It’s big without being too big, has a couple of extra seats just in case and simply oozes class.
At $70K you might think the top of the line one is a trifle expensive, but check out the price of Kia’s new Sorento.
The new CX-8 Asaki LE sits at the top of a refreshed range and introduces the same Captain Seat layout as the larger CX-9 — that means a 2 + 2 + 2 layout with quilted Nappa leather upholstery.
What’s it cost?
Prices start at $39,990 for the petrol, front-wheel drive CX-8 Sport.
The petrol Touring version is $46,790 and Touring SP is $47,790 — all before onroads costs.
The diesel gets going at $59,290 for the front-drive GT followed by the front-drive Asaki at $62,790.
Then it’s on to the all-wheel drive Sport from $46,990 and onwards and upwards all the way to the Asaki LE at $69,920.
The entry model is surprisingly well equipped with attractive cloth trim and three-zone climate air, along with LED headlights, heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, rear parking sensors, 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+, satellite navigation and active cruise control with stop and go function.
Five-star safety comprises six airbags, rear view camera, Smart City Brake Support [Forward/Reverse] (SCBSF/R) with night time pedestrian detection [Forward], Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Lane Keep Assist (KAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Driver Attention Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) .
By the time you get to the Asaki, there’s larger 19 inch alloys, Nappa leather, 10.25-inch display screen, a sunroof, power tailgate.
Audio is provided by a 273-watt Bose system with 10 speakers, Stitcher and Aha internet radio, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
Other nice-to-haves include real wood door and dashboard inserts, heated steering wheel, power adjust seats, heated and cooled front seats, heating for the rear seats, rear door window sunshades, wireless phone charging, adaptive headlights and a 360 degree monitor — to name a few.
What’s it go like?
CX-8 is the diesel CX-9 that buyers always wanted.
But at 4900mm in length, 1840mm wide and 1725mm high, you pay a penalty because it’s slightly smaller.
While it is still able to seat six or seven, CX-9 is 175mm longer and 129mm wider.
Unfortunately, it’s powered by a thirstier turbocharged petrol engine.
The 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel is the star attraction and produces a healthy 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque.
It is paired with a six-speed auto, together with steering wheel mounted paddle gear shifts and auto engine stop-start to save fuel at traffic light stops.
Interestingly, the diesel engine is also fitted with ‘Natural Sound Frequency Control‘ and ‘Natural Sound Smoother’.
Both reduce the noise and vibration normally associated with diesels, the first by controlling injection and combustion timing in minute increments — the latter with a dynamic damper in each piston to absorb vibrations.
Seems to work because CX-8 is very quiet and smooth.
With seating for six or seven (six in our test vehicle), CX-8 is designed to haul the larger, well-heeled family, and you get the impression they’re the kind that will keep it spic and span.
It’s a much sleeker, sculpted design than the CX-9, in keeping with the current look of the Mazda lineup.
Slitted LED lights frame a mesh front grille, matched by low profile tail lights, joined by a linking length of trim, with a discrete amount of black cladding befitting its status as an SUV.
For a big car it feels smaller than its 4.9 metres, with plenty of legroom for front and second row passengers.
The flip up third row seats are substantial, but legroom could be subject to discussion with those in front, because the second row can be slid backward or forward.
A central console separates second-row occupants in our test vehicle, with twin cup holders and integrated USB ports, while the luxurious seats themselves offer power adjustment as well as heating and ventilation.
The cabin in Asaki exudes class, with excellent fit and finish, upmarket Nappa leather and real wood inlays.
The small sunroof is however of benefit only to front seat passengers.
The boot with the third row in use is small, but that’s par for the course in this type of vehicle.
If you want a bus, buy a bus.
The instrumentation lacks the pyrotechnics of competitors, with a smaller screen than more recent models and not as many options for configuring the partly digital dash.
We do however like the tiny speed limit reminder and the way in which a red line follows the needle of the analogue speedo as soon as you exceed the limit.
That said, a digital speed is offered by the head-up display, but as usual the display is almost invisible to those who wear polarised sunglasses — unless you cock your head.
Driving the CX-8 is a very smooth, refined experience with plenty of torque under foot, negating the need to use the provided change paddles.
It’s reasonably quick off the mark too, with strong mid-range acceleration.
The dash from 0-100km/h takes 9.6 seconds in the heavier all-wheel drive version.
Ride is firm, but not overly firm, and it handles reasonably well, with plenty of grip in corners.
Helping keep it on the straight and narrow is G-Vectoring Control Plus.
What it does is brake each individual wheel to help maintain control in corners.
I’d go as far as to say that given the level of electronic aids and the fact it is unlikely to go off road — all wheel drive is almost unnecessary.
Having said that, we did spend quite a bit of time exploring the national parks of the NSW north coast, mostly on well formed dirt — and in this context it is perfect.
A beach expedition on the flat wet sand was tempting but discretion got the better part of valour — and we chickened out.
Although the climate control system offers three zones (one for the rear), with separate temperature controls located at the rear of the centre console — there doesn’t appear to be any outlets for the third row where they are needed most.
Put some kids down the back there without air and the result is not likely to be pretty.