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Will the Next Mazda CX-5 Become a Full-On Luxury Model?

The upgrade would entail a transformation of its architecture and a shift to rear-wheel drive Automotive columnist: , Updated:

Mazda doesn't have a luxury division as such, but for the past few years, it has been offering certain variants that at least fall into the Premium category, notably the Signature trim level available with certain models. These variants come with more-powerful engines, of course, as well as various other high-end features and elements.

For a manufacturer that doesn't have a luxury division, this gussying-up approach makes sense as it can help make certain models more profitable. But we know Mazda is open to the idea of taking things even further – recall, or maybe not, the Amati brand that the company tried to launch in the early 90s.

Now it seems Mazda is toying with the possibility of going full-on luxury with one of its current core models. According to Japanese magazine Best Car, Mazda wants its next CX-5 to rival the likes of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

We think that's pretty ambitious, and it would certainly place the model in much headier company than its current CX-5 Signature edition keeps. Crucially, though, Mazda will also have to offer a mass-market product that it can continue to produce in high volume, because it's not at all certain that customers would prefer a new, more-luxurious CX-5 to what they perceive as a "real" luxury product.

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According to the magazine, the metamorphosis of the CX-5 would be made possible by two elements. First, it would be assembled on a new rear-wheel drive platform, the same that will be used in the Mazda6. All-wheel drive will of course be offered. Then, up front, we could find the new 6-cylinder engine that the company has been working on for some time now. It would of course be based on the SkyActiv system and come with a 48-volt light-hybrid system.

The adoption of RWD and an inline-6 engine would put the CX-5 in the same category as its prospective German rivals - at least on paper. Styling will also have to be taken to another level, not least to ensure it stands out from the rest of the Mazda lineup. Best Car added that the lineup could include a "coupe" variant with a sloping roofline, for instance a type of CX-50 that would target BMW’s X4. Some analysts are actually lining up the future Mazda luxury SUV to go head-to-head with the X5/X6 combo rather than the X3/X4, but in fact, that would mean a growth spurt for the next CX-5 - currently, its size puts it in the same category, dimensions-wise, as the BMW X3.

The next CX-5 is expected to debut in 2023, which could mean a 2024 model for us. The Mazda6 sedan will make its debut before then and we may have a better idea of where the company wants to go at that time.