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Gear up. Today we’re taking a stroll down Mazda history. The new Mazda CX-50 is making waves as a new rugged, off-roading oriented model, but it’s not the first off-roading SUV with a Mazda badge. The 2023 Mazda CX-50 may owe its success to a discontinued predecessor. 

Did the Mazda Tribute pave the way for the Mazda CX-50? 

2007 Mazda Tribute on a white background
2007 Mazda Tribute | Mazda

Way back in the day, the 2001 Mazda Tribute was born, and it had a pretty good run, but the Mazda CX-50 could last a bit longer. The Tribute was available until 2011, when it was discontinued and replaced by the Mazda CX-5. 

The Mazda Tribute was discontinued due to declining sales. The Tribute was a little outdated compared to rivals by the end of its life, and its interior was filled with cheap plastics. Plus, it has a below-average reliability rating. 

Mazda didn’t have its own vision with the Tribute. It was co-developed with the Ford Escape, and both vehicles had a lot in common. The CX-5 was the first stand-alone Mazda SUV, and it’s still incredibly popular. 

Now the Mazda CX-50 serves as the first Mazda SUV exclusively designed for Americans. Mazda provides a ton of unique touches for comfort, style, a sporty experience, and off-roading capabilities. 

How much power does the CX-50 have? 

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 has a stout amount of power for instant acceleration. The Mazda Tribute is considered the Miata of SUVs, but that title could belong to the CX-50 now. 

The standard engine in the CX-50 is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. You can upgrade to the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine for 256 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque with 93 octane fuel. 

This is a lot of power compared to what the Mazda tribute had. Its standard 2.0-liter inline-four engine only cranked out 130 hp. That’s pretty lackluster. You could opt for the 3.0-liter V6 engine for up to 203 hp. 

The powertrains in the Tribute could be paired with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission was added later. 

You get a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive with the Mazda CX-50. Also, you can opt for steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a more engaging experience. 

The Tribute felt heavy and lumbering around curves but cornered well. The CX-50 provides more grip and has a more confident stance around sharp bends. It’s slightly heavier than the CX-5. 

The 2023 CX-50 is built to tackle the wild

2023 Mazda CX-50 off-roading
2023 Mazda CX-50 | Allison Barfield, MotorBiscuit

We’ve driven older Mazda Tribute models and the 2023 Mazda CX-50, and the difference in off-roading abilities is astronomical. The Tribute had four-wheel drive and a differential lock but not a low-range setting. 

The Mazda CX-50 comes with the i-Active intelligent AWD system and an Off-Road driving mode that automatically responds to the driver to provide the most efficient setting depending on the situation. 

It senses when you turn on a gravel road to shift the weight to the front tires ad reduce the amount of torque in the rear. This allows each wheel to travel at the same speed and prevents slipping and sliding. 

The speed is also controlled on steep inclines to prevent a delay in accelerating. Speed is well controlled while going downhill too. Also, if a wheel is spinning, more braking power is sent to it while more torque is sent to the wheels on the ground. 

It’s like the Mazda Tribute was a group project, and it didn’t exactly excel in any areas. But the Mazda CX-50 was crafted by Mazda with the goal of being both sporty and rugged. As a result, it’s changing the off-roading game.


5 Important 2023 Mazda CX-50 Facts to Know Before Buying