it doesn’t go unnoticed, compromising the serene drive.
None of this is disastrous, it’s just that we have such high expectations of Mazda’s engineers.
These things aside, the cabin is a trump card of plushness and comfort in which to ride. This Azami SP is a pleasure dome with its sea of tan suede, sink-in chairs which heat and cool, and large, clear digital screens. Turn up the mighty Bose audio and rub up against the suede and life feels rather good.
Yes it’s a lot of money, but no question it feels expensive inside this range-topper.
Saddle up in the front and you feel like you’re in a designer furniture store, sampling the most lavish offerings. Its tan suede seriously lifts the cabin ambience – aided by the panoramic sunroof – with the soft stuff coating the dash and door inners. No question, paying the extra $2000 for the SP pack is worth it.
Nappa leather seats feel and smell first class, and just miss massage functions to go with the heated, cooled and memory functions. The two-tone steering wheel adds more panache, and you sense there’s true Japanese craftsmanship involved here.
Up front it’s roomy, chairs are comfortable and it’s a positive the climate controls are physical buttons. The wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto works well, but Mazda persists with not allowing touchscreen functionality when on the move, only when stationary.
As practically every driver will use smartphone mirroring, navigating through Mazda’s rotary dial takes eyes off the road longer than simply prodding a screen. It’s frustrating.
This grade’s facial recognition means the car knows who has slid behind the wheel, then automatically moves to your preferred driving position and audio and climate settings.
This works very well. The brace of 12.3-inch widescreens are crystal clear with reasonable customisability, and the overall layout and functionality are superb.
I must grumble about the auto gear shifter, however. Park is separated from the other gears, and it feels too clunky and hard to smoothly move into Drive.
The rotary dial and buttons could also be more premium – their plasticky nature feel like they’ve been lifted from Mazda’s budget CX-3 small SUV.
Rear doors open brilliantly wide, and the outboard two chairs are sink-in lovely with good headroom but only average legroom. Three adults across the back would be a squeeze.
Rear occupants are furnished with vents, heated seats, two USB-C ports and, thanks to the mild hybrid system, a proper domestic plug socket. A black mark comes from no way of reclining the rear seats (should be a non-negotiable for premium-like travel), nor sliding them on runners to boost versatility.
The hands-free tailgate opens to reveal a boot with pleasingly low load height, but the 477L space is short of many midsize SUV rivals. A space-saver spare sits under the boot floor.
It was awarded a maximum five stars with ANCAP on its 2022 test. It scored 91 percent for adult occupant safety, 93 percent for child occupant safety, 89 percent for vulnerable road user and 77 percent for safety assist. Impressive numbers.
A lack of rear auto emergency braking on the base model CX-60 punished the safety assist score, as otherwise crash avoidance and protection are very good.
Letting the side down on crash testing was damage to the driver during the frontal offset test. Ratings were marginal for chest, adequate for lower legs and weak for upper legs. The 91 percent score here means it trails the Tesla Model Y, Toyota RAV4, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Lexus NX.
Standard safety kit includes:
The GT adds a driver monitor, while Azami brings a see-through view to the 360-degree monitor, adaptive headlights and front cross traffic assist.
The overhead camera and 360-degree views are superb, making parking a simple task. Some of the safety systems frustrated with their over-nannying, but this is increasingly becoming the norm. Fortunately, Mazda makes it relatively simple to turn off active safety, but this, of course, defeats the purpose.
A somewhat unwelcome by-product of Mazda’s move to an upmarket plateau are running costs to match. Prestige models are usually accompanied by hefty service bills, and it’s no different with the CX-60.
Services are annual or every 15,000km, with the first five costing $3360 – $437, $644, $558, $1268 and $453. That’s some $1300 more than servicing Mazda’s own CX-5 medium SUV across the same period. The price of premium, eh?
Warranty is five-years/unlimited kilometre, which is average for the industry.
The six-cylinder petrol, on paper, is reasonably economical considering its displacement and the car’s 1949kg kerb weight. Combined average is 7.4L/100km, but this surges to 9.8L/100km around town. Our test returned an average of 7.8L/100km, and positively, it’s happy drinking cheaper regular unleaded.
But the six-cylinder diesel alternative looks to hold all the trump cards here. Smoother and torquier for daily driving, plus its average fuel economy’s just 4.9L/100km, or superb 5.2L/100km in town.
Confounding indeed. Lovely to look at and with a standout interior dripping with class and features, it’s mystifying why Mazda couldn’t extend such loveliness to the drive experience.
It’s a brand that knows how to set up its cars well, but the CX-60 feels like it’s hit the market before the required fine-tuning’s been performed.
The petrol engine’s a hugely likeable unit rich with silky six-cylinder goodness, but the torquier diesel does likewise and with far better fuel economy. I’d sample the oil burner before setting your heart on the petrol.
It’s not the first time Chasing Cars has reached such a conclusion, and it’s a big reason why editor Tom Baker opted for the diesel when choosing his CX-60 long termer. The finding of that experience can be read in our separate review.
I’ve judged the CX-60 harshly because I’ve got high expectations of Mazda. The CX-60’s ride quality and gearbox stutters feel un-Mazda-like. Its MX-5, Mazda3 and CX-5 are at the top of their segments (or close to) on the ride/handling balance, making the CX-60’s flaws all the more mysterious.
If the problems can somehow be ironed out – adaptive suspension would be a good start – there’s an excellent luxury medium SUV ready to burst out. Once sorted, the CX-60 can stake a proper claim to its premium aspirations and the sticker price that comes with it.
Not many carmakers would release a new six-cylinder platform in 2023. Was Mazda’s bold decision the right one? We’re testing a CX-60 for 10,000km to find out.
Key specs (as tested)
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This week on Chasing Cars: Mazda CX-60 reviewed, BRZ orders open and Opel potentially heading to Australia
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