Mazda is the Japanese carmaker that has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. Smaller than Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, the brand focuses on timeless, elegant designs, innovative technology, and driving fun. The “zoom zoom” feel of its well-known Miata sports car infuses every vehicle in Mazda’s lineup.
Like most car brands, Mazda sells more SUVs than any other kind of vehicle, but impressively, they are always fun to drive, and they still come packed with interesting and innovative technology. The company’s latest offering, the three-row 2024 Mazda CX-90, continues that tradition: even though it’s their biggest SUV yet, it’s still built for drivers – and comes exclusively with electrified drivetrains.
Mild Hybrid or Plug-In?
A small company with limited resources, Mazda has been slower than other brands to embrace electrification. The CX-90 changes that; both powertrain options are hybridized, offering an appealing combination of performance and fuel economy.
Interestingly, the “base” CX-90 comes exclusively as a plug-in hybrid, tuned specifically for the American market. The so-called e-Skyactiv PHEV powertrain is designed to give customers the best of both worlds in terms of performance and efficiency. It combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a high-capacity 17.8-kWh battery to enable electric-only daily commuting – no gas, no emissions. For longer trips, or more enthusiastic driving, the plug-in hybrid CX-90 produces an impressive 323 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque – putting its power output significantly above any other entrant in its class.
Drivers wanting more performance can step up to an all-new e-Skyactiv G 3.3-liter turbocharged gasoline six-cylinder engine with a mild-hybrid system. An electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, creating smooth, seamless acceleration from a standstill, and allowing the electric motor to move the CX-90 around at lower speeds. Total power output for the up level CX-90 is 340 hp, with the same 369 lb-ft of torque as the base model.
The all-new CX-90 is not just a symbolic step up for Mazda in technology. It’s also clearly targeted at higher-end European luxury brands like BMW and Audi. As such, the CX-90 is built on an all-new large platform that features a front-engine, rear-wheel-bias longitudinal layout to deliver impressive handling and performance. This is the same kind of layout found on vehicles like the BMW X5 plug-in hybrid, or the Porsche Cayenne e-hybrid.
Mazda is especially proud of the CX-90’s Kinematic Posture Control, which first debuted on the Miata. This software feature suppresses body lift in tight corners to enhance the grip and allows all occupants to maintain a more natural posture. Focus was also placed on optimizing rigidity across the entire vehicle body, while meticulously designing the seats and suspension to provide better balance, control, and confidence in a range of driving situations. Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive comes standard on all CX-90s, meaning drivers can enjoy the full potential of the available high-output powertrains in all conditions.
A Step Up In Luxury
The CX-90’s all-new platform gives it proportions and a look that is very different from Japanese competitors like the Acura MDX. It has a longer hood and sportier stance, giving a real sense of performance. We like the CX-90’s sleek curves, its 21-inch diamond-cut wheels, and its timeless look.
Inside, there’s plenty of cabin space for families and their cargo. CX-90's interior gives an expansive impression from the low-set dashboard, which integrated the air vents and chrome trim that extends to the doors for a modern, linear appearance. The materials and surfaces are inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics, and create a feel that is both luxurious and calm. Leather, wood, and tone-on-tone fabrics are connected using hanging stitches, which is inspired by a traditional Japanese hand-bookbinding and weaving technique known as Kumihimo.
Technology inside is also up-to-date. There are USB-C charging ports, air conditioning vents, and upgraded interior lighting for all three rows of seats. There’s a 12.3-inch center display which in addition to smartphone connectivity and infotainment functions houses a “see-through view” monitor to assist with parking.
Still Built to Drive
While the CX-90 comes with many standard active safety features, such as smart brake support, blind spot monitoring, radar cruise control, and other gadgets, the company insists its focus is still on providing an engaging driving experience.
If Mazda’s other SUV models are anything to go by, the new CX-90 and its all-new platform should provide and entertaining steer. All while offering hybrid technology across the board that improves both performance and fuel economy.
Mazda has yet to announce pricing and delivery dates for the 2024 CX-90. Watch this space!