It’s not new, but it’s a bit understated and flies under the radar, so when you add the trim designation ‘Takami’ after CX-5, you lose most people right there.

Which is a bit of a shame really, because when Mazda dropped the Turbocharged 2.5 litre SkyactivT motor into the CX-5, they transformed what is already a benchmark-setting SUV into a real class leader.

Mazda do not believe the end is nigh for the Internal Combustion engine, as can be seen in the development of this Turbo iteration of their 2.5 Skyactiv powerplant. Because going into detail on the development Mazda have put into this engine to optimise the turbo installation would mean writing a book, here are just a few key elements.

A 4-3-1 Exhaust manifold, which replaces the 4-2-1 in the non-turbo version, starts right inside of the head with the 4-3 section, The three branch exhaust manifold, which incorporates a variable flow valve, is located between the cylinder head and the turbo.

The very short sections in this manifold provide the sort of exhaust scavenging effect provided by hand-built tuned length extractors on competition vehicles. This helps ensure all exhaust gases are removed from the cylinder on it’s exhaust stroke.

The exhaust manifold variable valve controls the flow of the gases between the 3-1 section of the cylinder head and the turbo to optimise the speed and volume of the exhaust gases entering the turbine.

A water cooled exhaust gas recirculation system is also incorporated to control the temperature of the exhaust gases, which then cool the intake charge and introduce inert gases into the cylinder, to improve performance, economy and emissions.

Twin camshafts drive 4 valves per cylinder, which control gas flow into and out of a ‘Pentroof’ combustion chamber to optimise fuel: air mix. The intake valves are controlled by elective variable valve timing, while the exhaust are hydraulically timed.

The head reduces the compression ratio to 10.5:1.

And all that is just to improve the way the engine ‘breathes’.

Overall engine efficiency improvements based on the different design parameters of a turbo engine are everywhere, in such things as needle roller bearings on the rocker/cam interface, narrower crankshaft journals, lowered piston ring tension – the list just goes on!

Externally, the only things that give the CX-5 away as a bit special are the exclusive, and rather ‘stylish’ grey 19” wheels, and the low key ‘Skyactiv’ badge on the tailgate.

Inside the difference is immediately obvious, with the superb ‘Aged Merlot’ Nappa leather on the seats, steering wheel, and trim. It’s a real touch of luxury and sophistication.

Heated front and rear seats, and heated steering wheel are there too. Don’t knock a heated steering wheel till you try it! Way more than a ‘because we can’ gimmick, the warmth emanating from the leather just feels right!

We’ve always given the Mazda steering wheel layout top marks, it feels right, everything is where it should be, and easy to use. The leather just finishes it off superbly.

But it’s what happens when you turn it, that’s the real trick of the CX-5, and where Mazda’s ‘Jinba Ittai’ philosophy comes to the fore!

Sure the car looks and feels great, but it’s when you start to drive it that you realise you are in something special.

All that engine design work has produced a power plant that exudes power, 170kw, and, more importantly, 420Nm of Torque. Connect that to the 6 speed Skyactiv Auto in the Takami, and you have standstill to 100km per hour in just under 8 seconds.

Impressive as that is, it’s the way the Takami uses the massive torque band  (Max torque is at just 2000 revs) to just casually rocket the car off into the distance that stirs the soul. The surge of power keeps on keeping on.

And there is the electronic trickery that is g-vectoring. A unique to Mazda setup that uses input from g-forces, steering wheel angle, and speed to subtly alter torque output to balance the car on turn-in and corner exit to provide a level of control and handling that is also class-leading.

Mazda calls their philosophy of designing and building a vehicle ‘Jinba Ittai’ which roughly translates as ‘Horse and Rider as One’, and it really comes to the fore on back roads, especially on the gravel. The super stiff frame, combined with touches like fluid-filled bushes do a great job of insulating against noise and vibration, while retaining great road feel.

As we noted in our first CX-30 drive, Mazda seems so confident in the car’s capability, on the gravel, it can be chucked about quite enthusiastically before the safety overrides come in to play. The CX-5 Takami was just as forgiving.

Then you can switch them off!

The only time the CX-5 felt a bit unsettled on the gravel was exiting tight corners, where too much enthusiasm produced lots of wheel spin and torque steer simultaneously. But we were provoking it a bit by then!

The forest road out to Tarawera Falls, in behind Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty starts as a major logging highway that gets rougher, and narrower the closer you get to the falls.

But the CX-5 was in its element, again. It’s such a pity so many of them never see these types of adventures, they do it so well, and there is just so much to see out there!

The Tarawera Falls are where the Tarawera River reaches the edge of an ancient (about 14,000yrs old) Rhyolitic lava flow that abruptly stops in a series of impressive cliffs.

Normal flow sees the 35m high falls emerge from halfway down the cliff face. When the river is at full flow, an additional cascade from the top of the cliff increases their height to 65m.

An easy 350m walk beside the river from the car park gets you to a lookout at the bottom of the falls, then, if you are really keen, another 200m scrambling up the cliff face on a reasonably difficult track gets you to the Tarawera Cascades, the point where the river bursts out of the bush, and vanishes into a series of caves and holes, from where it makes its way underground to the cliff. We recommend you make the effort!

In the summer, a dive into the incredibly clear water at the picnic spot just back from the carpark is also recommended. Sadly camping is not permitted there.

Just on a side note, the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera makes it quite unique in the geographical world, having had both Rhyolitic and Scoria eruptions at different times in its history.

It’s a place well worth visiting, almost as much as the CX-5 Takami Turbo is a car worth driving!

 

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