The new Mazda CX-5 Turbo completely rewrites the performance equation for mid-sized SUVs.

It was a clear Monday morning. Traffic was smooth on the North-South Highway. My foot maintained gentle but steady pressure on the throttle. We were just cruising along. Then the lane ahead cleared, as if inviting me to accelerate, I was only too happy to oblige.


I flexed my foot ever so gently, telling the car through its drive-by-wire system that its time to pick up the pace. I refocused my eyes to the floating numbers of the heads-up display – its digital speedometer just ticking over the numbers like a clock, moving further and further away from the legal zone, and with barely any hesitation at that.


Such was the ease which speed is accumulated in the Mazda CX-5 Turbo that our journey from KL to Penang was covered with barely any time or effort expended. Whilst we weren’t doing speeds like 200 km/h, it was the sheer ease which it regains lost momentum, say, after a stop over or being held back by slower traffic, that helps make long trips a breeze.

The result, class-leading straight line performance by a huge margin, offered for not significantly higher money – less than RM20k separates this from the top-spec Honda CR-V, the segment’s next most powerful alternative. In sheer horsepower-to-ringgit terms, this thing is a bargain, period.


The cleverness of its turbocharger design help ensure that turbo lag effectively becomes a non-issue, and its naturally large displacement gives it the lungs to sustain its pull longer across the rev range. Indeed, there isn’t anything else in the segment that shortens the miles with quite the same devastating effectiveness.



For daily use, however, this level of performance is a bit of overkill. The CX-5 Turbo is, in all honesty, way faster than anyone would need from a humble family SUV. It’s a good thing that Mazda made all-wheel drive standard for this engine. Such is the ease which the engine’s full outputs are accessed, not distributing it to all corners would have been utterly irresponsible.


There’s also the feeling that the excess outputs also upsets the CX-5’s finely-honed dynamic balance so evident in the naturally-aspirated petrol models. The 2.0 and 2.5 are nowhere near as fast, but you get more confidence to explore their limits.

The Turbo here, on the other hand, constantly gives you the nagging feeling to hold back. It’s all too easy to find yourself carrying too much speed into a corner, with the brakes barely managing to haul its mass back and the tyres struggling to keep you from the bounds of understeer.


Simply put, Mazda has just done a muscle car on the CX-5. Finesse traded for brute force. The grace of a ballerina eroded by a potent dose of steroids pumped into her beautiful but slender frame. The hamfistedness of this car is extremely uncharacteristic of Mazda’s recent efforts.

Whilst the EvoLTN team is in consensus that you can’t go wrong with the CX-5, the Turbo is a variant you’d need to select with extreme caution. For most buyers, the 2.0 High Spec is all the car you’ll need. The Turbo is, in all honesty, overkill, but it is at the same time a bargain.


The straight line punch is utterly addictive, but it is the ease which its performance is accessible that truly makes a difference on the highways. But here’s a tip though, set aside extra money for speeding tickets and a good set of tyres. You’ll need ‘em.

This incredible turn of pace is provided by an engine Mazda once said it would never develop but ultimately forced to do so, and eventually plonked into a model not initially designed for it.


Packing 228hp and 420Nm, the SkyActiv-G Turbo engine was lifted straight from the flagship CX-9. In true Mazda fashion, this motor runs counter to trend; instead of doing a simple 2.0-litre turbo like everyone else, Mazda opted to spool its 2.5 instead.


Even the turbocharger is designed differently. Rather than complicated variable geometry systems, Mazda cleverly designed a valve just ahead of the turbo to ‘squeeze’ the flow of exhaust gases flowing to spool up the blower. At low rpms, this helps maintain pressure on the turbo system thus ensuring more instantaneous boosting. Think of how you squeeze your water hose at the car wash and you get the idea.