Over the last few years, Mazda has been moving each of its new models into ever-higher levels of style and luxury.
A brief preview of the brand-new 2024 Mazda CX-90 looks like more of the same with this flagship three-row SUV aiming to leave the brand’s traditional mainstream competitors behind in terms of design and finishes. It’s poised to compete head-to-head not only with rivals from Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda, but also premium entries from the likes of Infiniti and Acura, among others.
Fresh, Fancy Style
Mazda’s designers sought to give the CX-90’s look a balance between refinement and performance, and the result is largely positive. The overall aesthetic is evolutionary of Mazda’s current design language that’s helped create what’s arguably one of the most stylish lineups in the industry.
Built on an all-new platform that was first used underneath the Mazda CX-60, a slightly smaller sport utility sold in Europe, the CX-90 has visual heft that gives it real presence. The visual mass of the greenhouse is moved back, giving the CX-90 the proportions usually found on premium SUVs.
Mazda’s stylists should be celebrated for exercising discretion in the design, avoiding the temptation of going overboard with radical sheet metal angles and creases, and for giving the CX-90 a tastefully prominent grille. Even on the top trim, there’s a restrained use of chrome that’s worthy of praise. It should also be noted that the new Artisan Red paint colour not only suits the premium feel of the CX-90, but it’s every bit as saturated, deep, and radiant as Mazda’s sensational Soul Red hue offered on other models. In the sunlight, it looks as if the CX-90 has been painted with a rich shiraz.
Cleverly Crafted Cabin
The CX-90’s cabin continues a Mazda tradition of taking design cues from interesting parts of Japanese culture, with the dashboard finished in a fabric material that uses an historic bookbinding technique called Kumihimo. The rest of the material choices, including leather, real maple wood, and metal trims, all offer high visual and tactile quality, and the almost complete absence of smudge-prone gloss trim deserves cheers. Parents and pet owners may wish to skip the nearly white-coloured interior option, since the door panels are sure to be susceptible to grubby fingers and paws.
The CX-90’s profile isn’t as squat as some of Mazda’s other recent SUV designs, and the result is a more spacious and airier cabin, especially for occupants in the second- and third rows. In fact, while final measures haven’t yet been released, Mazda has confirmed that the CX-90 is larger by every measure than the CX-9 it will soon replace.
Even so, after climbing into the third row, we’d still wager that this biggest Mazda will still fall short of the backseat space offered in the redesigned Honda Pilot or the plus-sized Volkswagen Atlas, particularly for headroom and space for feet. Otherwise, those lucky enough to get a seat up front or in the second-row captain’s chairs will enjoy a comfortable perch; plus, in the Signature trim previewed here, all four of those seats are heated and cooled, and there’s an expansive panoramic sunroof overhead.
Cargo room appears decent, even behind the third row seats, and the space is expansive with them folded, although it’s surprising that Mazda didn’t incorporate power actuation the way many competitors do these days – especially in the premium space the brand is trying to reach with this new entry.
Tons of Technology
Mazda has continued its habit of placing the infotainment rotary control – plus a small volume tuning knob – on the centre console between the front seats; but the infotainment system itself has a screen spanning 12.3 inches, and the all-digital gauge display is a first for Mazda. Climate and other key functions are handled by actual buttons instead of haptic screens, and we found everything falls easily to the driver’s fingertips.
Wireless smartphone connectivity is standard, and the 12.3-inch screen offers touchscreen functionality for CarPlay and Android Auto while stationary, but the fiddly rotary control is required for the rest of the system’s features and functions.
There’s also an entire advanced safety and driver-assist suite, with blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and automated braking standard on all CX-90 models.
While the CX-90’s style is surely enough to stand out amongst its competitors, it’s the pair of drivetrains on offer that should secure it a seat at the premium SUV table. To date, Mazda’s effort with electrification in North America has been minimal, but both of the CX-90’s drivetrains help address that.
The standard powerplant is an all-new turbocharged 3.3L inline six-cylinder helped by a mild hybrid system. With 340 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque offered up (with recommended premium-grade gas), this is the highest-output production gas engine Mazda has done. More important than the numbers is that straight-six engines are renowned to be among the smoothest (not to mention greatest-sounding) around. They’re also synonymous with high-end German machines, giving a glimpse at what Mazda is going for here.
The slightly smaller Mazda CX-70 that’s coming later this year will also use this engine.
Mazda will also offer the CX-90 in a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) format, too – a first for the brand in North America. The CX-90 PHEV couples a naturally-aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder with a single electric motor backed by a 17.8-kWh battery pack. While fuel consumption figures and all-electric range figures haven’t yet been released, Mazda claims the PHEV will meet the range threshold to trigger the current federal rebate. (Whether it’s the full $5,000 for 50 km of range or more, or the $2,500 incentive for less than 50 km remains to be seen.)
Both engines are mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that was designed to work specifically with these electrified systems and operate without a torque converter. A test of the CX-60 PHEV last year showed off smooth performance and plenty of passing power – traits that should carry over here.
The CX-90’s new platform uses a rear-biased all-wheel drive system in the interest of improved handling feel and responsiveness, which is all part of the premium aspirations Mazda has. The automaker also claims the CX-90 will offer a greater tow rating than the CX-9’s 1,588 kg (3,500 lb).
Canadian pricing has yet to be finalized, but Mazda’s spokespeople promise lower trims will be very competitive with existing mainstream competitors like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Kia Telluride, while the top Signature trim is expected to measure competitively against entry-level trims from the premium competitors like the Infiniti QX60 and Acura MDX.
The final trim breakdown has also not yet been released, but it’s expected the most affordable and most costly versions will feature the inline-six drivetrain, while the PHEV will top-out somewhere in the middle. Seven- and eight-passenger versions will be available.
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is scheduled to begin arriving in Canadian dealerships this spring.