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2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV First Drive: An Enlightening Road Test?

Author: Vincent-AubéPublished:  9/9/2022
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV First Drive: An Enlightening Road Test? 2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV First Drive: An Enlightening Road Test?

Düsseldorf, Germany - It's not often a automaker invites automotive journalists to test drive a vehicle that will never be part of the brand's lineup in North America. But, as the saying goes, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Mazda is currently looking to reinvigorate its image by tackling a slightly more upscale segment and the CX-60 is exactly the type of vehicle the brand needs right now.

The Japanese manufacturer already has a few utility vehicles, and some of them come out of the factory with a quality of execution that is quite astonishing for a generalist brand, but to reach a more demanding clientele, Mazda must also review its goals, surpass its limits, and even get off the beaten track to change its image.

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That's what this new mid-size crossover offensive is all about. Mazda already has the CX-9, a vehicle that competes with models like the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder, but it will be replaced by the CX-90, a model that we're guessing may just outperform its predecessor. Mazda is also planning for North America a new CX-70, an SUV that could change the game in the two-row midsize segment.

But for now, Mazda has only unveiled part of this new approach in the form of the CX-60, a slightly smaller cousin of the upcoming CX-70 - at least, that's what we'Re guessing -, but this new CX is not destined for North American roads.

That's why we headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Mazda Europe's headquarters in Düsseldorf, where the 2023 CX-60 PHEV was waiting for us. But what's the point of testing a vehicle that won't be part of the Canadian strategy?

It's true that at first glance, this exercise may seem pointless, but fact is the CX-70 will be based on the same Large platform as the CX-60 or the other two, the CX-80 and CX-90, for that matter. As for the fact that these vehicles will all use some variation of this plug-in hybrid powertrain, let's just say that the similarities point more and more towards an enlightening test.

Sportier proportions
At first glance, the CX-60 mimics other Mazda crossovers with pinched back windows, rounded wheel arches that don't use the usual black plastic (this is new!), and the obligatory well-sized wheels. Even the rear marker lights are reminiscent of the CX-5 - or CX-50, for that matter - while the front lights seem to be integrated into the grille supported by that lower chrome strip. However, if you take the time to walk around the vehicle, you'll quickly notice that the CX-60's hood is longer than usual and that the cabin is set back as far as possible, a recipe used in recent years by Ford with the Explorer or even its luxury variant the Lincoln Aviator.

Mazda is clearly targeting a clientele that values a sportier-than-average driving experience, even if comfort is also a concern in this segment.

A first look at the new electrified powertrains
For this first drive of the new “premium” SUVs from Mazda, the plug-in hybrid option was the only one available for a road test. So, the turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine variant would have to wait... probably until the CX-90 is unveiled in a few months.

With 327 hp and 378 ft-lb of torque, the crossover's PHEV powertrain becomes the most powerful in the brand's history. The powertrain is based on the familiar 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine with a 129-kW (or 173-hp) electric motor-generator and a 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery. A clutch connects the combustion engine and the electric motor, allowing the gasoline engine to be "disconnected" when the situation allows it... to drive electric.

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