Mazda is well on its way to becoming a premium brand. Their biggest step yet in that direction is the introduction of the 2024 Mazda CX-90. It’s their largest SUV with a new chassis, new engine, new transmission, and new philosophy. So is this car any closer to the likes of the German rivals or is it still closer to the Japanese rivals like Honda & Hyundai?
Engine – The 2024 CX-90 is available with two engines. A 4-cylinder plug-in hybrid and a new 3.3L turbocharged inline-6. This demo vehicle has the latter with the engine providing two power outputs. In lower trim levels, this engine produces 280 hp & 332 lb-ft of torque (209 kW & 450 Nm). In higher trim levels, this engine can produce up to 340 hp & 369 lb-ft of torque (253 kW & 500 Nm). However, that higher output is reached with premium fuel. If you decide to use regular fuel, it will produce 319 hp (238 kW) & the same torque at 369 lb-ft.
But this engine gets a bit of help from a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The electric motor can provide 17 hp & 113 lb-ft (13 kW & 153 Nm) of torque for brief periods. Usually this is at low engine rpms, in between transmission shifts or when putting your foot to the floor just before the turbocharger spools up. The result is an engine that is very responsive and doesn’t struggle to get the massive 2,224 kg (4,903 lbs) body moving. With this engine, the CX-90 is capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs when properly equipped. My small complaint is that this engine doesn’t sound particularly good. It doesn’t have the deep and muscular noise of the turbo 2.5L in the CX-9.
Fuel Economy – With the larger engine, you’d think that fuel economy has gone the way of the Dodo. Not so. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 Signature is rated for 10.3 L/100km (22.8 MPG) in a city and 8.5 L/100km (27.7 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the SUV, I averaged 9.9 L/100km (23.7 MPG). The low output version of this engine is rated for 9.9 L/100km (23.7 MPG) in a city and 8.4 L/100km (28 MPG) on a highway.
Part of the reason why this big & heavy SUV can achieve these numbers is the way that the mild-hybrid system operates. While coasting, the engine will shut off for brief periods. As soon as you press the throttle pedal again or the brake pedal hard enough, the engine will start up immediately. Now this doesn’t mean that you can drive on electricity like you would in a Corolla Hybrid for example, but instead it allows the car to coast for a slightly longer distance without using any fuel and without engine braking to slow it down.
Transmission – The 6-speed auto is gone and in its place is a new 8-speed automatic. The primary focus of this transmission is to provide smooth shifts and I’m happy to say that it does. However, this is not the fastest transmission out there. I’d dare to say that the 6-speed is slightly faster as there’s a noticeable delay when using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters in the CX-90. But otherwise, if you leave the transmission to its own decisions, it shouldn’t be an issue for 99% of drivers.
Braking – One smaller highlight of the driving experience is the braking performance. The CX-90 does not have massive 6-piston calipers like the RX500h but the normal sized brakes provide a lot of stopping force. Perhaps to some the brake pedal may be a tad on the sensitive side but I found it to be just about perfect.
Handling – Dynamics wise, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 has taken a turn more towards the comfort & luxury side of things rather than outright sporty driving. The rear-drive biased AWD system gives the big & heavy SUV a planted feeling around corners. Mid-corner bumps hardly do anything to unsettle the car. But you do feel that 2.2 tonne weight of the SUV around twisty turns. Compared to something like a BMW X5, it doesn’t have the same agility. In a way, the sure-footed feeling will be to more driver’s preference than one that is twitchy and like on a knife’s edge. The steering is hefty in feel which further provides that planted feeling. But it’s not too heavy as to tire your arms out while you’re making a 3-point turn, for example.
Ride Comfort – Like many other Mazda models, the 2024 CX-90’s ride is a tad on the stiff side when compared to some other brands but it’s by no means uncomfortable. Sharp city bumps or deep potholes can feel a bit jarry but on the whole, the ride is no worse than most of its competitors. The ride of this SUV really shines while driving on highways. It is rock steady and at times, feeling like a German car down the autobahn.
Interior Space – The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is a bit larger than the CX-9. It is available with 6, 7, or 8 person configuration however this depends on which trim you go for. For example, you can’t have 8-person seating on this top spec Signature trim.
As per usual, front occupants have the most amount of space with plenty of leg and headroom and a pretty tall driving position. The 2nd row captain’s chairs in this Signature trim provide a generous amount of space even for taller adults. At 6’4”, I had just enough space behind my tall driving position. Headroom is a bit tighter but the chairs can recline to create more headroom. As well, they do slide. The center console has soft padding on the top, a decent amount of storage inside of it, and there’s a little tray that pops out from the bottom. There are also manual sunshades but one thing to note about the back windows is that they do not open all the way.
