At first glance, the 2020 Mazda CX-30 doesn’t look like a vehicle you’d take off the beaten path. Its features are that of a city-focused crossover designed for strong fuel economy and chic style, not a vehicle that an owner would take it camping or fishing. Yet, the 2020 CX-30 is designed to do just that, thanks to a new setup for the vehicle’s all-wheel drive system.
Under normal situations, the all-wheel drive system works as you’d expect it to. Power is shifted to the front or rear of the vehicle depending on conditions and driver input. Traction control maintains full alert, and the driver’s aids are on standby in case they need to intervene. It’s pretty normal stuff.
When the driver activates the off-road setting from the dash, the computer changes the parameters of the vehicle to make better use of the all-wheel drive for the non-road conditions.
To begin, the computer automatically sends 90-percent of power to the rear wheels. From there, it’ll shift power forward if necessary. Additionally, the all-wheel drive system has a brake-based torque vectoring system that can apply the brakes to a spinning wheel to send power to the wheel that has traction. This prevents freewheeling off road.
Additionally, when on two wheels, power ends up going to the two wheels without traction – often the opposite corner of one wheel without traction – so the system will grab the brakes on those wheels to help regain power.
The traction control system stays active in the off-road setting, but the system doesn’t intervene is quickly as it would on normal pavement. In sand and mud, a little traction is actually desired in order to keep the vehicle’s momentum up. Understanding this, the engineers programmed in some slip to compensate.
While it’s not as sophisticated as the all-wheel drive systems on some dedicated off-roaders, the system is there to make sure that the driver doesn’t get stuck on the way to a campsite or can’t get back up a hill that they found themselves down.
This is important because Mazda expects buyers of the CX-30 to be folks who want to go kayaking or mountain biking on the weekends. They may have a favorite campsite they want to visit. Because off road conditions can change, they want a vehicle that can adapt with it.
It’s not a dedicated off-roader, like a Jeep Wrangler, but it should be able to handle most of what the typical customer will throw at it.