Mazda Goes Subaru: Makes SUVs All-Wheel Drive

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Mazda had elected to make all future CX SUVs default to all-wheel drive, rather than front-wheel drive, as it continues to shift its products upmarket. However, the announcement was curiously hidden within the marketing materials for the refreshed CX-5, rather than being allowed to stand on its own.

From the 2022 model year onward, all Mazda products carrying the CX designation will come equipped from the factory with i-Activ all-wheel drive. For now, this pertains exclusively to the U.S. market and will undoubtedly result in vehicles carrying a higher price tag. AWD typically requires shoppers to tack another $1,500 (give or take) onto the MSRP and we doubt Mazda will be giving away the extra parts for free.

From Mazda:

Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system is engineered to enhance performance and confidence, enabling the driver to enjoy the experience in various driving conditions. Providing i-Activ AWD as standard for all Mazda CX models, starting with the 2022 model year, supports the brand’s dedication to deliver unparalleled driving pleasure for all owners. While making i-Activ AWD newly standard emphasizes the enhanced driving dynamics Mazda customers value, it is part of the Mazda brand’s expansion into the premium space.

Engaging driving dynamics are engineered into every aspect of vehicle development to help create a connection between car and driver. Mazda’s unique i-Activ AWD system continuously monitors weight transfer, based on acceleration and cornering forces, and shifts power to the appropriate wheels, providing drivers a near instant response to inputs. By sharpening turn-in response and control based on vehicle speed, the i-Activ AWD system can help enhance the vehicle’s performance, while also providing additional safety in various road conditions.

This means the CX-30, CX-5, and CX-9 will come with AWD in their next incarnation. If you feel like we’re forgetting someone, the CX-3 has been discontinued and will not be making an appearance on next year’s vehicle lineup. While the CX-3 could be had with power going to all four wheels, Mazda likely figured the necessary price bump wouldn’t have made a lot of sense for some customers. It also previously confessed there might be too much overlap with the CX-30, even though the CX-3 is technically one size down.

But Mazda has been intentionally moving upmarket and several premium manufacturers recently decided they can make more money by selling larger vehicles with higher price tags than trying to stick it out with smaller automobiles. This has been particularly true of German automakers, which other luxury brands tend to use as a benchmark.

While there have been several companies favoring all-wheel drive, it’s only been commonplace among a few nameplates. Subaru was formerly known as the de facto AWD brand. But more companies have been offering it as standard equipment of late. Mazda clearly believes it can further distinguish itself from the pack and add some premium flare by going with universal AWD.

The decision should work nicely for a company that already has some of the best exterior vehicle designs in the industry and is about to add inline-six motors to the lineup. Though we do wonder how the larger engines will affect the promise of all-wheel drive. It’s extremely likely we’ll see that unit installed into some of Mazda’s larger SUVs, potentially leaving an opportunity for rear-drive performance modes.

But is the swap to AWD a wise one?

More than likely. Mazda likely wouldn’t have done this if customers weren’t routinely optioning it already and it reduces some manufacturing complexities by making it so the factory always knows what to expect. Despite the need for additional parts, Mazda no longer has to bother with front-drive SUVs and can charge more for the resulting products.

[Image: Mazda]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 39 comments
  • Roberto Esponja Roberto Esponja on Sep 21, 2021

    * Mazda has elected...

  • Notsure Notsure on Sep 21, 2021

    When I bought my 2013 Mazda CX-5 AWD Touring in June 2012 the dealer had one CX-5 with FWD and a stick and said I have no idea who will buy that in Northeast Pa. I'm sure someone did because of price and nothing else. BTW most trouble free vehicle I ever owned

  • Dave Has to be Indy 500. Many more leaders and front passes than NASCAR, and Monaco is unwatchable with the inability to pass on that circuit.
  • Jeff How did the discussion get from an article about a 56 billion dollar pay package for Elon Musk to a proposal to charge a per mile tax on EVs in California or paying increase registration on vehicles to make up for lost gas tax revenue? I thought such a discussion would better fit Matt's Gas Wars series.
  • Master Baiter Both people who bought ID.4s will be interested in this post.
  • Urlik Not a single memorable thing happened in the big three races this weekend IMHO.
  • Ajla If Goodyear makes rain tires that allow NASCAR to race in damp conditions at longer ovals (other that at Daytona and Talladega) then I promise to purchase at least four new sets of Goodyear tires in my remaining life.