The Mazda CX-60 has been the culmination of Mazda’s desire to move upmarket over the last three decades. When rivals Toyota, Nissan, and Honda launched their luxury brands Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura in the late 80s, Mazda had plans in motion to launch one of their very own. Mazda already had several sub brands under its belt with the likes of Autozam, Eunos, and Enfini. To sit at the very top of the Mazda brand group was Amati.
It comprised a lineup similar to those of the European mainstays at the time; a small executive sports sedan, a mid-size, and finally a full-size flagship to take on the likes of the Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS. This was supposed to have what would’ve been Japan’s first V12 production engine but the financial crash of Japan in the early 90s brought all these plans crumbling down. Mazda wouldn’t attempt a move upmarket for several decades. What the CX-60 represents is the end result of something the Amati brand laid the foundations for all those years ago and I got to have a first drive of the four-cylinder petrol plug-in hybrid model in Greece of all places.
The team have already seen and driven the local CX-60 at the launch earlier this year alongside its bigger CX-90 sibling.
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV: Location
Ah Greece, a country more associated with myths and legends than with driving roads. I had never put Greece on the top of my lists of countries to visit to drive. I had wanted to visit because of the history, culture, and scenery but cars were never a factor – until a rare opportunity to explore Athens and the surrounding areas with some incredible cars presented itself. I couldn’t say no and as with my previous road trips in Europe, a comfortable and practical car was needed. The perfect test for a first drive in Mazda’s premium product.
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV: Models
For New Zealand the CX-60 will be available only with the 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol plug-in hybrid (as tested here) and a 3.3-litre turbocharged six-cylinder petrol plug-in hybrid. Recently announced prices for the CX-60 start with the 2.5 PHEV Touring at $78,990 topping out at the 2.5 PHEV Takami at $90,990.
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV: Design
It looks fantastic, there’s a real maturity to Mazda’s Kodo design language with the CX-60. It’s distinctively Mazda but with a more refined, Europeanised look. There’s hints of BMW and Maserati in there for sure. It’s also bigger than I expected it to be. It’s aimed at the likes of the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC but looks a step bigger than them.
I particularly like the very obvious rear-wheel drive layout with the stretched bonnet and cab-backward look. It gives it a real athletic look. It’s also quite a head turner, especially here on Greek roads where there aren’t too many of these driving around. It certainly does look more posh than its price and badge would suggest.
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV: Interior
That carries on into the interior. I love the use of different materials here. From real maple wood to Japanese textiles and soft plush leather, it’s all very high quality inside the CX-60’s interior. But that’s not to say it’s overly styled or chintzy. The interior is actually all very functional and designed with common sense in mind. Mazda hasn’t gone the way of displacing physical buttons in favour of touch sensitive or touchscreen nonsense. It’s all very logically laid out, you can get it and immediately know where everything is and how everything works.
Spacious enough for 5 adults comfortably and with a boot bigger than most of its comparable plug-in rivals, it can fit everyone’s luggage perfectly fine too. The light coloured interior really makes it feel premium and airy inside. It’s a lovely place to spend time in and there’s plenty to keep you entertained here. Heated and cooled seats up front, heated seats at the back, a Bose sound system, and all the mod cons you can expect from a crossover in this price point.
2023 Mazda CX-60 PHEV: Powertrain, Chassis, Efficiency and Dynamics
If luxury is all about excess, then the driving dynamics of the CX-60 is truly in excess. There’s no need for a mid-size crossover to drive as well as the CX-60 does. On some of the best driving roads I have experienced anywhere in the world, the CX-60 was a truly enjoyable steer. The very tangible magic that Mazda always somehow manages to sprinkle in all of their chassis work of late is very much present in this new Large Product platform. There’s a level of dynamism and athleticism in the CX-60 that’s just not present in some of its rivals. It doesn’t feel or behave like a Japanese car, in many ways it feels very European. Almost like a mix between BMW and Volvo.
While the chassis and roadholding were a highlight, the turbo four-pot did feel strained at times when asked to give it its all. Not that it’s lacking in power, but at times without the hybrid assist, the smaller four-cylinder engine does struggle at certain moments when needed to pass or go uphill at speed. The conventional torque converter auto isn’t exactly the slickest in the business either for spirited driving but then again this car will be used more for cruising than blasting up Greek mountain roads. The great dynamics are just a bonus.
For all the boring, cruising stuff, the CX-60 is brilliant at that. The large windows, well insulated cabin, and comfortable ride make it a perfect companion for doing 1,000+ kilometre road trips. With the plethora of driving aids, doing 200 kilometres in one go from the heart of Athens to Porto Heli was a breeze. I was truly impressed by the quality of Greek roads, especially out in the countryside where there are few other cars around and the road surface has a race track level of smoothness. Some roads are made with marble so in the rain they can be slippery, but they’re wide and the Greeks seem to have a very liberal attitude towards speed limits. It’s perhaps one of the few driving havens left in Europe.
As for the car, well the CX-60 will surely be another hit for Mazda. A crossover that looks this handsome, a surprisingly fun thing to steer, and is a just pleasant place to be in sounds like a winning recipe to me. Will it be enough to change the public’s perception of Mazda as a more upmarket brand? Time will tell but I think there’s promise and this is the most convincing product Mazda has come out with to show the world it can and has positioned itself further upmarket. We’ll have a full road test of the CX-60 on New Zealand roads soon.