SUV 2023: The new Mazda CX-50, Honda Passport Trail Sport show off-road parts

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – Like many brands, Mazda is expanding its line of SUV crossovers with the new CX-50It has a crisp look and a well-ventilated interior for a spacious feel behind the wheel. Plus, Mazda emphasizes that this isn’t just for city dwellers—it has some off-road bits.

“Mazda is not known for its off-road performance, but it was really the natural extension of what we already do on the road,” said Mimi Battistella, project manager at Mazda North American Operations.The 2023 CX-50 carries a base price of $28,025, and all-wheel drive is standard on all trim levels.

Why do more car brands seem to be emphasizing off-road capabilities? Because in theory, that’s where more people go for things like camping out on the wilds. This trend appears to have picked up since the pandemic changed vacation plans and kept people stuck indoors.

“I think in our world where we’re in Zoom meetings all day, we work from home, and even if we’re not at home, we’re in front of computers or phones most of the day. So I think there’s this natural pull out that we really felt, And the cars were a really safe way to explore,” he said, adding that the CX-50 complements the company’s popular CX-5 in the lineup.

Honda is also upping its off-road game this year with its new all-wheel drive Passport TrailSport model.

It’s not intended for four-wheel drive, necessarily, but the lack of paved or even slick dirt roads won’t block this road from a secluded spot.

A slightly wider track and slightly more aggressive all-season tires aid in capability, and almost equally important, give it a more solid look.

The Passport was added to Honda’s lineup two years ago, nicely bridging the gap between compact CR-V and mid-size Pilot models. The Passport lineup has been fully revised for 2022, and the TrailSport is an additional trim level starting at $43,695.

In the old days, it was the hardware that allowed an SUV to tackle the tough stuff, and of course some driving skills.

Today, more sophisticated devices, and electronic aids, are to help more people get off the beaten path.

It’s terrain management.

Essentially, a sophisticated way to make sure every tire gets traction, no matter the conditions or whether you’re heading uphill or downhill.

Honda lets you specify the terrain you’re in, like mud or sand, and the Passport’s all-wheel drive system does the rest.

The Mazda CX-50 has a drive mode system called iM, and in off-road mode, the company’s engineers say they can tell which of the four tires is getting traction or not and adjust accordingly.

Don’t worry. If you prefer pavement, Sport mode lives up to its name when the road turns twisty.

Mazda wouldn’t have it any other way, although it appears to have officially retired from the “Zoom Zoom” mantra.

Sure, some will still call them “soft-roaders” or mall crawlers, but this new breed of SUV crossover not only looks like they can handle the tough stuff, but they can.

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