First Drive: Mazda’s CX-70 Pitches Driving Fun and Value

Alex Sobran

Larger SUVs are rarely designed to appeal to those who enjoy driving. By their nature, the best they can offer is a compromise.

That hasn’t stopped Mazda from trying, though—the company has never been afraid to give their SUVs some of the magic that makes their cars so enjoyable. The brand-new 2025 CX-70 continues that trajectory by offering something that can fight the suburban skirmishes on multiple fronts without losing focus on the commander at the controls. It will ferry the kids to school, and tote your clubs to the club, tow your Miata to the track, but it can also haul its own ass around that one fun corner between the grocery store and your garage to a degree that belies its size.

To find out how Mazda’s latest, and largest two-row SUV performed both around town and on true driver’s roads, we took Mazda up on their offer to explore the CX-70 lineup and test the Turbo S Premium Plus in the searing scenery of Palm Springs, California. 

2025 Mazda CX-70 front three quarter
Alex Sobran

The CX-70 is part of Mazda’s recent push into a more upscale market. It’s essentially the same machine as the CX-90 (minus the third-row seats) that kicked off that effort last year with the North American debut of Mazda’s new “Large Product Group” platform. What that platform lacks in an evocative name, it makes up for in its driver-focused, rear-wheel-biased all-wheel drive system and turbo inline-six.

There’s a host of modern engineering beneath the CX-70’s skin, but the wrapper itself has become an increasingly critical selling point in this crowded field. The CX-70 looks and feels closer to a status symbol than a sensible choice—especially in the Premium Plus package that fills the CX-70’s guts with aspirational levels of leather and metal. This is a path that previous Mazda SUVs have ventured down, though not as comprehensively.

To that end, while the CX-70 competes against similarly priced vehicles like the Honda Passport and Toyota Highlander, Mazda also wants to snag a few cost-conscious customers away from more luxury-oriented offerings like the BMW X5, Lexus RX, and Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe (all of which Mazda had on hand for static comparison). Mazda’s long argued that its SUVs provide a more characterful experience than other similarly priced models, but in aiming higher, the company now also makes the case that against these new foes, any gap in capability is narrower than the gap in price.

To cover a broader swath of buyers’ needs, Mazda provides a healthy range of options and pricing within the made-in-Japan CX-70’s seven varieties. For starters, there are PHEV and mild hybrid powertrains. The mild hybrid versions are all powered by Mazda’s e-Skyactiv G 3.3-liter turbocharged inline-six, with two levels of power to pick from: Turbo, and Turbo S. The Turbo models produce 280 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque on 87-octane fuel, and come in three tiers of luxury: Preferred, Premium, and Premium Plus. The cheapest of all seven CX-70s, the Turbo Preferred, starts at $40,445, while the Turbo Premium Plus starts at $48,900. 

For those seeking more shove, the Turbo S models churn out a hearty 340 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque on 91-octane fuel (should you need to use 87 octane in a pinch, you’ll drop down to 319 hp, but retain the same amount of torque). The Turbo S ditches the entry Preferred trim and is only available in either Premium or Premium Plus spec, starting at $52,450 and $55,950, respectively.

Specs: 2025 Mazda CX-70 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus

Price: $55,950 (base); $56,545 (as-tested)
Powertrain: 3.3-liter fuel-injected, turbocharged, dual-overhead-camshaft inline-six with 48V mild hybrid system; 8-speed automatic transmission
Horsepower: 340 (on 91-octane premium fuel, 319 hp on 87-octane) @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Layout: All-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger SUV
Weight: 4863 lbs.
EPA-rated fuel economy: 25 MPG combined
Competition: Honda Passport, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus RX

2025 Mazda CX-70 group
Alex Sobran

The 48V mild hybrid system is designed to aid low-speed efficiency and the operation of auxiliary functions like air-conditioning, but for customers who want a genuine plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the CX-70 also comes with a powertrain option that combines a 189-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four with a 173-hp, 100-kW electric motor powered by a 17.8-kWh battery pack. The combined product is good for 323 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque on 91 octane. The PHEV version of the CX-70 is available in either Premium or Premium Plus spec, which start at $54,400 and $57,450, respectively. 

