The CX-60 is a great leap for Mazdakind

by Niky Tamayo | Jun 9, 2023

“The CX-60 has its own brand of Six Appeal.”

After decades of building some of the finest rear-wheel-drive sports cars on the planet, Mazda has finally applied that knowledge to building something other than a tiny, two-door Miata.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the long-awaited next-generation Mazda 6 or the mythical RX. Instead, Mazda is debuting its next-generation rear-drive platform in something decidedly larger: an SUV. And while that doesn’t sound quite as sexy as a new 6, the CX-60 has its own brand of Six Appeal. And it promises to be just as revolutionary as the 6 was when it launched a decade ago, sparking the SkyActiv revolution.

PHOTO: Teddy Garcia Jr.

The sheetmetal is at once familiar and attractive: It’s the same Kodo design language that debuted with the Mazda 6, only now stretched across the new Large Product Platform, the brand’s first real all-new product system in years. That sensuous, light-bending bodywork looks fantastic in Mazda’s incredibly deep Soul Red paint, perfectly offset by black chrome and wheels—which look suitably menacing on this top-of-the-line D-Sport variant.

Though retaining the family looks, the CX-60’s squared-off front and rear ends emphasize the minimal overhangs of the new platform. A longer bonnet and ‘Inline 6’ fender badges hint at the potent powertrain under-hood. Inline-six-cylinder engines that promise terrific smoothness, great fuel economy, and the most power ever on a road-going Mazda.

PHOTO: Charles Banaag

The engine sits way back the nose, tucked partially under the windshield. On the lower variant, it’s a 3.3 liter six-cylinder turbocharged gasoline unit putting out 280hp and 450Nm of torque. Paired with a 17hp/153Nm mild-hybrid assist motor that fills in the gaps whenever the eight-speed automatic shifts, it’s good for 0-100kph in 6.9sec. Making it, comfortably, the fastest model in the lineup.

The higher-end D-Sport HEV features a 3.3-liter turbodiesel boasting 250hp and 550Nm of torque, hooked up to the same hybrid assist and transmission. It’s good for a claimed 7.3sec to 100kph, but we don’t doubt that it will be quicker than the gasoline model in the real world, thanks to that extra torque.

Mazda has done some clever things with the pistons on this new diesel, featuring a split combustion chamber that allows partial pre-combustion before the main ignition phase—sort of a marriage between the SkyActiv-D diesel ignition and SkyActiv-X gasoline compression ignition technologies. If you don’t understand any of that, don’t worry, few people outside of Mazda do. All you need to know is that it runs at much lower pressures and temperatures than other diesels, which means much less pollution and much better fuel economy. Up to 18km/L on the mixed cycle, as per internal Mazda claims.

PHOTO: Charles Banaag

Not that we can verify this while circling Mazda’s stockyard. All we can say is it feels like, well, a diesel. A bit noisier than most, but gorgeously smooth. Also smooth is the steering. No silly hyperactivity around the straight ahead, as in some pretentiously ‘sporty’ vehicles. Instead, it’s smooth and tactile.

The 10-90 rearward torque bias of the drive system and the centralized location of all the powertrain bits also make for a more comfortable chassis balance. And despite the long wheelbase, a new front dual wishbone suspension and smaller front drive axles allow an impressively tight 5.4 meter turning radius. Which betters many competitors, both front-wheel-drive and rear.

Another pleasant surprise is the transmission. In that we don’t notice it much at all. Instead of a torque converter, as on most automatics, this uses two clutches. One between the engine and the hybrid motor, and one between that motor and the transmission. This allows for the same level of sporting engagement as a semi-manual transmission—as you’d find on older BMW M sports cars—but with smoother engagement and less shift shock than a single clutch or even a dual-clutch unit, thanks to the buffer provided by the hybrid motor. It also allows the engine to disengage completely while cruising or coasting, allowing the electric motor to either maintain momentum or recoup energy through regenerative braking.

