The traditional formula to make any vehicle hotter than the rest of the range is a rather simple one. Take a small, already in-production car, plop a large engine it in, and you'll have a firebreather in your ranks. Which is what Mazda did for the CX-5 although they are not beating their chests over it and definitely not slapping a MazdaSpeed badge to the name. Instead, they call it simply the CX-5 Turbo, and then marked it by slapping a red 'T' at the SUV's rear end.
Mazda volunteers the CX-9 to donate its 2.5-litre turbocharged engine — lock, stock and barrel — to the CX-5. So now the smaller SUV has 228hp and 420Nm fire-breather bubbling under the hood. To compare, the other CX-5 with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine does only 192hp and 258Nm. Power from the engine gets routed through a slick six-speed automatic and distributed among all four wheels.
In an SUV that’s lighter by 169kg than the CX-9, having more power makes a world of difference. The bigger engine certainly makes the CX-5 Turbo go remarkably fast. Mazda did not provide the official 0-100kph numbers, but it wouldn’t have strayed far from the 7.5-second mark. It moves in such a speed that effectively shuts all wagging jowls that once complained the SUV’s shortfall performance; all based on their experiences with the non-turbocharged CX-5s.
Having said that, they might feel that their grievances are justified at first because the CX-5 launches without squeal or torque steer. In fact, the going is so smooth you’ll be wondering if the 420Nm is being locked down only to realise that the speedometer’s reading has well passed the highway’s speed limit. And still going, the CX-5 Turbo’s chase for the 226kph top speed never loses enthusiasm and energy.
The CX-5 remains confident and full of grip, at higher speeds, even as you pass other vehicles of similar type that are deemed more prestigious. Mazda’s AWD system makes sure that all wheels get the appropriate amount of power at any given time. The Lane-Keep System, part of the complete i-Activsense advanced safety suite, helps to keep the SUV between the lines. If the SUV strays, the system will gently nudge the vehicle back between the lines without playing a game of Pong.
At the same time, the chassis and suspension system are absorbing almost all the road can dish out, including change of road surface, senseless mid-corner speed strips and patchy road-fills. It’s a comfortable ride, all around, even on the back roads where more curves than straights exist. Having the GVC Plus helps steady the ship, especially around the corners, reducing body rolls to a bare minimum.
The handling is a touch better than the other CX-5 of the current generation. The steering’s weight and feedback are dependent on the speed, plenty on the top end but near nothing at zero-kph, which is fine because you don’t want to give your arms a workout when parking. There’s also a touch of steering heft to contend with as you turn in and as you start straightening the wheel at the corner’s exit.
The Mazda CX-5 Turbo is a very nice SUV to drive and just as lovely to sit in its cabin. The interior is neatly-assembled with insulation that filters out noises of road and wind expertly. Age is something nothing can escape, and the cabin is showing it especially the dashboard-mounted screen. The new climate control panel from the CX-9 and the Mazda3-esque meter cluster doesn’t fully lift the interior’s maturity, but it might not even matter to some.
What does matter here is the CX-5 Turbo may well be this generation’s swan song, the ultimate mid-size SUV that Mazda can produce before moving on to the next generation. Everything the CX-5 is known to be good for is here — supple ride, accomplished handling and polished NVH. With the addition of the larger turbo-charged engine, Mazda has filled the want for power the CX-5 didn't know it desperately needs. The Mazda CX-5 Turbo is as good as it’ll ever get.
Specification: Mazda CX-5 2.5L Turbo
Engine 2,488cc, inline-4, 16-valve, DOHC, VVT, turbocharged | Transmission 6-speed Skyactiv Drive automatic transmission, all-wheel drive | Power & Torque 228hp @ 5,000rpm / 420Nm @ 2,000rpm | Performance Max speed 226kph, 8.2l/100km combined | Price RM181,660.40 | Score 9/10