The PHEV’s EV-only mode provides a max range of 26 miles according to Mazda, and has an EPA-rated fuel economy of 56 MPGe for gas plus electric; 25 MPG overall gas only. (The mild hybrids return 25 MPG combined.) If you want to tow something, your best bet is the inline-six in Premium or Premium Plus trim—it has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs compared to the PHEV’s 3,500 lbs.

Alex Sobran

Finally, every variant of the CX-70 is equipped with the same eight-speed automatic found in the CX-90, which Mazda developed specifically for the Large Product Group platform, and uses a wet clutch mounted at the rear of the transmission rather than a torque converter at the front. Mazda says it’s chosen this somewhat unconventional setup to free up space for both the inline-six’s mild hybrid unit and the PHEV’s larger hybrid system, while reducing rotational inertia across the board. 

Moving on from the on-paper specs to real-world impressions, the CX-70 cuts a handsome figure. It stands out in that it doesn’t try to stand out—the grille isn’t enormous, nor is there any flame-surface try-hard design. Besides the black-and-silver 21-inch wheels, the CX-70 is basically devoid of bling—but it does have enough stylistic gravity to warrant a double take.

The proportions do the aesthetic heavy lifting, and for a vehicle that’s a smidge over 200” long and 68” tall, it looks more like a fattened-up wagon than a slimmed-down SUV. You could almost call it svelte. The body’s dash-to-axle ratio suggests the sportiness of its longitudinal-engine layout, and that, combined with a front overhang that’s much shorter than the rear, gives the CX-70’s silhouette the look of being swept back under the persuasion of acceleration.

2025 Mazda CX-70 rear three quarter
Alex Sobran

The exterior isn’t controversial or stunning; it’s attractive and will continue to look good when you’ve lived with it for a while. Aside from a few flashy color options, the reserved look carries into the interior. If you opt for the Turbo or PHEV in Premium Plus spec, you can get a striking red color for your Nappa leather, but to get the best of what Mazda offers you’ll want the tan diamond-quilted seats, suede accent panels, and two-tone steering wheel in the Turbo S Premium Plus.

Sight isn’t the only sense that Mazda appealed to: Materials felt of excellent quality in the Turbo S Premium Plus, and the contrast between materials (metal inserts, smooth Nappa, and suede) gave the impression of something pricier than a Mazda. The fit and finish was pretty faultless, too, with even stitching lines and tight gaps throughout.

Of course, this is an SUV, and the space behind the front seats matters at least as much as material choices. The rear appointments mirror the front, and the second row folds flat with a touch of a button. (You’ll need to manually flip them back up, however.) The CX-70’s 75 cubic feet of cargo space is class-competitive.

Alex Sobran

After familiarizing ourselves with the CX-70’s details, we set out, first spending time on full-size freeways, two-lane highways, and stoplight-to-stoplight surface roads with the Turbo S Premium Plus.

Underway, the seating position gives a good sense of where all four corners are located and provides ample headroom even for taller drivers. Overall visibility is adequate, with the only noticeable obstruction coming from the wide D-pillar. The head-up display—standard on all but the Turbo Preferred—is a nice safety feature/creature comfort to have as well. The full suite of information comes via the 12.3” digital cluster, which is accompanied by another 12.3” screen for infotainment located in the center of the dash. 

2025 Mazda CX-70 display screen

Said infotainment system is intuitive and simple to operate at a stop or in motion, and from either the steering wheel controls or the center console-mounted navigation wheel. The CX-70 features hands-free infotainment controls via Alexa (a Mazda crossover first) plus wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 12-speaker Bose sound system in our test vehicle performs adequately but not notably better than other higher-end OEM audio systems, with a soundstage centered around the dash’s mid panel. 

Up front, the seats are comfortable for cruising around town. The adjustable lumbar support on Premium packages and above is a welcome feature, especially on longer freeway stints, and they’re supportive enough to prevent rag-dolling when cornering. If spec’d with the Premium Plus package, the CX-70’s front seats get ventilation in addition to heat (which comes standard for the fronts on all trims; to get rear heat you’ll need to spring for Premium Plus). Hopping in the back for bit, we discovered that the rear seats are comfortable as well, but lacking the support of the fronts. Rear legroom is adequate but maybe a smidge less than you’d expect from the wheelbase.

