THE most powerful road car Mazda has ever produced is poised to herald a new chapter in the Japanese manufacturer’s 102-year history.
Not only is the CX-60 the brand’s first plug-in hybrid model, but also its largest and most practical SUV to date.
It’s also the first of no less than 13 new models due to be launched by Mazda between now and 2025, with five hybrid models, five plug-in hybrids and a trio of battery electric vehicles in the pipeline.
Leading the way is the CX-60 and when it hits UK streets this autumn the big SUV will launch exclusively with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Skyactiv-G petrol engine – the same unit found in the slightly smaller CX-5 model – with a powerful electric motor and lithium-ion battery.
Prices are from £43,950 and power, space, tech plus a raft of upmarket features and design initiatives are guaranteed.
Mazda’s UK chief Jeremy Thomson sees the CX-60 as a serious challenger to established premium brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and is convinced the newcomer will represent a step-change in the way people view the company.
His optimism is understandable – this is an extremely desirable offering, looking stylish and oozing quality too.
Its plug-in hybrid unit enables the car to be driven on electricity for a large proportion of daily use, hence the claimed consumption figure of 188 miles per gallon.
The combination of engine and motor delivers a total system output of a hefty 327PS and torque of 500Nm, the upshot being zero to 60mph acceleration in 5.8 seconds.
Head off on battery power alone and the promise is of 39 miles of electric motor-powered driving, running at 62mph or less, and with normal AC charging the battery can be fully charged from empty in two hours 20 minutes.
Offered in three trim grades called Exclusive-Line, Homura and Takumi, buyers can also add a pair of option packs – Convenience and Driver Assistance – plus a Comfort pack for Exclusive-Line and a panoramic roof for the other two levels.
Japanese heritage craftsmanship with fresh tech and sensible, premium ergonomics are common to all, the car’s interior design introducing the ideas of Kaichou – what they call ‘an element of disruption’ that mixes different materials and textures.
It’s an interesting concept and incorporates a stitching technique called Kakenui which creates ‘hanging stitch’ seams with spaces between the trim fabrics. It’s certainly different, with diverse patterns, maple wood and Nappa leather adding to the effect.
We also like something called the Mazda Driver Personalisation System which facially recognises the driver and automatically adjusts the seat position, steering wheel, sound, ventilation and mirrors to fit physique and preferences.
When it comes to passenger space and luggage capacity, the CX-60’s lengthy wheelbase and height ensures this is Mazda’s most practical SUV to date.
Space is top notch all round, with no need for rear passengers to twist their lower body to feel comfortable. It’s all very comfortable, sensibly laid out and very premium.
Including underfloor storage there’s a 570-litre boot. Load to the roofline and the capacity increases to 1,762 litres with the seats folded down.
As for loading, there are quick release levers for the rear seats in the boot, a powered tailgate as standard and also a low tailgate lip.
Regards tech, the CX-60 features a 12.3-inch colour central display screen controlled by a rotary dial and all grades get a colour head-up display, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, keyless entry, heated front seats, a 12-speaker sound system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus connected services via the My Mazda app.
The UK launch drive comprised a return 150-mile route from Liverpool’s Titanic Hotel, across the Denbigh moors in North Wales and deep into Snowdonia, ensuring everything from city, motorway and rural driving to loose and pock-marked reservoir tracks.
It provided every opportunity for the CX-60 to demonstrate its capability, each model featuring a choice of five drive modes – Normal, Sport, Off-road, Towing and EV – and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The Mazda is a lovely car to drive, feeling both lighter and smaller than its actual size and beautifully balanced too with the added boost of all-wheel drive.
And the brand’s Kinetic Posture control tech adds further stability when cornering by braking the inside rear wheel to mitigate any roll, while placing the battery low down between the front and rear axles aids the centre of gravity.
Certainly if the CX-60 is anything to go by then the future looks sparkling for Mazda, a company that while continuing its journey towards electrification remains also committed to internal combustion power.
In fact, its new generation six-cylinder 3.0-litre e-SkyActiv X petrol and 3.3-litre e-SkyActiv D diesel engines, which both include a mild hybrid system, will join the CX-60 range from next year.