2023 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Combines a fresh look with precision handling
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
I've always been impressed by the build quality and handling of Mazda's "CX" line of SUVs. But the shield-style grill and sloping hood line that instantly identifies the CX-30, CX-5 and CX-9 has become visually tiresome. Finally, Mazda stylists have jettisoned that dated trope for a fresh looking newcomer to the product line - the 2023 CX-50. With its upright stance, perky oblong grill, and decidedly pugnacious look, the CX-50 not only performs like an SUV, but looks like one as well. No matter which CX-50 you select, AWD is standard. The vast nine level model array kicks off with the Base version ($28,025), and escalates in cost and complexity through Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium, Premium Plus, Turbo, and Turbo Premium echelons, At the very summit of the model line stands the $41,550 Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 which we spent a week testing. With $395 worth of "Zircon Sand Metallic" paint, this CX-50 carried an all-in price of $43,170
While lower echelon versions of the new SUV rely on a barely adequate 187hp, 2.5 liter inline 4, all three Turbo models substitute a 227hp, 2.5 liter inline 4. Premium fuel ups rated horsepower to 256hp. This engine sends 320lb.-ft. of torque to all 4 wheels through a 6-speed automatic gearbox which features steering wheel paddles for manual gear selection. The 3,800 pound CX-50 Turbo explodes with surprising thrust when you nail the throttle. Preliminary tests indicate the Turbo engined CX-50 will reach 60 mph from a standing start in 6.2 seconds and crank off a quarter mile in the 14.2 second range.
Mazda may have changed the recipe for looks, but they haven't lost their knack for precision handling. On paved roads that present a driving challenge to most SUVs, this newest Mazda darts from apex to apex with a sure footed equilibrium reminiscent of the company's MX-5 two seater. Standard equipment on the Turbo Premium Plus are a set of black and chrome 20" alloy rims fitted with very compliant all-season Goodyear Eagle Touring radials (245/45R20). While the CX-50 gives a good account of its dexterity in the "Normal" Drive Select setting, you can instantly increase feedback of suspension and throttle by bumping the center console Drive Select switch to "Sport" mode. Choosing Sport mode also morphs the instrument display from black to bold red. Mazda has added an "Off-Road" driving mode that will make the CX-50 more attractive to potential Subaru Forrester and Toyota RAV4 shoppers.
Mazda has always taken great pains to enhance the driving experience with an interior layout that matches speed with high style. The "Terracotta" cabin of our CX-50 Turbo Premium Plus continues that tradition with a look all its own that combines good taste with great comfort. What impressed most of all was the excellent line-of-sight visibility from the driver's seat in all directions. The huge power sliding glass moonroof is real boon to rear seat occupants who are usually consigned to a cave like travel experience. A 10.3 inch color center display screen rests atop the dashboard, controlled by a large wheel located on the center console. We especially appreciated the subdued dark metal trim inserts in the door panels, and the nifty looking, orange "W" pattern contrast stitching that brightened the dashboard and leather seat cushions. Mazda has replicated the look of a radio faceplate on the face of the dash. However, this coincidence flatters to deceive, because the left knob controls - not volume- but temperature for the driver. The right knob controls - not station choice - but temp setting for the passenger. And all those buttons in between that look like station presets control fan speed and the like. I lost count of the number of times I reached for the air temp knob when I wanted to adjust audio volume. The actual knob is inexplicably located on the busy center console between the seats.
The rear split bench seats fold absolutely flat at the flick of a latch on each seat back, yielding 31 cubic feet of cargo space. But the space is narrow where the rear wheel wells intrude, so we had a difficult time stowing a bike back there. It can be done, but you need to fold the front tire over against the bike frame to get it to fit. Mazda does offer a roof rack for the CX-50, or you can opt for a bike carrier that mounts in the available receiver hitch. This SUV is rated at 3,500 lbs. for towing. In addition to the Normal, Sport and Off Road Drive Select choices, Mazda also offers a Towing mode setting which promotes vehicle stability.
2023 MAZDATURBO PREMIUM PLUS AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, twin scroll turbocharged, DOHC, 16-valve
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 23MPG City/29MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,170
HYPES: First Mazda That Looks Like an SUV
GRIPES: Hesitant Cruise Control Behavior
STAR RATING: 9.5 Stars out of 10