2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV: Will It Dog?

The 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV, even in this Premium Plus trim, doesn’t quite feel like a highline car. But it does a pretty good impression of one, and I enjoyed driving it. Our pet Bramble wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, but it certainly can carry quite a few fluffy butts and dog bones.

This is a sizable SUV, a true six-passenger vehicle—seven if they’re small, eight if you spec the middle bench seat and they are really small—with surprisingly decent driving dynamics and a pretty plush ride. That’s an impressive combination to lock down. You won’t be able to fool yourself into thinking you’re in a Miata, but the CX-90 feels swift and satisfyingly responsive for its size.

The car charges in about 90 minutes, though its EV range is limited to about 25 miles. Andrew P. Collins

A $60,000 list price on a new Mazda is a little eye-twitch-inducing to aging millennials like me who remember when a twin-turbo RX-7 was half that *shakes fist at cloud* but really, the CX-90 looks reasonably priced when parked next to fancy models in its weight class like the $90,000 Mercedes-Benz GLS or the $84,000 BMW X7.

Andrew P. Collins

Interior Materials and Layout

The PHEV Premium Plus CX-90 has split captain’s chairs for the second row, meaning the back seats are basically the same as the front seats. A robust and comfortable third row of three seats on a bench is behind that, and of course, is stowable. There’s a little bit of cargo room behind it even when that third row is up, but not quite enough to put a dog in. Not even a little pet should be crammed between the cargo hatch and the back of the third-row bench.

Up front, the dashboard and center console are really quite elegant. The super-wide 12.3-inch infotainment screen is tucked into flowing lines of plastic and wood-like veneer. Main touchpoints like the steering wheel, door handles, and shifter are all reasonably nice but the wood paneling’s weirdly soft texture breaks the spell of luxury a bit.

I don’t mean to dwell on this too aggressively, but the wood trim is a little like Las Vegas architecture—looks nice as you skim it with bleary eyes, but it doesn’t take much scrutiny to see that it’s all kind of fake.

The seats are all quite comfortable, and the leather is very soft. But it’s the type of material that I worry about abusing. To better articulate what I mean, the leather in a Volvo, for example, can take paws and claws and mud and clean up nicely to do it all over again the next day. There’s a thickness to it that communicates robustness and inspires confidence. We didn’t do any dog-paw damage to this CX-90’s bold white upholstery while we had the car, but I simply don’t trust it to take hard use exceptionally well.

Climbing In and Out

Our agility-trained Australian Shepherd mutts make hopping into almost any car look easy. But getting dogs in or out of this thing won’t be super smooth for everybody. The back seats and rear cargo area are both pretty high off the ground. And likely in the interest of third-row legroom, there’s not an abundance of space between the back of the front seats and the second row.

That said, there’s plenty of room to keep a pet ramp stashed in this car. But if you have a larger, less agile animal, this is simply not the easiest vehicle for ingress or egress.

Driving With the Dog

I said at the top that our dog Bramble “wasn’t particularly enthusiastic” about the CX-90. Well, this is where you’ll have to bear with me as I rely on an animal’s vibe check.

There are some cars that Bramble gleefully hops into and settles down in right away. Sometimes, she takes a second to find her footing and relaxes after a few miles. But at the risk of sounding like a dog-whispering weirdo, she never really seemed to get completely comfortable in this vehicle.

I hypothesize that she was weirded out by the second-row captain’s chairs. She often likes to stand in the middle of a second-row bench and “surf,” while belted in, moving against gravity as the car tilts watching the horizon through the windshield.

With the split rear, we had her buckled on one side, and she seemed a little restless about that. Your dog may not have such a problem, though. In fact, if you typically travel with two kids and a dog, you might find it’s easier to keep the animal in between those second-row seats. They’d certainly be in a good position to snarf down errant crumbs that human passengers might drop.

Driving in General

I was surprised at how well the CX-90 PHEV responded to firm hands on the steering wheel. There’s quite a bit of resistance built into the steering; it was clearly designed to remind drivers that they’re driving, not riding, the vehicle.

