Mazda is doing something interesting, as it tries to move itself upmarket and take on its more premium rivals. To do so, it’s betting on a new rear-wheel drive layout with a very BMW-like turbocharged straight-six engine. In a market that’s pushing for electrification, a new straight-six engine is a bold move for Mazda but the enthusiasts in us can’t help but appreciate it. But can it really take on a brand like BMW? In this new video from Throttle House, the new I6-powered Mazda CX-90 takes on the to find out.
To keep things fair, the BMW X5 in question is an xDrive40i model, which means it uses its own straight-six–BMW’s brilliant 3.0-liter turbocharged “B58.” On paper, it makes 375 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, which are upgrades over the pre-LCI model, due to the 48-volt hybrid system. As for the Mazda CX-90, it has a 3.3-liter turbocharged I6 that makes 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The two cars also take on a Mercedes GLE which, ironically, also uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, with 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. So can the Mazda really take on two I6-powered Germans that are both far more expensive?
In a standing drag race, the Mazda definitely gets whooped. The Mercedes was a close second but the BMW X5—as most BMWs do at the moment—launches far better. Both Germans must drastically underrate their power because they walked away from the Mazda, despite not being the much more potent on paper. Still, the Mazda hung on a bit, which is impressive given its price and that the Germans don’t really play fair with power ratings. In a rolling race, though, where the Germans’ launch control systems were negated, the Mazda was far more competitive. It still lost but it was much, much closer.
Will the Mazda CX-90 ever truly compete with the BMW X5? Probably not, only because few BMW shoppers will ever consider it. However, as rightly pointed out in this video, it’s good enough that anyone that drives the CX-90 and gives it a real chance might really feel that they don’t need to spend $20,000 more. Its cabin is lovely, its steering is said to be better than BMW’s, and it still comes with a cool inline-six engine. Mazda isn’t going to beat the Germans right away but if it can continue this trend, make some mild improvements along the way, and keep its price advantage, it could be a very real competitor. Now we just need the new I6 in a Mazda 6 to have a budget 3 Series on our hands.