The 2024 CX-90 is Mazda’s all-new flagship performance three-row crossover vehicle. I enjoyed a day-long test drive in the SUV recently, motoring from San Francisco to Sonoma. I tried out two of its three versions– the PHEV hybrid with impressive torque and fuel economy, as well as the Turbo S version with a spirited demeanor.
Mazda’s newest SUV replaces the CX-9. It benefits from good looks inside and out, a long list of technology and safety features, and smooth and well-mannered driving dynamics. And, although it might seem like a stretch to compare the large ute that can hold up to eight riders to Mazda’s highly-regarded Miata sports car that holds two, it’s evident that this Japanese automaker’s zoom-zoom heritage and motoring ethics have been carried over to imbue sprightliness to its attributes.
The CX-90 is Mazda’s first large platform vehicle for the North American market. It’s available in 11 different trims and three powertrain options. Models include the standard 3.3 turbo that comes in five trims, while the Turbo S and PHEV are offered in three trim levels. Layouts allow for 8-, 7- or 6-seat configurations. The new SUV is bigger than the CX-9. Although Mazda refers to it as a midsize crossover, it is longer overall than the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, and Toyota Highlander, which are three-row vehicles considered large crossovers by Ward’s Intelligence. On sale now, it ranges in price from $40,000 to $60,000.
Despite its larger proportions, the CX-90 appears smaller with a snubbed nose and tucked-in back end. It has been penned with a long hood, short overhangs, and tires pulled out to the sides. Japanese design ethics have influenced both the exterior and interior. The new Artisan Red paint color is eye-catching and appealing.
Mazda is striving to move the new model more upscale with more premium styling cues and lux-level attributes on top trims, such as Nappa leather, second-row captain’s chairs, a 12-speaker Bose stereo system, interior ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, hands-free power liftgate, and 21-inch wheels. The cabin is well-drawn and designed with cohesion of surfaces and materials, borrowing some themes from the CX-50.
A chrome strip runs across the interior panel and elongates the cabin feel. A 10.3-inch infotainment display is integrated into the dash and controlled via a click wheel on the center console. Uplevel trims get a 12.25-inch display and a 12.3-inch instrument display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard. A fun ‘surprise and delight’ feature is Mazda’s “Driver Personalization System” –it scans your face and then positions the driver’s seat to fit you.
Mazda developed the new model on a rear-wheel drive architecture compared to the CX-9, which was set up on front-drive architecture. The benefits are improved interior roominess and better motoring manners. In addition to the new rear-biased AWD platform, the CX-90 has three powertrains that are all shifted through an eight-speed transmission. The 3.3-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder is mated to a 48-volt mild hybrid system and is available with either a 280-horsepower or 340-horse output. The plug-in hybrid uses a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that is set up with a 100-kW (134-hp) electric motor powered by a 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery (combined gasoline and electricity is 56MPGe with an EV range of 26 miles). The 3.3-liter engines can tow 5000 pounds, while the PHEV is rated at 3500. Trailer Stability Control is standard on all.
During my evaluation, I was impressed by the steering and braking response and the overall handling of the CX-90 as I drove on a collection of busy freeways that required quick lane changes as well as speed changes to keep on course and keep up with the traffic flow. The torque-on-tap for the two powertrains that I drove was exuberant, and other Mazda engineering talents provided stable maneuvering: two of note are the system that helps mitigate anti-dive and anti-squat and the CX-90’s double-wishbone suspension in front and 5-link at the rear that enhance rear grip. I also appreciated its handling on the tight and twisty two-lanes in the backcountry of Sonoma. Mazda’s Kinetic Posture Control comes to the forefront as it applies brake force to the inside wheel during cornering to boost stability for winding roads.
Mazda’s i-Activsense suite of driver-assist features includes standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and more.
*The estimated fuel economy range of the 3.3-lter is City 25/Combined 24/Highway 28 mpg.
Wheelbase: 122.8 in
Length: 200.8 in
Width: 78.5 in
Height: 68.2 in
Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 56–57/51–52/33 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 74–75/40/15–16 ft3
Curb weight estimated 4750–5250 lb