A new drive mode select system plus an off-road mode will make this Mazda's toughest crossover.
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 was revealed today during a virtual event. The new crossover from one of our favorite brands won't replace the similarly named CX-5, but is expected to account for 150,000 sales a year, according to the company. It will do battle with a bunch of strong-selling compact crossover competitors like the Toyota Rav4, Nissan Rogue Sport and Hyundai Tucson.
The new CX-50 takes a surprisingly off-road bent, with standard all-wheel drive and a vehicle "that's purpose-built for outdoor enthusiasts," says CEO Jeff Guyton. "It's an off-road driving experience that's engaging, fun, and all Mazda." Most of the reveal video showed the new vehicle in the forest, on dirt or snow.
That off-road capability comes from the drive modes, says Dave Coleman, lead engineer. The slightly raised and more rugged-looking CX-50 only comes with one off-road drive mode, because Mazda found that having too many was confusing buyers in the dealership. "If there's gravel under the tires, off-road mode is the way to go," said Coleman during the reveal.
"Anytime you're developing a vehicle for both on and off-road, you have to figure out what compromises you have to make between those two surfaces," said Coleman. "We had to figure out where Mazda's position should be in all this. The majority of your time is still spent on pavement. So compromising all of those on-road manners doesn't make sense, especially if you're Mazda.
Coleman says that makes driving more "precise, natural and intuitive." It makes the owner a better driver and makes the passengers more comfortable. Its new Mi-Drive drive mode select system will help with that, with Coleman noting that no matter the mode, the CX-50 will still drive like a Mazda. G-Vectoring Control, which is useful when taking corners fast, is also good for towing when all of the weight is in the rear. Hill-hold and hill-descent control are standard.
Powertrains will include turbo and non-turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, along with a hybrid. Mazda didn't give us any info on the electrified version, but said more info on that will come soon. Mazda didn't give us horsepower numbers either, but in the CX-5, CX-9, and other Mazda products, the 2.5-liter turbo makes 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. The naturally aspirated version makes 187 hp and 187 lb-ft in other applications.
We're not confused as to why this CX-50 won't replace the slightly smaller CX-5. The reason is that it is literally impossible to underestimate Americans' appetites for crossovers. One of our last family gatherings here in the Midwest saw eight crossover or SUVs, to two sedans and a truck.
We don't have a price yet, but the Mazda CX-3 starts just over $20K and the CX-30 is just over $22K. Doing that math, the CX-5 sets you back about $25,000, so we'd guess the CX-50 would come in around $27-$28K. We'll find out how it looks in person soon, as it goes on sale next spring.