The six-cylinder in the Turbo S has more than enough power to merge safely onto the freeway or squirt through a yellow light, but a few instances of excessive shifting pop up when manipulating the throttle at lower speeds. Brake feel is excellent, with a reassuring sense that more pressure on the pedal meant more braking force instead of the jarring on-off binary that some new cars offer.

Although the CX-70’s steering ratio isn’t exactly quick and snappy, it is pleasantly linear and perfectly easy to wheel around in a congested parking lot, if a tad heavier than competitors. Combined with a minimal dead zone on center, the Mazda is impressively reactive without feeling twitchy.

2025 Mazda CX-70 interior steering wheel
Alex Sobran

The ride is stiffer and more communicative than expected from an SUV that will probably be used around downtown grids more often than backroad esses. It feels perfectly fine for someone who likes driving sports cars, and is consistent with Mazdas like the CX-5 that have proven popular, but could be a bit much for someone cross-shopping a Honda or Toyota (or Lexus). Given the company’s push toward luxury and how well the double-wishbone front end and multilink rear performed in the mountains, Mazda may have missed an opportunity to equip the CX-70 with adaptive dampers for softer in-town manners—that might have captured a broader array of tastes.

Speaking of mountains, the snaking section of Route 74 running high above the Coachella Valley proved the CX-70 to be a capable enough curve-carver. There’s no way to completely hide the Turbo S’ 4863 lbs (the PHEV comes in at 5198 lbs), but it’s composed, consistent, and confidence-inspiring. Driven hard in this environment, the eight-speed shifts when expected, the powerband is ready and willing, and the AWD is surefooted. The various driver aids stay very much in the background.

Two big factors in the CX-70’s composure are the i-Activ AWD system and Mazda’s Kinematic Posture Control (KPC). The i-Activ system sends torque to the corner with the most grip as expected, but there’s also a baked-in consideration for steering input that prioritizes a consistent and smooth power output for the driver. This system complements the KPC tech, which has a similar end goal of consistent, predictable, unadulterated handling. The KPC algorithms work to—as subtly as possible—keep the suspension compression and dive angles as neutral as possible through a corner, which it achieves by minor manipulations of the brakes and differentials. The result we discovered is a vehicle that’s playful for its size, communicative, and competent.

2025 Mazda CX-70 front three quarter
Alex Sobran

After experiencing the CX-70 across the full range of its natural habitat, it gives every impression of being a solid addition to Mazda’s burgeoning effort to pierce the premium side of the market. It may not compete outright with the X5s of the world, but it doesn’t have to—the Mazda has the BMW beat on price to the point where it just might peel away a few buyers. And compared to its more direct competition, the Mazda is more fun to drive. Not everyone cares if their A-to-B SUV can boogie, but Mazda’s found success with this value-meets-driving-pleasure combination before. We’ll soon see if it works for the CX-70.

2025 Mazda CX-70

Highs: Good-looking inside and out without design gimmicks, fun to drive, solid range of trim levels.

Lows: A little bit stiff around town, not always smooth at low speeds.

Takeaway: Indubitably Mazda. Admirable focus on driving dynamics. Not all things to all people, and that’s ok.


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    I’m predisposed to liking Mazdas, having owned 2 before. So I like this. But gotta say, I am confused why they made this the same exact exterior dimensions of the CX-90. Seems lazy and a missed opportunity to differentiate it other than literally “no 3rd row.” I was kinda toying with being in the market for one of these. Almost got a CX-7 back in the day. But Jeep doesn’t make the Grand Cherokee L and Grand Cherokee as the same exterior size. Toyota doesn’t make the Highlander and Grand Highlander as same exterior size. Why would Mazda do that here other than laziness? I’d want no 3rd row but I’d also want a slightly smaller, tighter vehicle.

    I would agree, it’s essentially the same as the CX-90. I’d also like 300hp without the hybrid stuff.

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