Like most others who have spent time behind their artfully crafted steering wheels, I like a good Mazda. The CX-5 is a marvelous everyday driver, the CX-50 is a similar albeit more butch-looking alternative, the 3 is great, and the MX-5 is arguably the most fun-per-dollar you can have on four new wheels. When the company announced the new CX-90 three-row SUV to effectively replace the CX-9, I was curious to see how Mazda's luxurious and agile character would translate to a big family hauler like this. Aimed squarely at the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Toyota Grand Highlander, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 unsurprisingly has a lot to like but also isn't without a couple bugs and compromises.
|2024 Mazda CX-90 Specs
|Base Price (Canadian-spec Signature as tested)
|$40,970 ($66,045 CAD)
|3.3-liter turbocharged inline-six | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
|340 @ 5,000 rpm
|369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
|7 or 8
|14.9 cubic feet behind third row | 40 cubic feet behind second row | 74.2 cubic feet behind first row
|EPA Fuel Economy
|24 mpg city | 28 highway | 25 combined
Per usual with Mazda, the CX-90 drives great for its size, class, and price point. Well-calibrated, well-weighted steering and a chassis that feels as light as that of a crossover one size bracket down. The all-wheel-drive system and off-road mode more than held their own in a week of mild to heavy snow out in the Canadian Rockies. Even on all-season tires, it was able to put down power, carve corners in the snow at a reasonable pace, and even pull little, predictable powerslides.
Mazda's new straight-six is smooth, interesting, and, of course, quite powerful. It's also paired with a mild hybrid system that lets you glide to a stop and sometimes even cruise at highway speeds sans internal combustion. No, the engine doesn’t sound as smooth or nice as, say, BMW’s B58 but that’s a pretty high bar to clear. In the spirit of knowing the audience, engine codes like the one just mentioned don't usually show up in reviews of mainstream family three-row SUVs but I suspect more than a few CX-90 buyers will indeed get the reference. Hands down the most enthusiast-focused of all the mainstream three-row SUVs, it’s essentially a Toyota Grand Highlander for people who Like Cars.
I was iffy on the CX-90's looks at first (I still don’t think its front end is as exciting-looking as other Mazda designs) but it's grown on me and I especially like the cab-back proportions that not-so-subtly hint at its longitudinal straight-six powertrain. The interior is quite attractive as well. Mazda has been on a luxury kick recently and this being the biggest, burliest, most luxurious gun in its arsenal, it is the brand’s fanciest cabin yet. There’s a soft suede material on the dash, and the brushed chrome is tasteful as is the ambient lighting at night.
Apple CarPlay is wireless but, in this example at least, my phone did not automatically connect every time I started the car. In most instances, I had to go into a menu and manually instruct the system to connect, which was quite annoying.
In exchange for class-leading handling is a noticeably less cushy ride. The CX-90 isn't uncomfortable per se, but you do notice bumps in the road more than one probably should in a vehicle like this.
The most apparent thing holding it back from true luxury car status, though, is road noise. It’s a very far cry from the tinny 323 you had back in high school, but you can’t exactly whisper to your passenger while driving over rough pavement at 70 mph either. Some of the plastics, too, are noticeably budget like the swoopy trim on the doors. In a proper luxury-badged SUV, these would be an alloy whereas here, it's hard, somewhat cheap-feeling plastic.
Crimping its practicality creds are relatively limited storage cubbies in the front row. There are pockets in the doors, glasses storage up top, two cupholders, a wireless charging shelf for your phone, and a shallow armrest cubby, but that’s it. No big, purse-enveloping spaces or shelves in front of the passenger for additional devices like you get in, say, the competing Toyota.
Just like most of its stablemates, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is arguably the best-driving vehicle in its class and among the most nice feeling inside. Hyundai and Kia have upped their games in that last area in recent years with the Palisade and Telluride, respectively, while having infotainment systems that are admittedly better than the one Mazda offers. But those vehicles still use old, naturally aspirated V6s whereas the CX-90 boasts that new and really quite good turbo straight-six.
A couple of aspects hold the CX-90 back from truly competing with actual honest-to-god luxury cars, namely road noise, a sport-leaning ride, and buggy CarPlay integration. But on aesthetics, drive, and overall feel, this comes really close to stuff from Lexus and Acura while basically being one less reason for the Infiniti QX60 to live.
To sum up, the CX-90 successfully brings Mazda's accessible luxury, athleticism, and record of excellence to the world of three rows and is definitely worth a test drive.
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