Editor's note: The Mazda CX-60 is the automaker's first plug-in hybrid vehicle. Though not offered in the United States, it points towards Mazda's future with electrification. Our Motor1.com colleagues in Germany had the opportunity to drive a pre-production CX-60, and we're pleased to share that experience here.
On April 28, 2012 - exactly 10 years ago today - the official market launch of the Mazda CX-5 took place in Germany. The series is now in its second generation and, with over 500,000 units sold in Europe, has become an important pillar of Mazda's business. The CX-30, the quasi-successor to the CX-3, now complements the range at the bottom end. As for the other end?
The Large Platform
We now have the Mazda CX-60, which is not only based on the new "Large Platform", but has also become the brand's first model with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. In addition, the CX-60 is supposed to be more in tune with the premium segment for which Mazda is striving to achieve.
At 15.5 feet long, 6.2 feet wide, and 5.5 feet tall, the CX-60 certainly isn't small. With 323 hp (241 kW), an eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive, does this SUV live up to Mazda's promised character traits?
Gallery: Mazda CX-60 Plug-in Hybrid
Mazda's Kodo design language still allows the CX-60 to be recognized without a doubt as a model of the Japanese brand, holding a distinct design in the multitude of midsize SUVs. However, compared to the CX-3 or CX-5, the front end has been emphasized much more.
The long snout with a higher radiator grille, illuminated signature wing, vertical matrix LED headlight design, and a short rear leave no doubt that something is different underneath. Of course, there's a new platform with a longitudinally-mounted engine and rear-wheel-drive emphasis under the chic sheet metal skin.
Most Powerful Production Mazda To Date
Beneath the hood, Mazda combines a 189-hp 2.5-liter Skyactiv G four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 129-kW electric motor and a 355-volt lithium-ion battery with 17.8 kWh of storage capacity. The combined output equals 323 hp and 369 pound-feet (500 Newton-meters) of torque. Thusly equipped, the CX-60 is not only the brand's first PHEV vehicle, but also the most powerful production Mazda to date.
The hybrid powerplant connects to an eight-speed automatic without a torque converter, and a rear-heavy all-wheel-drive system called i-Activ AWD is also standard, distributing power as needed. On paper, the CX-60, which weighs around 4,500 pounds, can accelerate from a standstill to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.8 seconds. That's certainly faster than any MX-5.
The speed is electronically limited to 124 mph (200 km/h) in hybrid mode. When the batteries are full, you can theoretically drive up to 39 miles (63 kilometers) on electric power alone. However, electric speed is limited to 87 mph (140 km/h) and if you exceed this point, the gasoline engine automatically switches back on.
There's potential for this PHEV to be a surprisingly fun-to-drive vehicle. Aside from a low center of gravity and a stiff body with double-wishbone front and a multi-link rear suspension, the CX-60 has the Kinematic Posture Control driving stability program from the MX-5 to reduce body roll. Looking at it all on paper, our guess is that this could be a rather fun SUV for daily duties.
But what you see on paper doesn't always translate to real life. Slipping behind the wheel, we press the start button for a 62-mile (100-km) drive around the Portuguese coast, where the curvy hinterland offers a good impression of the CX-60. It should be mentioned that this particular vehicle is still a pre-production model that is not quite finalized yet.
As such, we're assured that the short grinding noise when changing from first to second gear, as well as the whistling sound of the electric motor, will disappear in production. That would certainly be better, as neither sounds fit the CX-60 premium aspirations.
The rest of the impression, however, burns itself into our memory in a thoroughly positive way. The gasoline engine sounds excellent, and the CX-60 drives like a Mazda should. The steering is nice and direct, the chassis manages the road-holding balancing act between comfort and sportiness well, the brakes react with surprising ambition, and the hybrid system doesn't let itself get out of control when individual components communicate with each other.
Nevertheless, you shouldn't expect a super-sized MX-5. You're too detached from the road for that. The best way to classify the handling is in relation to the competition. We find ourselves somewhere between the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class (more comfortable) and the BMW X3 (sportier). Depending on the driving mode (EV, Normal, Sport, Offroad, Offroad Traction, or Trailer), the preferences can be shifted somewhat. However, the spread isn't too big.
Confidence In Traffic
Things get premium when we take a look at the various driver assists. A 360-degree monitor with pretty good resolution improves close-range visibility at low speeds. These are joined by a hill descent assistant, an adaptive cruise control system that can recognize speed limit signs, an exit warning, and an extended congestion assistance function that offers automatic steering, acceleration, and braking at speeds up to 93 mph (150 km/h). And you know what? It's not so silly in the heavy traffic around Lisbon. The system works flawlessly and you quickly trust it.
The wheelbase measures 113 inches (2.87 meters) and provides good space on all seats. The trunk capacity is 20 cubic feet (570 liters) and can be expanded to a maximum of 61 cubic feet (1,726 liters) by folding down the rear seats. And if a trailer is still required, the PHEV can also hook up to 2.5 tons.
Inside, the interior is not only practical but also chic with a minimalist design, similar to what we've seen in recent Mazdas. The workmanship looks good, and the choice of materials fits with the application. In addition, the seating position feels very ergonomic.
The so-called Driver Personalization System recognizes who is currently sitting behind the wheel if you have registered beforehand. The driver's height has to be entered once, and an additional camera (which also detects inattentive traffic) is used to find the (almost) perfect seating position. Once set up, the seat position, steering wheel, mirrors, head-up display, and even sound and climate settings are adjusted automatically when you enter.
It is a bit sad that the 12.3-inch infotainment screen cannot be operated via touch function, and the visualization could be a bit sharper. However, once you get used to the BMW-like Multi Commander, you'll be fine. That's especially true because the content is well-sorted, and there isn't much to navigate. The i-Active display behind the steering wheel, which is also 12.3 inches in size, looks good. Both features are standard equipment, by the way.
Trim levels for the CX-60 include the Prime-line, Exclusive-line, Homura, and Takumi. Prices range from €47,390 to €52,890 from the basic to the top trim levels. From the Exclusive-line upward, prices for optional packages include: Driver Assistance (1,600 euros), Convenience & Sound (2,800 euros), Comfort package & leather upholstery (2,900 euros), and Premium Comfort (1,600 euros). A Panoramic glass sunroof (1,300 euros) is also available.
Whether there was really a need for a large plug-in hybrid SUV above the CX-5, which will also feature newly developed six-cylinder engines in the future, remains to be seen. But now, the Mazda CX-60 is here and the product is quite respectable. During our test, we were able to experience a vehicle that has all the characteristics of a Mazda and also packs an extra portion of premium into the Japanese SUV. And after deducting over 7,000 euros in purchase premiums (as long as they still exist), the price for such a machine is also quite reasonable.