Silas wanted to show off his bow. I think he liked the “M-A-Z-D-A” in the chrome trim. Andrew P. Collins

It glides very nicely in EV mode and has plenty of pull when you floor it in hybrid mode on a full charge. You need to be charging this thing every night to get the most out of it, though. It eats battery power quickly, even just driving in auto-hybrid mode. And while the car cruises fine with a depleted battery, it’s a lot less motivated to get out of its own way.

Mazda says the CX-90 PHEV makes 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel; it can run regular 87 octane with a slight power penalty. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter gas engine and 68-kW electric motor, running a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system.

My fellow car journalists always seem to be showering the smaller Mazda SUVs with accolades like “a poorer person’s Porsche Macan” (an earnest compliment). I don’t think you could call this a “budget Porsche Cayenne” since it doesn’t necessarily feel razor-sharp or even particularly aggressive at all. But it does feel good. It’s satisfying. It doesn’t punish a driving appreciator for wanting three rows of seats and a high roofline, but you will never forget that it’s large.

“I’m not squeezing in there until you drop those rear seats.” Andrew P. Collins

Except in one instance: Turning radius. I discovered the CX-90 PHEV’s bizarrely tight turning capabilities by accident, flipping a U-turn when I’d forgotten my wallet. For a second, I thought the front wheels must have been turning about 90 degrees outward at a full lock—I mean, not really, but I was able to do a full 180 in practically two lanes of road. For a vehicle this size, that’s pretty unreal.

Pack Hauling—Multiple Dogs On Board

The CX-90’s size and configuration give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to hauling multiple animals. Drop the third-row seats and you can fit a whole family of decent-sized dogs in the back. But our animals kept struggling with those captain’s chairs—they just couldn’t decide if they wanted to be on the seat or on the floor, which made for some fur-flying chaos.

Andrew P. Collins

Putting the dogs in the third-row seats partially solved this problem. They were much more planted back there but didn’t like being so far away from me at the helm. I bet it’d be a lot easier to carry multiple dogs, ironically, with more humans onboard as well. Just stick the pups in the back and let the kids in the second row keep them company, right?

Carrying Kennels

For those of you who prefer to tuck pets into their own little houses while driving, the CX-90 can swallow one sizable kennel with ease with the third row folded down. The second-row seats are actually big enough to thwack our medium-sized inflatable kennel on, but it’s not super stable there.

Dropping part of the third row also frees up enough room for our medium kennel, so if you wanted to carry five people plus a contained dog (sub-60 pounds), they could fit.

The rear seats can be dropped with a button, and there’s a power inverter back there too.

Mazda CX-90 PHEV Dog-Friendliness Verdict

The CX-90 is certainly a nice way to move six people around. And it’s responsive enough to feel like it’s got some actual personality, which is a rare attribute in cars this new and this large. Short story: If you enjoy driving and need this many seats, this is an SUV worth looking at.

Andrew P. Collins

From a utility perspective, cargo space is fairly abundant, especially with the way-back seats folded down. But while it’s perfectly capable of carrying animals, I would not call the CX-90 exceptionally dog-friendly.

It’s just too high to hop into, and our pups didn’t like the split second row nearly as much as they like a traditional bench. It’s big inside, but somehow the pups still seemed kind of cramped no matter where I tried to put them. Plus, there’s that soft leather. I know seat covers exist (Mazda even makes an OEM one, as well as belts and a pet ramp), but I’d be a little nervous every time claws came into contact with this car’s interior materials.

A screenshot from the CX-90’s build and price page. Mazda

The 2024 Mazda CX-90 is nice enough to drive that I wouldn’t dismiss it just because you have a dog. They’ll get used to the seating and you can always use accessories to build them a better nest somewhere behind the front seats. But if pet passengers are the number one priority, this is probably not the machine I’d pick.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (Premium Plus as tested)$51,320 ($58,825)
Seating Capacity (people)7
Seating Capacity (dogs)7, probably (4 big ones, comfortably)
EPA Fuel Economy24 mpg city | 27 highway | 25 combined
EV Range25 miles
Cargo Volume14.9 cubic feet behind third row | 40 cubic feet behind second row | 74.2 cubic feet behind first row
Quick TakeA pretty and plush people mover that might be a little too nice for dogs.
Will It Dog Score6.5/10
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