The Best of Both Worlds: The Mazda CX:60 PHEV
Imagine if someone invented a food that was delicious, made you feel full and yet contained no fat, nor calories; tasty, chewable air, basically. And yet, if you suddenly needed energy - because you had to run up a mountain, say - it could magically change and provide all the nutrients, solidity and sustenance of normal food.
This, essentially, is what a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle - like the new Mazda CX-60, the company’s first-ever PHEV - can do. As this author found out on a recent drive in Portugal, it’s a car that can offer the best of both worlds; it delivers on the sustainability EV buyers are looking for, while removing the range anxiety that’s putting them off. This means it can be zero-emission when you want it to be, or a hugely efficient hybrid-powered SUV for long-distance driving when you need it to be.
And, thanks to the ingenious PHEV technology, it’s also a powerful and enlivening car to drive when you’re in the mood.
So What is a PHEV, and How Does it Work?
Well, on the one hand, it is an electric vehicle (that’s the EV part), with a 17.8kWh lithium-ion battery (in the case of the CX-60) which you can charge up by plugging the car into a normal wall socket or, if you want to shove the volts in faster, a home wallbox charger, or even a public fast charger.
The Mazda’s battery is connected to a 100kW electric motor, which can turn the wheels on its own when you select the car’s EV mode. When you’re in that EV setting the CX-60 is entirely silent running and produces zero emissions from the exhaust pipes (they’re attached to the petrol engine, which is off).
If you’re charging it up using solar panels on your house, you’re not just a zero-emissions motorist, you’re literally running your Mazda on sunlight, which is pretty mind boggling.
That 17.8kWh lithium-ion battery will get you just over 60km in EV mode, which is more than enough for a day or two of city commuting (the average Australian drives just 32km a day).
Charge it every couple of days and you are effectively driving an electric vehicle.
You will, of course, want to go further afield at some stage, and that’s when the real genius of the PHEV steps in, because under that impressive bonnet there is also a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine. When its output is combined with that of the electric-motor,the CX-60 makes a whopping 241kW and 500Nm of torque. And that makes this not only Mazda’s first PHEV, but the most powerful Mazda the world has ever seen.
The PHEV set-up also allows you to switch from EV mode to Hybrid, in which the car will choose, based on conditions and your driving needs, whether to use just the electric motor, just the engine, or both at once, for a serious power kick.
Another Clever Touch is that the Vehicle Uses the Energy Created by Braking to Charge the Battery as You Drive, Which is What’s Called “Regenerative Braking”.
The car’s software is also choosing which mode to use with the goal of delivering the best possible fuel economy, while in that Hybrid mode. As a result it returns a staggeringly low fuel-consumption figure of just 1.5 litres per 100km. A petrol-powered Mazda CX-8, by comparison, will average around 8 litres per 100km.
What this means is that you’re effectively getting two cars, in the CX-60, an EV for around town and a serious, family road trip machine for those long journeys away, because you can always fill it up using widely available petrol.
As it turns out, the Mazda CX-60 is actually more like three cars, because the other party trick a PHEV has up its sleeve is potent performance. Snap it into Sport mode and both the electric motor and the engine are suddenly, and constantly, used in tandem for maximum power and torque.
The result is a properly thrilling machine that can hit 100km/h in just 5.8 seconds, and has the kind of easy overtaking thrust at highway speeds that you might expect from a giant, thirsty V8.
Mazda’s new CX-60 not only introduces totally new technology - PHEV - for the brand, but really perfects this relatively new form of motoring. It’s one that an increasing number of Australians are interested in, as the word starts to get out about just what a PHEV means, and what it can deliver.
It might not be quite calorie-free, delicious food, but in motoring terms, it’s pretty damn close.