Road test: Mazda's CX-5 Takami a turbocharged firecracker
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The Mazda CX-5 is a big old Labrador now — a faithful piece of furniture in the landscape of one of the most important segments in current-day motoring.
Testament to the model's popularity is its continual position as a sales hero for Mazda. Last month it was New Zealand's best-selling passenger car, pipping the Kia Sportage, Suzuki Swift, and Toyota Corolla. Not bad for a vehicle nearing its second birthday.
Despite being a teenager in car years, the CX-5 is still a firm front-runner in the SUV space. It’s certainly still a popular player among the Driven team, thanks largely to the way it deals to corners with ease, its looks, and the high quality of its cabin.
And now, there’s a shiny new trim level to consider.
Those familiar with the Mazda line-up will know about their top-line Takami models in the 6, CX-3, and CX-9. And late last year, a Takami-spec all-wheel drive CX-5 priced at $61,495 ($3,450 more than diesel Limited) was released to the market.
A gift and a curse of Mazda’s overall line-up is that it’s hard to tell them apart regardless of specification. That’s happy news for those shopping in the bottom or middle of the range, but perhaps a slight irritation for anyone wanting to get more visual neighbour-shaming bling for their money. It’s a case that remains consistent with the CX-5 Takami, which is generally only identifiable through its large 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres.
But, we’re not complaining. The CX-5’s implementation of Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language is among the most successful and best-ageing of the range. Comparatively narrow black wheel-arch extensions and headlights that feed into its chrome mouth give the CX-5 a mature appearance, as does the lack of complex cuts and contours in the bodywork.
The grown-up theme continues inside — as it always has with the CX-5. The quality of materials is up there with anything European in this size bracket, with soft surfaces, stitched leathers, and tasteful garnishes of metal and wood making it a truly lovely place to sit.
For the Takami model, chocolate brown Nappa leather treatments have been added to the seats, transmission tunnel, and doors. It’s a curious addition, given that the darkness of the material means it blends into the black that adorns every other surface.
Among the other updates that come with the Takami is a slightly revised infotainment system. It now (thankfully) comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto out of the box, along with satnav and a potent Bose sound system.
But, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. For one, loading times on vehicle start-up are slower than most, and while the centre-mounted scroll-wheel is easy to use, those wanting to touch the screen while driving are blocked from doing so by the car’s safety nannies. At 7-inches, it’s also much smaller than most other systems.
The most disappointing element though is the cameras. The CX-5 Takami comes with front and rear-facing cameras, as well as a 360-degree camera. Resolution across the board is poor, while large black lines that divide the 360-degree camera display make it hard to use. It’s a sad time machine to 2008-tech, in a car that many would expect better from.
The CX-5 tries to claw back points with its practicality, and in some ways it’s successful.
Second-row space is sufficient for tall adults and the seats are among the easiest in class to fold flat when accessed from the boot. On the flip-side, the 442L of boot space is less than what a Volkswagen Tiguan or Honda CR-V offers.
The hard work to make the CX-5 appeal to premium buyers is also partially undone by relatively firm ride quality. While this helps those aforementioned cornering dynamics, it does somewhat seem a little contrary to the Takami’s luxury intentions.
However, these elements haven’t stopped buyers from migrating to the CX-5 in droves. And neither has anything to do with the Takami’s biggest party trick; its engine.
It’s the SkyActiv-G 2.5T; the first turbocharged petrol engine to join the CX-5 ranks and the same engine that’s fitted to the Mazda6 Takami. It makes 170kW and 420Nm — 30kW/168Nm more than the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine offered in mid-spec models, and more power and torque than just about anything else in the segment.
In real-world practice, those numbers make for performance that’s beyond compelling. The Takami accelerates to 100km/h in a sharp 7.7 seconds that somehow feels even quicker from behind the wheel.
The traditional six-speed automatic is quick to drop a few cogs with each sharp application of throttle and happy to let the engine rev out to red-line. Not that such theatrics are necessary, given that peak torque comes at just 2000rpm thanks to the variable geometry turbocharger.
It is the best power-train of any vehicle in this class — and I don’t say that lightly.
But the best thing about the unhinged four-popper is that, behind the big numbers and bigger grins, it’s actually a quiet, refined, and perfectly easy to live with. Our combined fuel economy figures of 9.5L/100km were solid for a vehicle of this size, and made particularly impressive given that you can fill the Takami at the pump with 91-octane petrol.
So yes, the CX-5 might be a little longer in the tooth than some of its rivals. But, the old Labrador still has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve.
2019 Mazda CX-5 Takami
Pros: Fabulous powertrain, looks have aged well, premium cabin
Cons: Ride brittle at times, poor reverse camera, not the roomiest