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Mazda CX-5 upgraded for off-road duty

They promise offroad adventure but very few SUVs are capable of tackling anything more than the afternoon school run. Mazda’s new CX-5 is an exception.

Mazda’s CX-5 sits at the top of the pile when it comes to mid-sized soft-roaders but the competition is climbing up fast.

Consequently, Mazda is looking to extend the CX-5’s reach by fitting all-wheel-drive models with an electronic diff lock and smarter software to improve the SUV’s off-road credentials.

Depressing the “off-road traction assist” button engages the AWD and traction control software to suppress tyre spin and shunt torque to the wheels as required.

If wheel spin is detected — as is usually the case when a CX-5 is balancing on two rims — the rear diff is electronically locked to maximise drive to the rubber still in contact with terra firma.

Mazda CX-5 upgraded for off-road duty

The Mazda CX-5 is now more offroad capable. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

That’s the headline act for the updates to the 2020 CX-5, though all versions now have autonomous emergency braking with night-time pedestrian detection.

Noise suppression has been improved with a new headlining material claimed to absorb more low-frequency sound and turbo petrol owners gain extra exhaust system muffling and a stronger spare-wheel pan to reduce resonance.

Finally, all petrol variants pick up a steering vibration damper, Maxx versions gain an 8.0-inch infotainment display and paddle-shifters are standard from the Maxx Sport grade up.

Other subtle changes have improved refinement. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

They’re small changes for sure, which is why they’re accompanied by small price increases across the range. Front-wheel-drive Maxx vehicles start at $30,980 plus on-road costs (up $100) and the range is headlined by the $51,330 Akera with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine, amounting to a $200 rise over 2019 prices.

The Yarra Valley is the perfect place to put a family SUV through its paces … unless it coincides with a coronavirus lockdown. Driving past the car-free carparks of the local wineries is a stark reminder of how small businesses will be struggling right now.

One thing that isn’t struggling is the CX-5. The Akera’s 19-inch wheels provoke a touch of tyre roar over some of the coarse-chip secondary roads but it is barely noticed as it surges through a series of flowing bends.

A new electronic diff lock makes the Mazda more capable on the slippery stuff. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

The CX-5 has always been among the class leaders as an engaging drive in the mid-sized SUV segment and, with the mechanicals untouched, nothing has changed.

It isn’t a sports car but — with our vehicle boasting the 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine — it has the capacity to pretend to be one if the occupants can withstand the extra body roll.

Then we head into the Toolangi State Forest and test the CX-5’s improved off-road prowess.

A quick play on the slippery clay and stone tracks shows the only handicap likely to stop the CX-5 is ground clearance.

Anything short of getting hung up saw the Mazda scrabble its way through ruts and across ridges that would have four-wheel-drive owners reconsidering their route.

More than the school run. The CX-5 allows you to venture off the beaten track. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Four stars

A new button isn’t a big deal … until it comes to bragging rights. Then 2020 CX-5 owners can point to the online videos to show they’re SUV is the real deal, rather than a pure soft-roader. All Mazda needs to do now is built an option pack with alloy skid panels and dual-purpose tyres. Beyond that, the updated CX-5 is virtually identical to its predecessor _ and that’s still high praise.

$50,830 plus on-roads

5 years, unltd km/$1797 for 5 years

2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol, 170kW/420Nm

Auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert



442 litres

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