Billed as the flagship of Mazda’s SUV range, the three-row CX-8 is powered by an updated version of Mazda’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, and includes the same G Vectoring Control – the engine can momentarily reduce performance to help weigh up a tyre to improve cornering grip – as rolled out to other Mazda models.
The car is unique to the Japanese market – the CX-9 is not sold there – and represents “a new people-moving option for customers who want to enjoy outings with family and friends but don't want to sacrifice design or driving performance”, Mazda said.
The engine ups its performance to 140kW and 450Nm, compared with 129kW and 420Nm for the four-pot diesel’s previous tune. In Australia, the CX-9 sells with a 170kW, 420Nm turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
It also features a more sporty suspension tune, with retuning and a rebound spring on the front dampers enhancing cornering ability. The CX-8 also gains beefier brakes, with 432mm ventilated discs up front and a larger master cylinder helping to improve stopping performance.
Inside, Japanese buyers can choose between captains’ chairs, which limit the number of passengers to six, or a traditional bench seat in the middle row. The rear seats are designed to be comfortable for adults up to about 170cm tall.
Mazda says it will build about 1200 of the CX-8 large SUVs a year for the right-hand-drive Japanese domestic market. However, Mazda Australia has flagged its interest in the sharper-looking diesel-engined SUV as a more muscular, fuel-misterly alternative to the petrol engine-only CX-9.
“If there was ever to be an ADR [Australian Design Rule] version of CX-8 offered to Mazda Australia we would evaluate this opportunity and consider its viability in this market and actually ask ‘how does it fit amongst the other SUV models we have on offer here?’’ Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi said recently.
The sharply styled CX-8 is not the only fastback SUV in Mazda’s expanding showroom. Last year, the Japanese car maker unveiled the China-only CX-4, a coupe-like version of its CX-5 mid-size SUV. Again, Mazda Australia has shown some interest in bringing the more design-driven version of the CX-5 here – if Mazda approves its expansion beyond the Sleeping Dragon’s borders.