2024 Mazda CX-90: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceWhat Is It?
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is the all-new flagship of Mazda’s SUV lineup. Replacing the CX-9, the new CX-90 offers an updated look, a more spacious interior, a range of high-tech features, and two new engine choices including Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid. Mazda invited us to San Francisco, California, to experience the new CX-90 firsthand.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceHuman-Centric Approach
“At Mazda, our focus is to deliver an ownership experience that enriches the lives of our customers. With each new vehicle launch, we challenge ourselves to progress through our human-centric approach of design and engineering,” said President and CEO of Mazda North American Operations Jeff Guyton.”CX-90 offers powerful and responsive performance, alluring design, and intuitive technology. We’re very proud of our team’s work on CX-90, which we know is a breakthrough vehicle in its segment,” enthused Guyton.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceFresh Styling
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 may have fresh looks compared to the outgoing CX-9, but it is still easily recognizable as a Mazda. Longer and wider than the outgoing model — thanks to a new large vehicle platform — the CX-90 features stylish headlights that flow backward from the top of the grille, giving the CX-90 a strong stance. This styling is further enhanced by a chrome strip that spans the width of the lower front bumper.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceSporty Silhouette
Designers took advantage of the new platform to give the 2024 Mazda CX-90 a shorter overhang in front with a longer hoodline, moving the cabin rearward to provide the crossover with a sportier profile. Available 21-inch diamond-cut wheels with a black metallic finish complete the look.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is available in several trim levels, with non-PHEVs starting at $39,595 for the 3.3 Turbo Select, topping out at the 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus at a price of $59,950. The CX-90 Plug-in Hybrids start at $47,445 for the PHEV Preferred, with the top-level PHEV Premium Plus coming in at $56,950.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceTurbo
The Mazda CX-90 has an all-new 3.3-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine producing 280 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. The higher-end Turbo S trims use the same engine, but it gets tuned to deliver 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful engine ever put into a production Mazda. All that power is sent to the road via a new quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Both turbocharged variants use a mild hybrid system that positions an electric motor between the engine and transmission for smoother acceleration and increased efficiency.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperiencePHEV
Mazda’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain ever offered in North America features a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 189 horsepower teamed with a 173-horsepower electric motor. The total output of the hybrid system is 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Like the turbo, the hybrid powertrain uses the new 8-speed automatic transmission. All CX-90s come with full-time all-wheel drive.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceTurbo vs. PHEV
Aside from badging on the rear hatch and each front quarter panel, as well as the charging port, there are no distinguishable styling differences between the turbo and PEHV CX-90s.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceCharging and Range
It takes just 90 minutes to charge the CX-90 PHEV’s 17.8 kWh battery from 20 to 80 percent on a Level 2 charger. A 120-volt standard household outlet will do the same in less than seven hours, easily completing a recharge overnight. Mazda hasn’t reported the electric range; however, we were able to travel just over 30 miles on electric power during our drive.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperiencePHEV Modes
The Mazda CX-90 PHEV features three drive modes to allow the driver to better manage the electric power. An EV mode keeps the crossover running on the electric motor alone unless the load demand exceeds a certain threshold, such as full throttle to get on the freeway. Hybrid mode delivers a mix of gas and electricity, which is also the default when the battery gets depleted. A Charge mode keeps the gas engine running while charging the battery so that it can be used in EV mode later in the drive. Independent of the PHEV modes, the driver can select Sport, which will deliver the maximum power from both gas engine and electric motor.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceTowing
All versions of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 can tow 3,500 pounds. However, when equipped with an optional towing package, the turbo trims can tow up to 5,000 pounds. The towing package is not available for the PHEV CX-90s.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceNew Infotainment
Mazda outfits the new CX-90 with a 10.25-inch primary infotainment display integrated into the center of the dashboard; the top-level Premium Plus gets upgraded to a 12.3-inch unit. The interface operates via the controller in the center console, with physical buttons providing shortcuts to navigation, audio and the main menu. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly and utilize the entire screen. Oddly, the functions of these phone-based systems allow for touchscreen interaction on the larger screen, while the native Mazda functions require using the center controller with no touchscreen functionality.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceFront Seats
During our drive, we spent most of our time in the top-level CX-90 Premium Plus, which comes with seats trimmed in premium Nappa leather. Offering multiple adjustments, heating and cooling, the seats provide decent support with comfortable padding. The seat bottom feels a bit short and thus doesn’t have great thigh support — an extendable bottom section would be a welcome addition.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceStorage
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 provides ample storage in the front seat area thanks to a large, covered cubby in the center console and large dual cupholders. A wireless phone charger is located at the front of the console and does a good job of keeping the phone from sliding off its charging pad.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
The second row in the new Mazda CX-90 offers adequate legroom and headroom and is available as a three-passenger bench or two individual captain’s chairs. Seats are comfortable and stylish, with a convenient center console in between (when equipped with captain’s chairs), complete with covered storage and cupholders. Dual USB-C ports keep devices charged, and rear seats can be heated or cooled for additional comfort.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceThird Row
Mazda offers seating for two or three in the third row, and with either option the space is tight for adults. The seat sits low and has minimal legroom, so an adult’s knees end up in their chest. The second-row seat easily folds out of the way for relatively easy access to the third row.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
With all three rows of seats in use, the CX-90 possesses a reasonable amount of storage, but at a mere 15 cubic feet of space there isn’t enough room for multiple suitcases. Second-row seats easily fold flat to increase available space to 40 cubic feet which makes the area much more usable. Available USB-C ports and air vents also make the third row a bit more palatable.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
During our press drive in San Francisco, Mazda provided time to drive both the CX-90 Turbo S and the CX-90 PHEV. We left downtown in the plug-in hybrid to head north across the Bay Bridge, so we kept the CX-90 in EV mode. Although muted in EV mode, acceleration is more than adequate for driving around town or in traffic. Getting on the freeway requires stronger acceleration, and pressing the throttle harder brings the gas engine online to provide power for getting up to speed, which the crossover does very quickly. Once at speed, the gas engine shuts off and the CX-90 goes back to cruising silently on electric power.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceOccasional Surge
In a few instances when the hybrid was accelerating from a stop in EV mode and the vehicle needed more assistance from the gas engine, the CX-90 would exhibit a slight surge in power when the engine kicked in — not so much that it was dangerous, just a little surprising.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceTurbo S
While behind the wheel of the hybrid, we noticed we tended to drive more efficiently, but not so much when driving the turbocharged variant. The CX-90 Turbo S is quick off the line with a responsive throttle and a transmission that delivers rapid, satisfying gear changes up or down. The engine can be a little noisy at high revs, but it is barely noticeable in most situations.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceRide and Handling
We had the opportunity to push the CX-90 on some winding roads around Sonoma — likely much harder than most owners will attempt. The suspension can be a bit soft — not surprising for a three-row crossover — although the steering has good feedback making the CX-90 rather enjoyable to drive.

© Perry Stern Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.5
The new 2024 Mazda CX-90 offers many improvements over the outgoing CX-9, which was already a great vehicle. With fresh exterior looks, a stylish, roomy interior and a range of new features, the CX-90 rightfully takes its place as the flagship SUV of the Mazda lineup. And even though the third row can be a bit cramped, and the engine can be noisy at times, overall the CX-90 should hold its own in the highly competitive 3-row crossover segment. Perhaps the most difficult decision when considering a CX-90 is which one to buy. We appreciate the efficiency and flexibility of the PHEV. However, the Turbo S adds a particular level of driving enjoyment. Either variant would be worth considering.

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