That electric assist is scalable as well. The 17hp unit on this mild hybrid acts as a starter, assist motor, and generator. Move up to the plug-in variant, and you get a beefier 134hp unit that can drive the CX-60 by itself. We’re not getting that here, however. Internal testing by Mazda reveals that it isn’t quite suitable for local conditions yet. Unspoken is it may also not be suitable for the target market, either.

PHOTO: Charles Banaag

See, Mazda is banking on this car furthering its upmarket aspirations. It’s not going to appeal to status-seeking buyers looking to buy My First Mercedes Benz™, but it will appeal to current European car owners, looking for something new. Customers drawn to Mazda as a more approachable alternative to European luxury over the past decade, drawn by the brand’s impeccable finish and luxurious interiors.

Case in point: The CX-60’s cabin, a sumptuous buffet of tan Nappa leather and Leganu suede, with wide swatches of naked suede stretching across the brilliantly minimalistic dashboard, delighting both eyes and fingertips.

2023 Mazda CX-60

The deep seats are also a delight, with extra layers of support and webbing meant to increase driver comfort. The rear seats get a nod towards comfort, too. The rear is pushed back as far as possible over the rear axle without introducing uncomfortable lumps into the cushion, giving you a bit more rear legroom than in the CX-5 as well. Enough to cross your legs comfortably, if you don’t mind getting muddy footprints on the backs of the tan leather seats.

The full-length panoramic glass roof helps increase that feeling of space—though the big crossbar across the roof is a reminder that Mazda cares more about chassis rigidity than star-gazing. Out back, under the kick-to-open auto-tailgate, you get 570 liters of space. The wide and accessible load floor is a bonus. Some of that space is taken up under the floor by the spare tire and the integrated subwoofer, but you won’t hear us complaining about the extra bass in the boot!

PHOTO: Charles Banaag

In terms of other toys, the CX-60 has a full eleven speaker BOSE sound system—including that subwoofer—and twin 12.3-inch LED display screens, along with a 10.4-inch full-color HUD display projected on the windshield. Unlike other manufacturers, Mazda pushes those screens forward to keep your line of sight focused on the road and your fingers on the steering wheel.

The standard control puck duplicates much of the touch control navigation functions of the center screen, while physical controls for everything, from AC to drive modes, sit closer to hand. This helps minimize distractions while you’re driving. Part of Mazda’s driver-centric push. Beyond that, the CX-60 features extra driver personalization: a system that takes your height and automatically adjusts the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel position for optimum ergonomics. It then scans and memorizes your face, allowing it to restore those settings the next time you get in the car. Along with your audio and AC settings, as well. A nicely human touch, furthering Mazda’s aim of making the CX-60 an experience rather than simply a driving conveyance.

PHOTO: Charles Banaag

It will be a somewhat pricey experience. At P2,790,000, the CX-60 starts at a higher price point than the CX-8 or CX-9, though the top-of-the-line D-Sport at P2,890,000 slots in under the CX-9 range-topper.

This positions it as the new co-flagship of the range. And a fitting ambassador for the Mazda brand. This isn’t just a fancier mass-market crossover. It is a worthy opponent to the likes of the BMW X and Mercedes GL, giving you the power and presence of an X3 or GLC at a price undercutting the X1 and the GLA. Unlike other alt-premium brands like Lexus and Volvo, Mazda has skipped the easy front-wheel drive option and has built a true premium-level challenger with the CX-60.

2023 Mazda CX-60

Whether this is a gamble that pays off as handsomely as it has for Lexus remains to be seen. Lexus spent years distancing itself from the Toyota brand to justify its upmarket aspirations. Mazda’s approach: uplifting the entire brand into the premium segment through improvements in luxury, That’s another thing altogether. A risky move if taken by a high-volume manufacturer like Toyota, but for a small manufacturer like Mazda, it’s a gamble worth taking.

As the saying goes: Go big or go home. And Mazda is certainly going big with the CX-60. Whether that convinces buyers to take one home remains to be seen. But we have a feeling a lot of them will.

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PHOTO: Charles Banaag
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