Mazda has spent a lot of the previous decade making over its lineup because it pushes nearer to the luxury-adjacent worth factors it has underlined as a path to profitability. Though a lot of the early consideration was foisted on the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback (which went decidedly upscale of their most up-to-date era), the trouble started with the full-size CX-9 SUV all the best way again in 2016.
As the primary hauler from Mazda that proved its inside designers may train their European premium counterparts a factor or two, the CX-9’s persona supplied a tantalizing glimpse at what the street forward would possibly appear like for the model. And now, with the introduction of the CX-9’s substitute, that future is lastly right here.
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 would possibly straight slot into the CX-9’s showroom house, however there’s a lot about this mannequin that pushes previous its predecessor’s ambitions. Not solely is the CX-90 the most important — and costliest — Mazda up to now, nevertheless it additionally brings model new engine know-how to the desk, together with a clean-slate platform that goals to intensify the driving pleasure that the corporate is thought for.
All the above is a large job, particularly contemplating simply how dazzling a number of of the CX-90’s three-row rivals already are at packaging efficiency, worth and practicality in a family-friendly machine. Huge swings like this hefty Mazda play are sometimes key to successful the sport, however the arc of a bat this heavy reveals a couple of areas that its first effort has neglected.
Beginning From Scratch
It’s vital to level out that all the things in regards to the Mazda CX-90 is model new. There’s no rehashing previous achievements or leaning on older applied sciences right here: From its sheet steel, to its chassis, to its drivetrain selections, to its inside, Mazda has thrown its weight behind the CX-90 as a complete encapsulation of the place its vehicles are heading.
For longtime followers of the model, some points of this assertion might be a bit stunning. It begins beneath the hood, the place most variations of the CX-90 sport a 3.3-liter inline six-cylinder engine, a marked departure from the V6 and straight-four choices which have been the automaker’s bread and butter for the previous 25 years. There are two iterations of this engine, every of which encompasses a single turbocharger and a 48-volt hybrid system (notice: there’s additionally a four-cylinder, plug-in hybrid CX-90 obtainable).
The highest-shelf mannequin I drove delivered 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque on premium gas (with a 280 horsepower, 87-octane tune additionally obtainable for decrease trim ranges). The 48-volt hybrid system provides near 110 lb-ft of further electrical motor torque in brief bursts at low speeds, blended in to alleviate the notion of lag from the Mazda’s turbo.
These numbers are spectacular, however the CX-90’s substantial weight and its uncommon wet-clutch, eight-speed automated transmission actual a penalty in outright acceleration. The SUV falls behind lesser-powered luminaries such because the Ford Explorer, and is neck-and-neck tempo with the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade (with the latter two down greater than 50 ponies as compared). In on a regular basis driving, the CX-90 has greater than sufficient gumption to move brood and baggage with none bother, nevertheless it’s not fairly the rocket that a number of the luxurious rigs it’s aimed toward occur to be. That common impression extends to different areas of the commute as nicely. Even with its longitudinally-mounted engine setup and normal, rear-biased all-wheel drive, dealing with stays on the appropriate, quite than the thrilling facet of the ledger.
There’s additionally the matter of the Mazda’s rising pains. Preliminary proof of the “first-year-itis” afflicting the CX-90 manifests within the sometimes tough character of its automated engine begin/cease system and a throttle that’s troublesome to modulate for optimum smoothness. That being mentioned, there’s solace to be taken within the SUV’s excellent gas financial system: 25 mpg in mixed metropolis and freeway driving, numbers which can be as a lot as 25% higher than similarly-sized rivals.
Straightforward on the Eyes
One space the place the CX-90 has carried over at the very least a bit of its ancestor’s mojo is its sheet steel. Lupine, lengthy, and on my tester completed in a stunning darkish burgundy hue, the big sport-utility automobile is putting and well-balanced, failing to fall prey to the lure of monumental grilles or overwrought rear-end motifs which have spoiled so many same-sized designs. There are a couple of particulars that scream “have a look at me” maybe greater than they need to — the “INLINE 6” badge spelled out in chrome on the entrance fender, and “MAZDA” engraved in equally shiny font on the door bottoms — however general it’s a restrained, but nonetheless eye-catching automobile.
This impression continues contained in the Mazda, the place substantial wooden accents be a part of sharp-looking leather-based to create a cabin setting that’s an improve over previous palettes from the model. It’s a a lot nicer place to spend a while as in comparison with numerous erstwhile rivals (such because the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander and the previously-mentioned Explorer). The one misstep when it comes to look is the single-stitch motif on the material dashboard protecting, a choice that would maybe be pulled off with cowhide however had me nervous for eventual tearing of the skinny materials.
The CX-90’s inside in all fairness spacious, rising previous the CX-9 and offering a cushty perch for the driving force and the primary three passengers (with the third row greatest suited to these nonetheless studying their ABCs). Though not as massive on paper as a number of rivals, there’s nonetheless greater than sufficient cargo house to be discovered contained in the automobile. I folded down the final two rows to near-flat and was in a position to pack transferring packing containers floor-to-ceiling with no points.
My issues contained in the Mazda had extra to do with teething. Door locks sometimes cannonaded by means of the inside just like the sound of a rifle being cocked, and the puzzling infotainment show provided touchscreen performance solely when utilizing Android Auto, and even then solely when at a standstill, requiring the twist of a console-mounted knob in any respect different occasions. A lot worse was the truth that greater than half the time, the show blacked out after startup, displaying the welcome display after which fading to darkness till I mashed a random assortment of arduous buttons beside the spinner to convey it again to life.
It’s arduous to not really feel that some points of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 have been rushed out the door. I’m hopeful that Mazda can discover a approach to paper over the rougher points of its drivetrain, and that the problems I skilled with door locks and infotainment system are a easy software program replace away from being resolved. That is extremely vital in a section the place the most costly CX-90 (the S Premium Plus trim) retails for greater than $61,000, which is a substantial $4,000 to $6,000 bump over a number of of its closest comparators (although it begins round $20,000 beneath that high worth).
Mazda’s luxurious push, and concomitant price ticket improve, raises expectations throughout the board. Execution is all the things, and though the CX-90 meets the problem in numerous key areas, general the SUV isn’t fairly the place it must be to justify such a big window sticker on the high finish — particularly when extra inexpensive Korean choices are nipping at it heels when it comes to efficiency, end and options.
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