Cowgirl Drives: 2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

Lexi - Photos by L. Kepner - 02/23/2023

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD is a new member of the CX family. It may look similar to its urban dwelling CX-5 counterpart, but the Mazda CX-50 provides an entirely different experience – and lifestyle. Built to be an off-road capable crossover, the Mazda CX-50 brings the brand's signature driver-focused handling and performance to the great outdoors. 

With satisfying steering and throttle response, a wagon-inspired rear cargo space, and attractive styling, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 earned its title when it was voted the Texas Compact SUV of the year by the Texas Motor Press Association in 2022.

2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

To achieve its blend of off-road prowess and city-slicker swagger, Mazda developed a unique torque vectoring system for the CX-50. This new tech is dubbed the G-Vectoring Control System. It allows the CX-50 to maintain Mazda's signature "feel" in the steering and throttle regardless of drive mode or terrain. 

As a result, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 always drives like a Mazda, whether on a twisty canyon road, down an arrow-straight highway, or climbing an uneven grassy hill. While most all-wheel drive SUVs in this segment fall victim to numb, mundane driving characteristics, the CX-50 stands apart by engaging with the driver to feel alive.

Mazda's G-Vectoring Control (GVC) system is the core of the CX-50's handling personality. The GVC works to improve the CX-50 steering and throttle response, not to be confused with other torque vectoring systems. It does this by shifting its weight to the front tires to increase grip in the turns and manage torque distribution among the four wheels. 

Moreover, the GVC is designed to be virtually unnoticeable to not disturb the feedback loop between the driver's input and the car's response. As a result, the Mazda CX-50 provides nimble steering and direct throttle feedback - regardless of terrain or drive mode.

2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

When you select a Sport or Off-Road mode in other vehicles, you generally feel the car undergo a momentary switch where the steering wheel tenses up, the car's suspension twitches and the exhaust note is amplified. In the CX-50, the only noteworthy change between drive modes is a color change in its digital instrument gauge.  

Mazda's goal is consistent performance, from regular highway travel to corner apex hitting before leaving the asphalt altogether for dirt, sand, or snow, and even while towing. For example, dropping a trailer onto the tow-hitch alerts the CX-50 and replaces Sport mode with Towing mode on its Mi-drive menu. With a max towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, the CX-50 provides the torque and cargo space to haul all the necessary gear for a weekend adventure at a national park, ski resort, or beach.

All-wheel-drive is standard for the CX-50 and is available in two Skyactiv 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine variants. Lower-tier models use the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter, producing 187 hp and 186 lb.-ft of torque. The model shown in this article is the turbocharged 2.5-liter with 256 hp and 326 lb.-ft of torque. 

2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

These performance figures are achieved when the engine is burning 93 octane fuel. Don't worry. You can use regular 87-octane gasoline with the turbocharged CX-50 — however, its total output changes to 227 hp and 310 lb.-ft of torque. Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission. Moreover, Mazda announced plans to introduce plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain options for its SUVs soon.

Starting price for the naturally aspirated 2023 Mazda CX-50 S starts at $26k, with Radar Cruise Control as standard. The Mazda CX-50 T starts at $36k, with the top tier "fully loaded" variant boasting an MSRP of $41k with standard heated rear seats and wireless phone charging.

2023 Mazda CX-50 AWD Can Feel Alive in All-Terrain

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is a vehicle that caters to a growing segment within the SUV market. It's a submarket for people who want a compact family-hauling SUV with the rugged capabilities of a 4x4 that can seamlessly play the role of a city commuter and tow a weekend toy. The CX-50's GVC all-wheel drive system proves it can tackle more than a muddy driveway without letting it affect the ride quality and handling. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 puts the sport in a sports utility vehicle by being one of the most dynamic small SUVs to drive for under $45k.

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