The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is an outstanding addition to the increasingly crowded “rugged and outdoorsy without going full body-on-frame SUV” marketplace. With sharp looks and the superb driving dynamics we’ve come to expect from the company that brought you the Miata, it was a uniquely “Mazda” take on this type of vehicle. The 2023 CX-50 Meridian Edition builds upon this solid foundation to offer some options that will be even more appealing to those who wish to travel off-road.
Slotting in price-wise between the CX-50 Turbo and the Turbo Premium, the Meridian starts at $41,225. It comes only with the fun and responsive 2.5-liter turbo four, which makes an impressive 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on regular gas, or 256 hp and 320 lb-ft on 93 octane. The package adds exclusive 18-inch black wheels in a chunkier spoke design wrapped in Falken 225/60-18 all-terrain tires that should make clawing through some light trails a bit more breezy.
Visually, the Meridian Edition receives wider headlight garnishes than other CX-50s. Black lug nuts and wheel locks evince a nice attention to detail. A large matte black hood decal proclaiming “CX-50 Meridian Edition” seems like a bit much, but perhaps this will kick off a rebirth of funky graphics on off-road rigs.
The Meridian Edition is also the only CX-50 on which you can order a safari rack, which Mazda calls a roof platform. The top-mounted cargo carrier sits on black crossbars and serves as the perfect spot to store your jerry cans and spare wheels, or even a rooftop tent from the Mazda accessories catalog, if you’re planning to venture off-grid. It’s all part of the $1,235 Apex Package that includes splash guards behind all four wheels and a rocker panel garnish to keep gravel from marring the paint.
Speaking of paint, the Meridian Edition comes in only two colors, Polymetal Gray or Zircon Sand (the greenish color in photos). The sole interior option is Terracotta with black accents, a combo we found to be rich in ambiance during our first drive of the CX-50.
If you’re hankerin’ for the Meridian Edition items on a non-Meridian CX-50, Mazda is also offering some of them in an $1,899 checkbox called the Meridian Choice Package. That’ll net you the crossbars, safari rack, splash guards, a variation on the hood decal, headlight and rocker garnish, as well as the black lug nuts and wheel locks. However, the wheels and tires and Meridian hood decal are exclusive to actual Meridian Editions.
Starting today, Mazda is raising the price on all CX-50 trim levels by $750. Destination fees go up by $50 across the board, too. That means the new starting price for a non-turbo CX-50 2.5 S is $28,825, while the most inexpensive Turbo model will start at $38,425.
That’s still a competitive price against cars like the Subaru Outback Wilderness, the car the CX-50 gets compared with the most (even if Mazda doesn’t mean for you to see it that way). This is especially true considering the CX-50 has an actual six-speed automatic rather than a CVT, and it’s well-mapped to hold gears when you want it to. In recent West Coast travels, however, informal observations indicate that there are far more Outback Wildernesses on the roads than CX-50s. Will the Meridian get some much-needed marketplace attention for the model? We’re not so sure. It seems more likely that buyers, to their detriment, are not cross-shopping Mazdas at all.