SAFE IN THE SNOW LANE

CX-8’s best kit is sel­dom seen at work — or felt

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - LUCY BORTOLAZZO

Step into a car deal­er­ship these days and you’ll be bom­barded with acronyms, among them ESC, LDW, AEB, ACC and RCTA. It would be easy to dis­miss them as mar­ket­ing jar­gon but they could save your life. Or a loved one’s.

Most peo­ple will never ex­pe­ri­ence how these in­vis­i­ble safety nets work — and when they have come into play, some won’t even re­alise it. So the in­vi­ta­tion to see and feel this cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy in ac­tion was too good to refuse.

At the South­ern Hemi­sphere Prov­ing Grounds in Queenstown, New Zealand, Mazda demon­strated the full suite of driver as­sis­tance tech in its new all-wheel drive CX-8.

It’s all about putting the driver at ease — and the re­sult is a much more en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence, although some of that stemmed from be­ing in the snow-capped val­leys of the pic­turesque South Is­land.

Nor­mally fresh snow and ice strike fear into the heart of an in­ex­pe­ri­enced driver. The Mazda tech in­spires con­fi­dence in­stead.

As we put the seven-seater through its paces, the nar­row cabin and sharp re­flexes com­bine to trick you into think­ing you’re han­dling a smaller car, though there is no com­pro­mis­ing on com­fort.

The CX-8 shares its wheel­base with the CX-9 but is the same width as the CX-5, mak­ing it ideal for grow­ing fam­i­lies with­out feel­ing overly large on the road. It’s sleek and stylish but the looks aren’t the big­gest at­trac­tion.

When you spend more time vac­u­um­ing sul­tanas out of the back of the car than you do on high­ways or dirt roads, safety is some­thing you want to take for granted.

The Mazda’s blind spot mon­i­tor­ing flashes a light in your side mir­ror if you’re drift­ing into a lane that’s al­ready oc­cu­pied. Lane-keep as­sist will steer you back into your lane if you wander and in­tel­li­gent speed as­sis­tance reads road signs and ad­justs your speed to the pre­vail­ing limit.

All are ma­jor draw­cards for par­ents, or soonto-be par­ents shop­ping for a fam­ily car.

On the icy sur­faces at Queenstown, the hid­den tech­nol­ogy is most im­pres­sive.

Mazda says its all-wheel drive is pre­dic­tive, mean­ing it can act quickly and catch the car if it senses some­thing’s not right. Its 27 sen­sors mon­i­tor con­di­tions and driver in­puts 200 times a se­cond — whether you’re driv­ing at night, through wind, rain or snow, the AWD has got your back.

The brand’s G-Vec­tor­ing Con­trol (GVC) is like­wise hard to dis­cern from the driver’s seat but it keeps the CX-8 sta­ble and re­spon­sive on slip­pery cor­ners.

The tech­nol­ogy ad­justs power out­put when en­ter­ing a cor­ner to shift the car’s weight to the front wheels and pro­vide more grip when turn­ing in. The same tech shifts the load to the rear wheels for bet­ter drive out of cor­ners.

The car feels sta­ble and you ex­pe­ri­ence less side­ways move­ment when com­ing into or driv­ing out of a cor­ner.

All this tech­nol­ogy gives you peace of mind when you’re strap­ping your new­born into the car seat for the first time. It also gives you the con­fi­dence to say yes to that snow trip or camp­ing in the rain.

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