The new 2024 CX-90 is the latest vehicle offering extending Mazda’s trajectory upmarket. The strategy for the CX-90 is simple: Bring more luxury to the segment.
Mazda’s march upmarket is becoming evident in every new vehicle they introduce. There is no turning back at this point. While we witness this transformation of this brand by offering more premium products, there are those who are still skeptical whether they can do so successfully.
The new 2024 CX-90 is the latest vehicle offering that extends Mazda’s trajectory upmarket. It does so by replacing the CX-9 in the lineup as the sole three-row mid-size SUV. The strategy for the CX-90 is simple: Bring more luxury to the segment.
This is not just for appearances only. This is new from the ground up. New platform, new power sources, new engineering, new technology…new period. All of which are either firsts for the brand or new-to-the-North American market.
There is so much “new” to talk about. So new that the V&R Machine (our CX-5) is starting to feel old.
No need to look any further here with this Premium Plus tester. You can look at its shape for a far and miss all of the details that make the CX-90 worth the look. The sculpted sides that scallop into shape is an illusion that the CX-90 is more upright than any Mazda in years. That includes the front-end treatment with a flatter surface that is not entire all flat.
Yet, it does look like a Mazda. The grille’s KODO – Soul of Motion shape is retained. As are the narrow headlamps. The taillamps have been extended towards the center of the liftgate. The roofline is more upright compared to the outgoing CX-9. Still, it is what you expect a Mazda to evolve into.
The Premium Plus tester adds more chrome and a set of 21-inch black-and-satin chrome wheels. You know which driveline is underneath the hood by looking at the badge on the front fender. In all…and I’ll repeat myself here…it’s a Mazda.
Yoi can say the same inside the cabin. There are definitely cues of the brand’s design philosophy, but with a few new twists. For example, the 12.3-inch instrument binnacle is fully digital. The gear lever is now in a shift-by-wire format. Still, the Mazda Connect controls are there, as are the steering wheel switches and climate controls. While going with new elements, there are many things that are expected in a Mazda that are retained in the CX-90.
The top trim level of the CX-90 received a wider 12.3-inch infotainment screen. It is still controlled by the Mazda Connect switches and knob on the center console. New to Mazda is wireless smartphone mirroring – which works quite well. Bose’s Centerpoint audio system has 12 speakers emitting its patented sound around the cabin.
The one thing you will notice is how much Mazda has slathered the luxury to match its upmarket push. The handsome black-and-tan leather upholstery is inviting to match both colors throughout the cabin. Front seat occupants sit in supportive chairs that can be firm to some bodies, completely comfortable to others. Second row occupants in the Premium Plus get individual Captain’s Chairs, which do a flip-fold for access to the three-seat third row. …
For loading cargo, you can fit 15.9 cubic feet of luggage and stuff with all rows upright. Folding down the third row will expand that space to 40.1 cubic feet. After folding down all seats behind the front row, you get 75.2 cubic feet of overall space for major shopping trips.
The CX-90 marks two firsts for Mazda in North America by offering an in-line six-cylinder gasoline engine and a plug-in hybrid driveline. This tester had the latter and it seems oddly familiar. Half of the PHEV driveline is the familiar Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The other half is an equally powerful electric motor. Combined, this is rated to put out up 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.
Another first for Mazda is the offering of an eight-speed automatic transmission. After years of six-speed units, the first eight-speeder is actuated by the shift-by-wire gear lever mentioned earlier. All PHEVs are available in all-wheel drive.
The CX-90 PHEV is also quick to recoup energy, as Mazda states it can recharge the battery through a Level 2 plug in around 90 minutes or so. Our testing showed that it took two hours to recharge to full at the rate of 7.2 kilowatts. In turn, we experienced a battery-only range of 28 miles.
As for overall fuel consumption, we observed an average figure of 36.5 MPG.
Still, the CX-90 PHEV is a smooth driving machine. It is a poised cruiser, offering all of the performance you need at highway speeds while delivering on a smooth ride. That’s what you get: A better driving experience through a well thought out new platform. That also translates into its handling, which is very controlled with solid maneuverability.
The steering system offers a solid on-center feel and in tighter turns. It might surprise how well it does in tight maneuvers. Brake pedal feel is solid with good response. The CX-90 turned in solid stops in normal and panic situations.
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 lineup comprises of three power sources – two turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engines and the PHEV driveline. For the six-cylinder models, you have eight trim levels to choose from, whereas the PHEV only comes in three trims. Pricing starts from $39,595 with PHEV models starting from $47,445. Our tester came with a sticker price of $58,920.
If you envisioned what Mazda had in mind for their climb upmarket, the CX-90 defines that trajectory. It is knocking on the door of the premium brands with this three-row SUV. It is a huge improvement over the CX-9 it replaces, but is it enough to convince upwardly mobile families to own one?
Over 50 years, Mazda had its foothold in the USA. We’ve seen it go through the motions by promoting the virtues of the rotary engine to creating sporty machinery that enthusiasts still desire. The CX-90 represents a new chapter and path for this brand.
A its core, it is still a Mazda. When I think of a Mazda, the V&R Machine pops up as its core model. I also think of the MX-5 Miata, which remains relevant to the brand and its enthusiast core. Perhaps we should embrace the CX-90 as the way forward. We have. It’s your turn.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations
All photos by George Torline