The three-row sport utility vehicle segment is refreshingly competitive. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 debuts impressively in the field of all-stars including recent additions like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade and Volkswagen Atlas.
The long-standing Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot have maintained their top rankings for decades.
Mazda hadn’t offered a new generation of its flagship CX-9 since 2016. With competitors always improving, the CX-90 is the manufacturer’s new front-and-center offering. The CX-9 is gone. The new vehicle’s wheelbase is 7.5 inches longer and the engine has also grown and is more versatile.
The carmaker’s planned infiltration into the marketplace is overt. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is available in 11 configurations, including the reviewed PHEV Premium Plus. Eight models are offered with turbocharged engines. The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle has an electric-only range of 26 miles. It’s included with Mazda’s 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and a 17.8-kWh battery.
Impressive performance stats are uncommon in three-row SUVs, but the new Mazda surprises again. The 329-horsepower engine is propelled by an eight-speed automatic transmission. The vehicle advances from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds. It’s an impressive result for a non-luxury family hauler and further improves the vehicle’s consistent smoothness.
Mazda’s reworking of the interior complements the engine specs. Improved materials, a better design, more space and an overall upscale feel provide a welcoming travel experience. Contrast upholstery stitching and two-tone fabrics add to the sensory enjoyment.
The infotainment approach is user-friendly. The Mazda CX-90 has a 12.3-inch infotainment screen atop the dashboard. Its positioning lends itself toward a retractable feature, but the screen is static. The center console has a clean look, with dials and switches appropriately placed.
The short shifter handle adds to the airy interior feel and it also presents the CX-90’s only shortcoming. Starting the vehicle requires maneuvering the shifter into parking mode and re-engaging the start button. It’s unique to Mazda and requires practice.
Small touches are impressive, like USB ports for third-row occupants. Higher trims also feature a smart rearview mirror. It automatically adjusts to reduce glare from other vehicles’ headlights. It also triggers security lights, entry gates or garage doors for quick entry with the touch of a button.
Mazda promotes the CX-90 as an eight-passenger vehicle, but like ofter carmakers’ embellishments, the SUV is best suited for seven occupants. Overall, the space is satisfactory in all rows. But seat assignments for multiple-occupant treks is best accomplished with smaller people in the third row.
Carmakers have done a credible job configuring three-row SUVs for efficiently utilizing cargo space. The CX-90 follows the trends, the second and third rows adjustable for hauling a good supply of non-human cargo as needed. The power liftgate work swiftly.
Beyond its strong acceleration, the CX-90 offers a quiet overall ride in city and highway driving. It has 21-inch wheels and feels secure on the road. Surprisingly, it’s not as smooth negotiating road bumps and other road imperfections.
The reviewed CX-90 has an MSRP of $56,950. The head-turning Artisan Red exterior paint color choice is a worthwhile $595 extra. The deep sheen adds another touch of class to the new vehicle. With taxes and destination charges, the Mazda CX-90 is priced at $58,920.
Loyalists to Toyota and Honda may not change their buying preferences. And it’s likely Kia and Hyundai have secured a new base of buyers.
But Mazda is a worthy alternative for new buyers in the three-row segment. It’s comparable to its rivals, a car-buying segment in which high quality is the norm.