2024 Mazda CX-90 review: Impressively smooth and luxurious
Before 2023, the CX-9 was Mazda’s flagship crossover. It was one of our favorite SUVs to drive, with a fun feel and four-cylinder engine. With a luxurious interior and luxurious exterior styling that draws heavily on Mazda’s KODO design language, the CX-9 feels like a luxury SUV on a budget.
The only issues were that the CX-9 was a little on the small side and felt more like a full-size version of Mazda’s smaller crossovers than a finished car in its own right. Mazda hopes to correct that with the all-new 2024 CX-90. It’s bigger. It’s more flashy. It offers new 3.3-liter six-cylinder and 2.5-liter engines. And if you step up to the Turbo S Premium Plus Package AWD version, destination and handling push the price to more than $60,000. The CX-9 felt like a luxury SUV for the money. CX-90 He is Luxury SUV.
I drove the CX-90 hybrid earlier this year. Mazda then loaned me the aforementioned Turbo S Premium Plus Package AWD version for a week at home in Michigan.
2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S: What we think
I didn’t think the CX-90 PHEV was ready for prime time. But equipped with the new six-cylinder combustion engine, the CX-90 offers an impressive overall package. The 3.3-liter engine is smooth, if not overly sporty. The luxurious interior design catches the eye. And based on the unsolicitedly glowing reactions I’ve gotten from family members — I bring home a bunch of nice cars that aren’t three-row crossovers, so this was surprising — I don’t think the CX-90’s price point will be an issue.
Like Kia’s Telluride, the CX-90 could change perceptions about Mazda among upscale buyers. The Turbo S version of the 3.3-liter V6 isn’t cheap, starting at $51,750. But I think this engine is worth the cost of admission. It delivers 60 more horsepower than the base gas engine while being nearly as efficient with the same 25 mpg combined rating. The Turbo S offers a more intuitive driving experience than the PHEV, which has less predictable throttle.
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The CX-90’s six-cylinder engine is smooth, if not sporty
Putting in 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque sounds like a raucous good time. That’s not exactly how I would describe the CX-90. It can rev when asked, but it’s tuned more for smooth, everyday family use. It responds when you press the pedal and delivers smooth, linear power delivery—closer to a luxury German car’s inline-six than the gruff V6s most midsize family pickups try to handle—that even go so far as to push your baby carrier.
The soundtrack emanating from the cabin sounded unbelievably lively. But I prefer it to look agricultural and sad.
The CX-90’s interior fits the luxury price point
I test drive new cars weekly and bring home everything from brand new BMWs to futuristic electric sedans to even the odd Bentley. Nothing I’ve tried this year has gotten as much feedback from my family members as the Mazda CX-90. I attribute that to the amazing interior design.
The materials in the CX-90’s cabin are interesting to look at and touch, with seats upholstered in quilted Nappa leather, soft suede-like materials on the dashboard and very comfortable armrests. Vital functions are controlled by buttons (audible gasps). The CX-90 features a wide, clear, horizontally oriented 12.3-inch information display. And unlike previous Mazdas, you can use it as an on-the-go touchscreen while using Apple Carplay or Android Auto (but only afterward).
But the CX-90 doesn’t solve the CX-9’s space problem
The main drawback of the Mazda CX-9 was the crampedness of the third row and cargo area. Although the rear is bulging, the CX-90 doesn’t really solve that problem. The CX-90’s maximum volume of 15.9 cubic feet with the third row up—essentially a vertically oriented sedan-sized trunk—offers only the smallest improvement from the CX-9’s 14.4 cubic feet. It is not enough to accommodate three rows of passengers and their luggage.
I also wonder about the benefit of the third row. I found sitting there claustrophobic as a 5’11” adult. And that was sitting there for a minute or so in my driveway, not on an extended road trip. The optimal use case for the CX-90 is still four – a family of people who may do a rare bit of car use.
What are some alternatives to the Mazda CX-90?
The Mazda CX-90 is a kind of hatch between the mass market and luxury segments. At the lower end, it will compete with cars like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Honda Pilot. At the higher end, the CX-90 pits itself against next-tier vehicles, such as the Volvo XC90 and Acura MDX.
The CX-90 Turbo S’s closest counterpart is an all-new SUV, the Toyota Grand Highlander, with the Hybrid Max engine. These vehicles have similar price points. The engines are similarly efficient. I’d give the CX-90 the edge in terms of interior materials and ride refinement. However, the Grand Highlander has more cargo space and a third row that’s more suitable for adults.
2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus AWD
- Power generation: Turbocharged 3.3-liter six-cylinder; 8-speed automatic; SUV
- Horsepower: 340
- Torque: 369 ft. lbs
- EPA gas mileage: 23 mpg city; 28 mpg combined
- Seats: 6-8
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“A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol magazine. Learn more.”