Hand-me-downs ordinarily have a negative connotation, but not so in the CX-5’s case. Mazda’s popular medium SUV has gained the same 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol inline four as the much larger Mazda CX-9, following in the footsteps of the Mazda 6 that received the same upgrade last year. With a stout 170kW and 420Nm on hand, that engine adds a great deal more mechanical oomph to the CX-5 equation.
However, it’s not a replacement for the 140kW naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol that was previously the most powerful in the range (alongside the 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel option). That engine carries over, with the new turbo petrol only available in the higher-grade CX-5 GT and CX-5 Akera. We’re testing the latter here.
At $49,170, the turbo petrol version of the Mazda CX-5 Akera is the second-most expensive model in the range, eclipsed only by the turbo diesel variant of the same model. When compared with segment rivals it’s certainly at the upper end of the spectrum, with alternatives at a similar specification and power level (such as the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, Holden Equinox LTZ and Ford Escape Titanium) priced just below the Mazda.
With fuel consumption of 8.2 L/100km the ability to run on regular unleaded and a capped-price servicing scheme, the CX-5’s running costs should still be quite reasonable despite its power output and turbocharged nature.
As the CX-5 flagship, the Akera is positively bulging with luxury features as standard – as you’d hope, given its comparatively high retail price.
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From the factory, all CX-5 Akeras receive LED headlamps, power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated outer second-row seats, more supple Nappa leather upholstery, a power-operated tailgate, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and a 10-speaker Bose premium audio system.
A 7-inch colour infotainment display is perhaps the only equipment-related lowlight, given many rivals are adopting 8-inch screens as their new minimum. But it is controlled through a slick rotary controller on the centre console and also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as well, in case Mazda’s standard sat-nav infotainment isn’t to your liking.
For many Australian car buyers right now, the CX-5 exists right in the Goldilocks zone. Measuring 4.55 metres long, 1.68 metres tall, 1.84 metres wide and offering space for five across two rows of seats, the CX-5 is typical for a midsize SUV in terms of its sizing. Its wagon body can also accommodate up to 442 litres of luggage with the rear seats raised, making the CX-5 a versatile machine.
All CX-5 variants receive autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, a reversing camera, parking sensors, and a full suite of six airbags as standard. Crash safety has also been awarded a full 5-star rating by ANCAP.
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The Akera’s plush Nappa leather and the near-premium aura offered by the CX-5’s cabin design does a neat job of fooling most people into thinking they’re in something a lot more sophisticated than a mere Japanese mass-market SUV. In many respects, that’s the flagship CX-5’s core point-of-difference – its ability to make its owners feel special every time they slip behind the wheel.
That upmarket ambience is matched with commendable comfort. The front seats have a huge range of adjustment that should see any occupant feel well-supported, vision through the front glass is superb and the controls are clear and easy to navigate by touch.
It’s a somewhat cosy cabin, in that the roof runs closer to the top of your head than the segment norm and rear seat legroom isn’t especially generous, but there’s enough room for two parents and three kids to stay comfortable during a road trip. Rear air vents, ventilated front seats and the fact the only seat that doesn’t offer electric heating for your bum and back is the rear centre position, means you and your passengers should want for little.
Read next: Mazda CX-5 turbo confirmed for Australia
ON THE ROAD
Those who consider more power to equate to a better driving experience will no doubt like the idea of a turbocharged CX-5. After all, with 170kW and 420Nm being generated by its 2.5 litre petrol turbo, it delivers diesel-like torque with the smoothness and refinement of a petrol engine – what’s not to love?
And for the most part, the addition of that engine into the CX-5 does indeed work wonders. The naturally-aspirated 2.5 may occasionally feel breathless, but the 2.5 turbo never suffers from that ailment. It’s always willing and always ready, with plenty of thrust just a flex of your ankle away. If you regularly drive with a full load of passengers and perhaps a trailer too, the 2.5 turbo is well and truly transformational to the CX-5 driving experience.
The standard six-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t seem to maximise that low-end torque advantage though, instead shifting down a gear at times when it seems that staying in a taller gear would suffice. That, along with a suspension that’s a little too sensitive to small-amplitude bumps (and thus a little restless at highway speeds) are the only real complaints on what is otherwise an impressive report card.
Mazda CX-5: Which spec is best?
It’s certainly a pricey option as far as mainstream midsize SUVs go, however that’s not to say that the new turbo petrol flagship CX-5 Akera doesn’t adequately justify its existence. If the well-worn maxim “you get what you pay for” resonates with you, then the CX-5 Akera 2.5 turbo will certainly validate that phrase.
It’s borderline premium in the way it’s finished, with handsome design inside and out matched by materials that would give quite a few luxury manufacturers a run for their money. If all you’re looking for is a capable family SUV then there are certainly more budget-friendly options – including the identically-engined CX-5 GT for $46,970 – but if you can stomach the cost the CX-5 Akera turbo offers something that’s a cut above.