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.
Mazda has long been an off-beat carmaker, smaller in scale but broader in thinking than many of its rivals, so in many ways it’s perhaps not a surprise that the CX-60 midsize SUV sits in front of us today.
Clearly, Australians have warmed especially well to the Mazda way of automotive thinking: the Hiroshima-based brand is a very significant part of our local market, but it is a niche player in America and Europe.
That left-field thinking led Mazda to release some of the best-driving and most complete mainstream cars of the 2010s, with Chasing Cars and many other titles praising release after engaging release: the Mazda 3 small car, CX-5 midsize SUV and CX-9 large SUV became benchmarks other cars had to surmount.
But there’s now risk and danger ahead for Mazda. At a time that many regard as the beginning in earnest of the age of EVs, Mazda has forged ahead with a different view of propulsion: one that, initially at least, sounds more 1990s than 2020s.
The marque has spent years developing its new Large Product Architecture platform: a chassis based mainly around six-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive bias.
Full electrification isn’t possible with LPA vehicles: the most it can do is a relatively modest plug-in hybrid (PHEV) configuration.
When you remember that Mazda versus Volkswagen or Toyota is essentially automotive’s version of David v Goliath, banking on a new six-cylinder platform is a hugely bold bet for the company and one that has committed Mazda for the next few years to the path it has chosen.
Competitive Mazda EVs remain at least three years away. Most rivals are already releasing electrics.
Has the company got its priorities right? Is it too late to release a series of vehicle like this? Has Mazda squeezed into a favourable pocket in time, selling large, lushly-engined crossovers that could be your last combustion-powered family car?
That’s what Chasing Cars intends to discover. To do so, we ordered a 2023 Mazda CX-60 Azami diesel: a $78,000 luxury upper-midsize SUV.
The CX-60 was the first Large Product Architecture model to land in Australia, available with either a six-cylinder petrol engine, six-cylinder diesel-engine or a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid petrol engine. All come equipped with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
The price of our long-term CX-60 is $77,600 before on-road costs, or $83,900 driveaway in New South Wales.
Some of the other luxury and safety features found on this D50e Azami include:
Key rivals to our long-term CX-60 D50e Azami include the Audi Q5 40 TDI (from $86,700), the BMW X3 xDrive20d (from $84,700), the Mercedes-Benz GLC300 (from $104,900), and the Volvo XC60 B5 Ultimate (from $80,990).
At the launch of the CX-60, we praised the available straight-six engines but heavily criticised the brittle ride quality and the rough pairing of the PHEV model’s petrol and electric propulsion systems. Our diesel long-termer will allow us to comprehensively judge whether we were right…on the former point, at least.
We settled on the diesel engine largely because of its staggering, on-paper 4.9L/100km fuel economy claim. Diesel might seem like it is on its deathbed for premium SUVs, but if the CX-60 D50e can approach that level of frugality, there might be some life left yet.
As it turned out, an extensive drive on the national launch showed the diesel to be the most flexible and sensible powertrain of the lot, with strong torque and seemingly impressive real-world economy – we’ll test this scientifically.
We also indulged in the $2000 SP package, which enriches the cabin with tan nappa leather. Outside, SP does enforce black alloy wheels, while chrome trimmings from the standard Azami variant (or the $2000 bright-themed Takumi pack) go dark.
Aesthetically, at least, we think our deep crystal blue over tan truckster is pretty handsome. Darker paint colours seem to suit the slab-sided CX-60 better than lighter ones. We do question whether this is Mazda’s best-looking crossover effort in recent years, though.
The forthcoming six months and 10,000km will also allow us to fully judge the CX-60 as the all-rounder vehicle that it is trying to be. Like other Mazdas, the CX-60 has a clearly evident sporting bent while its interior punches well upward in perceived quality into Audi and BMW territory.
So, it’s not just a question of whether the CX-60 (and its ilk) is the right idea for Mazda in 2023.
It’s also a debate about whether you could seriously preference a CX-60 over the much more standard choices in this premium SUV segment: models like the BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and new Mercedes-Benz GLC are pretty good. They’ll take some beating.
You’re welcome to settle in and embark on that journey with us as we get our heads around the CX-60 and come to a firm recommendation for you at the end of our time with the car.
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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