Mazda CX-8 AWD Exclusive – The throne is in the backseat

There are only a handful of things that get me excited these days: A good bassline in a song, F1 races (at least until the first half), playing Genshin Impact, a new chapter of One Piece, and driving a Mazda. Don’t get me wrong, I know they’re not the absolute best out there. It’s just that the driving feel of their cars is certainly remarkable and one that I always look forward to, even for just a few days at a time.

But what if you’re not the one driving? Maybe you’re too tired, or too busy. Either way, the situation calls for you to take the backseat. Mazdas are not exactly known for luxuries behind the driver aside from an automatic climate control and leather seats. It’s premium, yes, but not quite the boss-mode you’d expect from something as good-looking as this.

The CX-8 changes that with this AWD Exclusive trim. It has two captain seats in the second row instead of the usual split-folding bench seats. Armrests are delegated to nicely padded panels on the door and a real center console between the chairs that’s similar to the one in front. It’s adorned by piano black trim and chrome accents by the cup holders. There are seat heater buttons, while inside are two 2.1A USB ports for faster charging. This is rounded up by the second row’s own automatic climate control and privacy shade by the window. Suddenly, we have a real executive crossover in our hands.

Riding back here, I can’t help but think that this is Mazda’s missing piece in going upmarket. The BMW X1 or Volvo XC40 are smaller five-seaters and while they are true luxury brands, they don’t have this executive lounge for a backseat. I thought I belonged in Forbes’s list of richest people in the Philippines despite having only receipts for reimbursements in my wallet. EDSA felt like calming waves, with harshness subtly felt by my feet but didn’t reach the bum, unless it’s one of those abrupt and deep potholes. The privacy shade and air vents provided a cool atmosphere under a hot 12 o’clock sun that for the first time, I didn’t have sweat marks on the leather armrest when I lifted my arm.

The experience is further elevated once you get to work. I was able to write a previous article without being dizzy and as expected of Mazda, music is nice and crisp out of the 10-speaker Bose sound system. The only minor complaint I have is the lack of cooling seats. They only have heaters which will benefit owners in cold provinces but for most of the country, this button would be untouched. 

The story takes a turn in the last row. “Exclusive” as a variant name becomes a pun as third-row passengers would certainly feel neglected. There are no air vents, charging ports, or padding for the elbows. You’re lucky you get to ride with the boss, so just hush; that’s what this third row says to me.

The seats are very nice, though. They’re so comfortable that I think I can endure around an hour of sitting here. It’s too bad that it’s not complemented with space that even my 5’6 frame only has enough legroom behind the captain seat. Mind you, I adjusted the second row for proper legroom if I’m seated there, so my space in the third row is a real-world take on things. Headroom is almost non-existent, too. If I had hair, for sure it would touch the ceiling and make head movements awkward. But is this important? I don’t think so. It’s a boss car, and bosses don’t occupy the third row. What they’ll be interested in is the driver’s seat. (The third-row seat is best for the boss’ kids. – Ed.)

As expected, the CX-8 drives really well. It’s quick from a stop, and is more than ready to leap for an overtake wherever you are in the rev range. The six-speed automatic also doesn’t shuffle even in complicated traffic like driving in Quezon City Circle or in Taft Avenue.

What I’m surprised about is how nimble and agile it is for its size, even better than the CX-30 I’ve driven months back. Body roll is at a minimum and there’s so much grip thanks to the All-Wheel Drive and G-Vectoring system. I can take corners confidently and with a bit more speed than I usually do. The steering too is very on point that there’s virtually no correction needed in any curve, unless you’re the one who made a miscalculation.

Another good thing is the responsiveness of the smart city brake support. It’s one of the features in Mazda’s I-ACTIVSENSE safety suite and I took a particular liking to it because it’s faster than my own reactions. If you drive in congested roads with tricycles, motorcycles without helmets, e-bikes, and cars who don’t use turn signals – basically any rural part of Quezon City, the smart city brake support has your back. I’ve had encounters during my time with the CX-8 and it was really quick in stopping the car immediately without any skidding. The best part is it does this with a considerable distance from the erring vehicle. It doesn’t wait for a really close encounter to activate.

The only downside to this great driving experience is the fuel consumption. This CX-8 hates all stop lights and stop signals as it returned 6.8km/l during this light pandemic traffic. On Sundays where roads are really spacious, it gets 8km/l. It’s not surprising, given its acceleration despite its heavy body. Besides, if you’ve got 2.5M to burn, what’s a few thousand pesos of gas per week?

Yes, you read that right. The Mazda CX-8 Exclusive is at P2,450,000 to be exact. It falls in the range of a flagship Montero, Fortuner, or Everest, but it’s apples to oranges—this is not a family car (unless you’re a family of four). It’s Mazda’s uppercut to the entry-level crossovers of premium brands—an executive lounge on wheels that will also satisfy your need for driving excitement. As said earlier with the third-row shenanigans, it’s not perfect but it doesn’t have to be. It’s focused on giving you the best drive and the best ride while at the backseat. Take it for what it is, or look somewhere else. That’s how exclusive this CX-8 is.

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