The Japanese brand has upmarket ambitions and the CX-60 is just the start of its onslaught.
The introduction of the new CX-60 heralds a change at Mazda. The Hiroshima-based brand is no longer satisfied with competing in the mainstream segment and has been eyeing the premium market for quite some time. While becoming a rival to BMW and Mercedes-Benz is of little interest to the carmaker, Mazda's UK boss has previously said the company wants to take on Lexus in the Japanese premium brand sector.
According to a report from Automotive News Mazda will permeate the segment with a slew of premium crossovers. We've already seen the first; the aforementioned CX-60. Set to take on the Lexus NX, the elegantly styled SUV is one of four planned for release, with two heading to the United States. Set to be positioned above the rugged CX-50, the CX-70 and CX-90 are set to arrive in 2023.
And where will these newcomers be positioned? Well, the larger CX-90 will supplant the maturing CX-9, with the CX-70 following closely. A CX-80 will also be produced for other markets.
Different they all may be, the quartet of plush SUVs are all underpinned by Mazda's large-vehicle platform. The newly-developed rear-wheel-drive architecture will underpin all Mazdas larger than the CX-50 and support all-wheel-drive and, importantly, electrification in the form of hybridization.
Several powertrains will be offered, including an all-new diesel engine, conventional turbocharged gasoline engines, and, importantly, Mazda's first plug-in hybrid. First seen in the CX-60, the PHEV setup creates a total of 322 horsepower, making it the company's most powerful vehicle ever.
While SUVs are positively de rigeur at the moment, Mazda's managing executive officer, Takeji Kojima, has said the new platform also opens up a plethora of possibilities in oft-forgotten segments. While it looks like a rear-wheel-drive Mazda6 is dead in the water, it may happen one day. It could even set the scene for a range-topping sports car. Exciting that may be, but don't hold your breath - Mazda wants to find success with its new crossovers first.
As everyone looks to downsizing as the answer to pertinent environmental concerns, Mazda is placing bets on larger capacity powertrains. Not only will bigger motors attract a more affluent clientele but afford greater performance without compromising on gas mileage. Eco-minded consumers may point to the downsides of a sizeable motor but, through an effectual combustion process, Mazda has managed to deliver better fuel efficiency.
Stateside, buyers are unlikely to gain access to the torque-rich turbodiesel, but the PHEV and gasoline variants will certainly be made available. The US-bound CX-70 and CX-90 will receive the e-Skyactiv plug-in hybrid and the much-anticipated gas-powered 3.3-liter turbocharged inline-six.
Both the CX-70 and CX-90 models will be wider than their European counterparts and, while the former will ship with two rows of seating, the latter will boast three rows. Like Porsche and Toyota, Mazda isn't keen on placing all its eggs in the EV basket. Further investment into ICE technology suggests the combustion engine won't die just yet.
Mazda's head of R&D, Ichiro Hirose, explained just how impressive the latest breed of engines is. The latest diesel, with its mild-hybrid system, is just as efficient as a full hybrid, he says. Furthermore, it can even run on biofuel.
"One of our missions is to boost the efficiency of internal combustion to the max. When biofuels become available, we think there is a huge opportunity for greater application of diesel engines. We believe there will come a day when diesel engines make a comeback." This doesn't mean Mazda isn't thinking about full EVs, though.
In 2025, Skyactiv EV Scalable Architecture will debut. It will serve as the structure for several small-to-large battery-powered electric cars, with Mazda hoping for EVs to comprise a quarter of global sales by 2030. This is all set to change when the brand updates its targets this year.
"Frankly speaking, considering the latest trend of regulation in Europe and the United States, 25% should not be enough," said the company's marketing head.
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