Mazda’s launch of a whole new range of inline-six engines remains one of the most improbable stories in the modern motoring world. It seems bonkers when first rumoured a few years ago, at a time when pretty much everyone else was making their engines smaller, not bigger, and it feels no less strange when sat behind the wheel of a car powered by one of the new lumps today.
My borrowing of a CX-60 diesel coincided with two things - Volvo announcing the imminent end of its diesel car production, and the launch of the BMW 5-series (in i5 form), a car which won’t be available in the UK with any kind of oil burner at all.
That trend is set to continue (there are no diesel 7 Series models in the UK either), so soon, you’ll have better luck getting an inline-six diesel from Mazda than BMW. A few years ago, we touted Mazda as the new BMW but weren’t quite ready for how spot-on we’d end up being.
In both petrol and diesel forms, the new engine displaces 3.3 litres. The diesel is not a particularly stressed engine, which is half the point because it helps the efficiency side of things, developing 250bhp and 406lb ft of torque in this pokier configuration.
0-62mph comes up in 7.4 seconds, and at full chat, the CX-60 feels brisk, rather than fast. The big diesel engine is smooth and emits a pleasant din which isn’t unlike what you get from a straight-six diesel BMW. An eight-speed automatic gearbox dutifully swaps cogs and makes a decent fist of keeping you in the 3.3-litre unit’s sweet spot.
The official combined fuel economy figure is 53.3mpg, which is decent for something this big, heavy and reasonably powerful. On a gentle enough cruise, you can improve on Mazda’s figure.
Although all-wheel drive is fitted as standard, this more powerful CX-60 diesel still likes to chuck loads of torque to the rear wheels, and the electronic stability controls are surprisingly lenient, so it’s keener to shake its ass than you might expect. It’s a playful car, enhanced by fast, natural-feeling steering.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise - Mazda has a knack for making normal cars drive sweetly. The thing is, the Japanese manufacturer has done a better job in some areas than others with the CX-60. And one where the ball has been dropped is a biggie - the ride.
There’s an abruptness to the damping that makes the CX-60 far more uncomfortable than it should be. Even on relatively smooth roads, the SUV just doesn’t settle. It’s not like this is because Mazda’s gotten too caught up in making the CX-60 stay flat in the corners to the detriment of comfort - it still rolls to a reasonable degree, while also pitching under acceleration and diving a bit under braking.
It’s a shame, as you’re left distracted from all the work Mazda has done bringing that unlikely engine to the table, a powertrain which is also at times let down by the gearbox - the transmission can take an annoyingly long time to hook up from a standstill. This is one of those cars where you need to leave bigger gaps than you’d like when emerging from junctions or heading onto roundabouts.
Thankfully, there’s better news elsewhere. Mazda’s push further upmarket is obvious the moment you step into the CX-60, with an abundance of plush-feeling materials married to commendable build quality. This Takumi trimmed version also gets an off-white fabric-covered dashboard, which really lifts the cabin and separates it from drearier German rivals.
You also get that increasingly rare thing in the 2020s - physical climate controls, rather than a bunch of buttons stuffed onto the bottom of the touchscreen. In fact, it doesn’t have a touchscreen at all, forcing you to use the rotary controller. But maybe that’s going a bit too far.
From the engine through to the interior tech, the CX-60 really is a refreshingly different SUV from the very many other options out there, while also feeling a bit like a BMW product from a generation ago - which we mean as a compliment.
Some suspension tweaks, which we could imagine coming later as part of a model year update, would turn it into one of the best SUVs out there.