Proffit at the Wheel: ’23 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo Review

Mazda is changing how it produces SUVs for the United States. Where it once had a CX-3, it now produces a CX-30. At this point in time, there is both a CX-5 and a CX-50 in the product lineup but it’s fair to say the former is likely going to be discontinued in the near future, just as the CX-3 has been.

During the Indianapolis 500 race meeting, we had the opportunity to check out the 2023 Mazda CX-50 2.5 Turbo with the Premium Plus Package and All-Wheel-Drive. It was dressed in machine gray metallic, a signature Mazda color, with a black interior that has brown accents. Brightwork on the exterior on window surrounds, the front air dam and at the rear dual pipes add some cheer to the gray color, which matched Indy’s weather during much of its stay.

The Mazda CX-50 has a far more rugged and muscular look than the CX-5 – more than any other Mazda model, in fact – and, in most respects, it’s larger than its sibling. Its shoulders are accentuated, its overall length and wheelbase are greater by a few inches, and while the CX-50 is a smidge narrower and lower than its older brother, it does possess higher ground clearance.

Being a more modern vehicle, the CX-50, new for 2023, has many more comforts than the CX-5. Right now both models are available and there’s a large number of model options to tailor the CX-50 to most anyone’s desire. While we drove the top of the line SUV with the premium plus package and the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, there is a naturally aspirated version with 187 horsepower, but with the weight of this SUV and its size, the turbocharged version is always preferred.

When similarly equipped, with the 2.5-liter single turbocharged four-cylinder engine with all-wheel-drive (all CX-50s are AWD), mileage is better on the newer SUV, by 2 mpg on the highway and a single mile per gallon in town. The CX-50 is rated at 23/29/25 from its 15.9-gallon tank (which is half a gallon larger than the CX-5) while both vehicles emit 227 horsepower using the recommendation of regular fuel, but have 256HP on tap with 93 octane petrol.

Both units use Mazda’s well-spaced six-speed automatic transmission, with paddle shift in top-line models.The CX-50 employs MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspensions, while the electric power assisted steering is through rack and pinion. Power ventilated front and solid rear discs perform admirably. Crisp handling is a Mazda trademark, and this CX-50 performs admirably on back roads despite its size and its 3907-pound weight.

Built on the CX-30, Mazda3 compact platform, CX-50 has superb handling similar to those two vehicles. Plus, with Premium Plus, turbocharged packaging, it’ll tow 3,500 of weekend warrior necessities. Mazda fits P245/45R 20-inch all-season tires on black, 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels. The wheel-tire combo add to the very svelte looks of this SUV.

With touch applications for opening and closing the doors and with a power hatch release, Mazda makes it easy to enjoy this SUV. The CX-50 with the premium plus package adds heated rear seats (front seat heaters are standard), a 360-degree monitor, traffic jam assist, front and rear parking sensors, rear smart brake support, blind spot prevention, auto dimming driver’s side mirror – both exterior mirrors fold when the CX-50 is locked – Mazda’s navigation system, the active driving display, traffic sign recognition (I already know I’m exceeding the limit, Mazda!), electronic brake distribution with its ABS system, dynamic stability control, frameless auto dimming rear view mirror with Homelink and a wireless phone charger (needs regular re-placement of the phone).

The CX-50’s premium package is included in the car’s price, which starts at $42,300. There is a $595 charge for the paint and transportation costs amount to $1,275, giving this particular SUV a list price of $44,170.

Already included are the power panoramic moonroof that occupies most of the top area, adaptive front lighting, all LED lighting, leather-trimmed seats, two ventilated front power seats with lumbar support for the driver, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel (not needed on this trip), the 10.25-inch color center display and active driving display, dual-zone auto climate control, rear air conditioning vents, four-USB inputs, Bose 12-speaker audio system with SiriusXM for three months and, by necessity, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, accessed wirelessly.

There is a head-up display on this vehicle and it shows the speed limit, together with the speed achieved. There isn’t a cover for the 31.4-cubic-foot hatch, but privacy glass keeps goodies hidden. with the rear seats folded, the cargo capacity grows to 56.3 cubic feet. There’s a real spare tire beneath the well-appointed cargo area.

We did a lot of driving with this Mazda CX-50, picking it up in Chicago and going to Indianapolis for the first week of practice and qualifying for the 107th Indianapolis 500 – and then back to Joliet for a day, in order to get a daily dose of NHRA nitro-fueled drag racing. In practice, it feels smaller than it is because of CX-50’s litheness over the road and the comfort level is excellent. Vision is good, with one exception: the three rear-seat headrests do tend to get in the way of the rear hatch’s vision, but this can be overcome by using the outside mirrors.

Mazda vehicles are favorites in this house. We like their looks, their capabilities and the fact that Mazda is still around, despite the fact that it’s one of the smaller car companies. Oh, and more Mazda cars are raced on any given day than any other marque. Mazda is doing some cross-pollinating with Toyota and it’s expected the CX-50 will, eventually, be offered with the power train from a Toyota hybrid, which could give it better mileage (we averaged 25.4mpg at other-worldly speeds).

Recommend it? Of course. The Mazda CX-50 with the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and premium plus package is stylish, safe, has sufficient horsepower to keep up and pass in traffic, is agile beyond what could be expected, drinks cheaper fuel and has a good price point with all its accoutrements. Check it out and be impressed. We were!

All photos taken at Charlie Brown’s restaurant in Speedway, IN

story and photos by Anne Proffit

, ,