2024 Mazda CX-90: Big SUV, bigger ambition


The $60,000 price point is unfamiliar territory for Mazda. But that’s what the nicest versions of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 cost, which is about $10,000 more than its predecessor, the nimble three-row CX-9 SUV, asked for its top-spec Signature model.

Frankly, the CX-90 looks odd with the Mazda badge on it. This is the small Japanese automaker’s first “large platform” vehicle ever for the North American market, and at first glance it looks even bigger than the numbers suggest. (It’s 200.8 inches long—1.4 inches longer than the outgoing CX-9 and about three inches longer than a Kia Telluride.)

The CX-90 is larger in every dimension than the SUV it replaces. Mazda realized that as customers’ families grew, the CX-9 couldn’t compete with newer SUVs like the Toyota Grand Highlander, so the CX-90 is targeted at those customers who were already driving a Mazda, as well as conquest customers cross-shopping for a premium-feeling, roomy three-row SUV.

2024 Mazda CX90 interior

Mind you, the company doesn’t force buyers into that $60,000-plus zone. A dizzying array of lesser CX-90 trims begins with the Turbo Select, a nicely-equipped SUV with seating for eight, listing for $40,970 (including shipping). If you can afford more, there’s the Turbo Preferred, Preferred Plus, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus, which takes you up to $54,325. Then there’s a more powerful Turbo S and plug-in hybrid PHEV, with six models total in those configurations. That’s 11 CX-90 models altogether to choose from.

The CX-90 is strictly a Japanese product, with a Japan-sourced engine and transmission, and final assembly in Mazda’s Hofu plant. In fact, 90 percent of the SUV’s content is Japanese. That includes the sweet top-of-the-line 340-horsepower, 3.3-liter inline six-cylinder Turbo S engine, which feels and sounds like it should be in a premium sedan.

2024 Mazda CX90 front driving action wet road

The 3.3-liter Turbo S pumps out those 340 horses on premium fuel; on regular, it’s rated at 319 horsepower. There’s also a milder turbo version with 280 horsepower, so rated on any fuel. All Turbo models feature M-Hybrid Boost, a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that’s there to help out with start/stop, and accessories like air conditioning.

Mazda has a third option for the CX-90 powertrain, reflected in our test vehicle: a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated, 189-horsepower four-cylinder PHEV, helped out by a 173-horsepower, 100-kW electric motor, with a 17.8 kWh battery pack. It has a 26-mile pure-electric range. It’s rated at 323 horsepower on premium fuel, 319 horsepower on regular. It’s Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid. When the onboard state of charge is less than 20 percent, the system keeps the gas engine running, reserving that 20 percent to help out when extra acceleration is required.

2024 Mazda CX90 interior center console

All models come with a new eight-speed automatic transmission which matched the engine nicely under acceleration, but felt sort of clunky as it searched for a proper gear at lower speeds. It has a wet clutch instead of a torque converter—an interesting choice.

Our car was Rhodium White Metallic, a $595 upcharge and our PHEV Premium Plus CX-90’s only option. Upholstery was black Nappa leather. It’s a handsome vehicle but nobody we showed it to picked it as a Mazda; there were a couple of guesses for Infiniti, likely because of the square-ish styling and the little bright nameplate just ahead of the front doors, which indeed looked Infiniti-like.

Specs: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus

• Price: $56,950 (base); $58,920 (as-tested)
• Powertrain: 2.5-liter fuel-injected, dual-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder with 100 kW electric motor; 8-speed automatic transmission
• Horsepower: 323 (gas plus electric on premium fuel) @ 6000 rpm
• Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
• Layout: All-wheel-drive, four-door, seven-passenger SUV
• Weight: 5243 lbs.
• 0–60 mph: 6.2 seconds
• EPA-rated fuel economy: 56 MPGe gas plus electric; 25 mpg overall gas only
• Competition: Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, Toyota Grand Highlander

2024 Mazda CX90 front wheel tire

Our CX-90 rode on handsome 21-inch alloy wheels with competent Falken ZIEX P275/45 R 21 radials (19- inch tires are standard on the less expensive models), which accented the premium, sporty appearance. The Mazda’s direct competitors don’t come with 21-inch tires and wheels, but the CX-90 perhaps needs them to carry the weight—a porky 5243 pounds for the PHEV model, compared to 4709 pounds for the base car.

That said, though it’s down 17 horsepower from the 3.3-liter Turbo S model, the PHEV is actually faster. Car and Driver clocked a very quick 5.9 seconds from 0 to 60 mph (a time we couldn’t quite duplicate) for the PHEV, 6.3 seconds for the Turbo S. All-wheel drive, by the way, is standard across the lineup. Towing capacity is 3500 pounds with the PHEV model, or 5000 for the 3.3-liter six-cylinder models.

2024 Mazda CX90 side towing bikes pan action

On the road, the CX-90’s manners, with double wishbone suspension up front and multilink out back, are composed and predictable. Steering is nicely linear but surprisingly stiff, which grew tiring on longer drives. Given its weight, the PHEV is reasonable agile (a common Mazda characteristic) but handling is not quite as fluid as the CX-9 felt. Brakes are very good, though.

Inside, Mazda designers and engineers outdid themselves. The Nappa leather was creamy and rich, accented by a light-colored center stripe. Front seats worked well for long stints; center-row seats were comfortable, but knee room was a little more compromised than we expected. The third-row seat had three sets of seat belts, but the center passenger won’t be as cheerful as the other two. A two-passenger rearmost seat is offered on Turbo S models.

Instruments and controls were properly displayed and easy to master. The digital cluster display is 12.3 inches, accompanied by a 10.25 color center display. The sound system was a typically good 12-speaker Bose unit.

While the CX-90 isn’t billed as an off-roader, ours did come with hill descent control, hill launch assist and off-road traction assist, and the drive mode has an off-road selection (along with sport, towing and EV).

In any of the three basic models, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 seems poised to be a decidedly valuable flagship for the company as it continues its evolution from an economy brand to a premium one. This is a strong step in that direction, with choices for plug-in proponents as well as gas-engine stalwarts.

2024 Mazda CX90 front three quarter

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus

Highs: Muscular looking, good engine choices, nice interior. Prices for every budget.

Lows: Transmission balky around town, stiff steering. Heavy.

Takeaway: A coup for designers and engineers, but will top-of-the-line conquest customers come looking for a $60,000 three-row SUV from Mazda?




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    Looks nice. I want to see the straight 6 in a sedan or something sporty, not a big crossover suv thing. I’d ask for a wagon but that is never going to happen.

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