Getting into the 3rd row is easy thanks to a pull of a lever on the 2nd row seat which tilts & slides it forward. The ingress & egress area is a bit tighter compared to some other 3-row SUVs. Space in the 3rd row is limited for someone of my height but it is a bit more than the CX-9. But space for your feet is very tight due to the rails on which the 2nd row seat slides on.
In the trunk, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 has 451 L (15.9 cu-ft) of space in this Signature trim (423 L (14.9 cu-ft)for all other trim levels), there is 1,155 L (40.8 cu-ft) of space with the 3rd row seats folded and there’s 2,129 L (75 cu-ft) of space with the 2nd and 3rd rows folded. Under the floor you’ll find one or two small storage bins along with the spare tire underneath the cover.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – As I mentioned earlier, the engine does not produce a lot of great sounds. Happily, the engine is quiet under normal driving conditions. The cabin is also well insulated from wind noise and road noise. Furthermore, the trim pieces don’t rattle or squeak. But you can feel the engine turning on while at a stop light if the auto start/stop system needs to restart it. While on the move, the MHEV system shuts off and turns on the engine very smoothly. Nearly seamless. But the engine turning back on while stationary will shake the car.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – As is to be expected, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is more expensive than the outgoing CX-9. The GS trim starts at $45,900 CAD ($39,595 USD, Select) while this top of the line Signature trim is $63,300 CAD ($59,950 USD, S Premium Plus).
Gadgets – But at over $60,000 CAD, the Mazda CX-90 has every feature that one would find on an established luxury vehicle. It doesn’t have gimmicky features like a fragrance system or door handles that pop out. Instead it has heated & ventilated front & second row seats (if equipped with captain’s chairs), a 12.3” infotainment touchscreen, high resolution surround view cameras, a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, power liftgate with a lock button, and even a power adjustable steering wheel among many other features.
One item that has been updated is the highway driving assist. In the past, the lane keep system was designed to gently bring you back in the lane but not actually keep the car centered. With the CX-90 being a more luxury focused SUV, the lane centering system has been updated to provide a true lane centering function. This is not a hands-free system but it does aid in reducing driver fatigue.
Interior Design – Wow! That is the first thought that crossed my mind when I first stepped inside the cabin of the CX-90 Signature. Of course the lower trim levels will probably not have the same level of luxury and premium materials but this Signature trim really elevates the style of the CX-90’s interior. The Nappa leather seats are soft to the touch and the quilting pattern is a nice addition on the center portion. I particularly like the piece of fabric on the center of the dashboard.
The interior is functional thanks to the use of physical controls for the most used items. The 12.3” touchscreen is primarily controlled through the rotary knob on the center console but the touch portion of the screen is activated when using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. One minor complaint is the use of the climate temperature controls. You have to push down on the blue, down arrow to lower the temperature but you push down as well for the red, up arrow to raise the temperature. Logic would dictate that you pull up on the button but it operates the same way as the lower temperature button. Not a big deal but it’s a bit counterintuitive.
Exterior Design – I would like to say that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 has a presence on the road but after seeing it in person, it’s just a big SUV. It has an evolved design of previous Mazda models but I never noticed other drivers gawking at it like some other large SUVs. Perhaps it’s the Artisan Red Metallic paint that doesn’t have the same pop as the classic Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint or perhaps it’s the redesigned front end. It just doesn’t scream for attention. But to some, this is ok. This car has an upscale and premium design which is matching the demeanor of this new SUV.
Safety – While the base GS trim of the CX-90 is equipped with the usual safety features & driver aids such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, you have to move up in the trim levels to have a CX-90 that is equipped with every aid in the catalog. Some of these extra driver & safety aids include front crossing brake support, secondary collision reduction, rear sensing pedestrian detection, emergency lane keep with head-on traffic avoidance, and vehicle exit warning to name a few.
Warranty – Here in Canada, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is covered by a 3 year / unlimited km basic warranty and a 5 year / unlimited powertrain warranty. In the United States, the warranty is 3 year / 36,000 mile basic & 5 year / 60,000 mile powertrain. For more info on Canadian warranty, click here. For more info on U.S.A. warranty, click here.
Conclusion – There is no doubt that this new 2024 Mazda CX-90 is a much more premium vehicle than any other Mazda before it. I wouldn’t say that it’s on the same level of performance as something like the BMW X5 or on the same level of luxury as a Mercedes GLE, but it is moving away from competitors like the Honda Pilot or the Hyundai Palisade. It feels similar to an Acura or a Genesis vehicle which are in between the established luxury brands and the mainstream brands.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca