Mazda keeps on rolling


Mazda premium options saw two new entries recently; the CX-5 Turbo AWD (all-wheel drive) that replaces the turbodiesel AWD variant and the CX-8 six-seater SUV (sports utility vehicle) that moves further up the ladder in luxury motoring from this marque.

A new twist to the latest turbo model is that it is a 2.5-litre petrol unit, which is a big engine displacement rather than the usual smaller engine direction taken by other carmakers when turbo engine variants are introduced.

Going for a smaller engine displacement is the normal choice as better petrol efficiency and mileage could be obtained with such power units. However, Mazda believes that its 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine is already very fuel efficient and provides good fuel mileage, and introducing a turbocharged option is to provide the engine with a stronger kick in acceleration.

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Mazda has never been known to play by the rules and since its Skyactiv initiation from 2013 has bucked the trend in quite a few ways, mostly on the technical side. Adding to the premium options for Mazda customers in Malaysia is the recent launch of the Mazda CX-8 at the Kulim multi-brand vehicle assembly plant.

This is a six-seater SUV that tops the Mazda locally assembled range and panders to those who want a bigger and more spacious premium vehicle to motor or travel around in. We had a drive in both; the CX-5 Turbo in a drive from KL to Penang and back, and the CX-8 in a mix of highway and urban drives in Kulim from the car assembly premises and back.

CX-5 Turbo The CX-5 Turbo AWD takes over as head honcho from the 2.2L turbodiesel AWD variant and presented a newer engine variant to support the normally aspirated 2.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol variants. By having a turbocharger, the 2.5-litre engine has a lower compression ratio against the normally aspirated units to operate more efficiently.

Mazda CX-5 Turbo 2.5L.
Mazda CX-5 Turbo 2.5L.

It, naturally, has more to offer in engine output with 228hp against 192hp for the normally aspirated 2.5-litre and 420Nm against 258Nm. As the only AWD model in this range, it tips the scales higher at 1,708kg kerb against 1,592 for the 2.5-litre normally aspirated CX-5.

On the move, the turbo feed of petrol into the engine combustion chamber makes the difference when accelerating, either from the traffic lights and when passing another vehicle on the highway. The rapid build-up of speed belies its weighty tonnage and we could revel easily at 180kph and above when the roads were clear.

It cruised easily at 140kph with the engine turning easily at a mid 2,200rpm and its NVH levels are as low as they come for this level of premium SUV motoring. On a full tank, we could drive from Penang to KL with a quarter tank to spare despite the robust pace along parts of the journey.

Mazda CX-5 Turbo 2.5L.
Mazda CX-5 Turbo 2.5L.

We had rain for almost a third of the drive but the CX-5 Turbo felt nicely planted on the road and the AWD with all its electronical assistance kept confidence at a high level. We weren’t too fond of the lane assist feature though as we could feel it pulling us back to the proper lane should we stray.

We decided to turn it off on the drive to KL as we were more comfortable without it although we don’t question the safety aspect of its workings. Another small irritant was the i-Stop feature that gives the CX-5 almost a hybrid vehicle type of feeling in which the engine cuts off and reactivates as you accelerate.

This happened in stop-start conditions and the function is to save fuel; we learnt that this could be turned off too and another way to counter it is to set the air-conditioner blower to the lowest speed.

Minor niggles aside, the CX-5 Turbo makes for a good highway tourer with its easy yet strong pace and the quiet way in which we could motor along. We also like the head-up display, which Mazda calls the Coloured Windshield Projection Display, that allowed us to keep our eyes more on the road.

Price-wise, it’s reasonable at RM181,770 on-the-road without insurance, being under RM9,000 more than the 2.2D 2WD High variant and about RM15,000 more than the 2.5G 2WD High normally aspirated petrol version.

Mazda CX-8.
Mazda CX-8.

CX-8 The more exciting of the two recent arrivals where premium motoring is concerned, the CX-8 could probably lay claim to being the only SUV with individual seats for six in the market in its price category (tentatively about RM200,000 pending approval).

It is available in four variants beginning with the 2.5L 2WD Mid, 2.5L 2WD Mid Plus and 2.5L 2WD High with Skyactiv-G 2.5-litre normally aspirated engines, and the 2.2L AWD with the Skyactiv-D 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine.

Maintaining an attractive price range was the primary goal and that explains why there is no 2.5-litre turbo petrol AWD option for now although such a model is available. Our drive impression was in the sole turbodiesel model and the general impression was more on its top quality ride and silent mobility.

Mazda CX-8.
Mazda CX-8.

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel delivers a reasonably good 188hp and a humongous 450Nm of torque at 2000rpm to ensure that it could move the bigger and heavier SUV (1924kg kerb for the turbodiesel) at a decent pace.

The Skyactiv architecture in its chassis sees a new technical application in the suspension components that helps the anti-roll bar in keeping body lean when taking corners to a minimum. This new approach is said to allow the CX-8 to take a corner flatter than it would have been with the more conventional suspension design.

We didn’t have any sharp turns to put this to the test but the few fast sweepers that we drove the CX-8 through, the body did seem to roll a lot less for a vehicle of its height and stature. And the good level of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is fully enjoyed while puttering in urban traffic and the few times that the CX-8 was driven at a quick dash.

Mazda CX-8.
Mazda CX-8.

Engine noise and road roar were nicely subdued for us to luxuriate in the Nappa leather interior and some of us even caught a catnap along the way. And sitting in the third row of two individual seats was just as comfortable with good legroom and all the convenient adjustment facilities available to get the best sitting position.

We found the initial acceleration a bit wanting, more so after driving the CX-5 Turbo, probably because of its heavier stance but generally, the CX-8 2.2L AWD moved along quite effortlessly in urban and highway.

Mazda CX-8.
Mazda CX-8.

 
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