Mazda CX-90 — A standout three-row crossover

By Jim Meachen Editor

(June 4, 2023) An inline 6-cylinder engine in a Mazda? Very strange, indeed.  And the powertrain is not the only unusual thing with the all-new three-row 2024 CX-90 that replaces the aging CX-9 at the top of the Mazda food chain. It's the biggest crossover Mazda has ever built, and it can be configured for up to eight passengers. And another thing — the CX-90 is rear-wheel biased with full-time all-wheel drive standard.

Not unexpected because nearly every car company has jumped into electrification — the CX-90 can also be purchased as plug-in hybrid with 26 miles of EV-only range.

Mazda says its PHEV can deliver both performance and fuel economy, with the ability to travel on electric power alone. Charge the battery overnight and those short weekday trips may not need any gas. And the CX-90 PHEV can still be a road-tripper — as of this writing gas mileage figures for the plug-in hybrid have not been announced, but look for it to be better than the gas engine variants that are rated at an acceptable 23 city, 28 highway and 25 combined.

After 250 miles, our CX-90 test PHEV in strictly hybrid mode was averaging 27.5 mpg according to the onboard computer.

The CX-90 has pleasing, but conservative exterior styling that blends well from front to back. A longer hood and a wheelbase increase of 7½-inches over the CX-9, give the CX-90 more stately proportions. The CX-90's grille detailing is a bit different (very fetching) than current Mazda models, and its wheel designs — up to 21 inches on the top model — add to the SUV's upscale look.

To accompany its pleasing exterior, Mazda has endowed the CX-90 with a stylish cabin design that features room for up to eight passengers. Opt for the second-row captain's chairs and the total seating drops to six or seven. The fabric dashboard upholstery in the high-end models looks striking, and the seats in those trims are also wrapped in soft nappa leather. Luxury-like material is used throughout regardless of trim level.

The CX-90 also has a near-luxury pricetag in top trim topping out at $61,325. But, take heart, the new SUV can be outfitted as low as $41,000 for a vehicle carrying all the necessary safety equipment, a lot of technology, all-wheel drive, and a healthy inline 6-cylinder engine.

Mazda gives buyers the choice of three engine configuration, all mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission:

• The 3.3 Turbo with a turbocharged 3.3-liter inline 6-cylinder augmented by a 48-volt hybrid system. It makes 280 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque.

• The 3.3 Turbo S with the same engine, but with more horsepower and torque measured at 340 and 369 pound-feet. (FYI — Premium gas is necessary for he extra performance).

• The PHEV (plug-in hybrid) with a 2.5-liter four cylinder and a single electric motor. Combined output is 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Charging the battery with a 240-volt power source takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes according to Mazda. A standard 120V plug can get the job done overnight.

We were pleased with the performance of the plug-in hybrid, able to handle all the chores of daily life in a commendable manner including merging and passing. The eight-speed transmission shifted smoothly and quickly. However, for the most part we aren't fans of the PHEV engine feel and would probably opt for one of the gas-driven choices. With the 340-horsepower setup, the CX-90 is one of the most potent vehicles in the three-row crossover ranks. In magazine testing, it completed a 0-to-60 run in around 6 seconds.

We found electric-only driving was a bit sluggish on the highway, but had plenty of urgency in city driving, which is where the electric motor shines. We advise limiting use of all-electric driving for speeds up to 45 mph to take full advantage of your 26 EV miles. In hybrid mode our seat-of-the-pants estimate is about 7.0 seconds from 0-to-60 — Mazda says 6.6 seconds. That's acceptable considering the drivetrain is tasked with pulling nearly 5,000 pounds.

The ride is smooth even on rough pavement and should please most people. As you might expect from a Mazda, the big CX-90 handles well staying well-planted in the twist and turns with very little body roll. The steering is nicely weighted and imparts confidence in the driving experience.
A 10-inch touchscreen is standard for infotainment, with upper trims getting a larger 12.3-inch screen. We applaud Mazda’s inclusion of some old-school manual controls for radio and climate, which keeps menu diving limited to secondary functions. PHEVs get a few unique controls and readouts to monitor drive modes and battery level.

The front seats are extremely comfortable, and it is easy to find the just-right driving position. The second-row captain's chairs also provide long-distance comfort. But the third row should be allocated to children, although adults can survive back there for short trips.

Where the CX-90 falls a bit short is in cargo space with 14.9 cubic feet behind the third row and 40.1 cubic feet behind the second row. Maximum space with all seatbacks folded is 75.2 cubic feet.Also, unlike some competitors, the CX-90 has no power folding rear seatback option.
Mazda pairs the three powertrains with five trim levels — Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium and Premium Plus.

Regardless of trim, Mazda has endowed the CX-90 with a large amount of standard safety including front collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blindspot warning with cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, driver attention monitor, safe exit assist, and rear-seat reminder.
Overall, we're impressed with the CX-90 and feel it's a desirable choice for a three-row SUV.

Besides the top-rated Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, other alternatives include Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas and Toyota Highlander. The CX-90 enters a segment chock-full of good vehicles and we recommend that it be included on your shopping list.

Ted Biderman contributed to this review

2024 Mazda CX-90


Base price: $40,970; as driven: $58,325
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, electric motor
Horsepower: 323 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 369 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 122.8 inches
Length: 200.8
Curb weight: 4,899 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 74.2 seconds
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: Not yet set by EPA (observed 27.5 mpg combined)
0-60: 6.6 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent

The Good
• Powerful inline 6 engines
• Excellent handling for a big passenger vehicle
• Refined luxury-appointed interior

The Bad
• Below-average cargo area

The Ugly
• Prices can rise to 60 grand