Mazda Moves Upscale With 2024 CX-90

Mazda makes a strong bid for consideration in the large premium CUV segment with the ’24 CX-90, offering an upscale interior, high-tech options and a new 3.3L turbo I-6.

Bob Gritzinger, Editor-in-Chief

May 3, 2023

5 Min Read
2024 Mazda CX-90
Mazda launches CX-90 3-row flagship as ’24 model.Mazda

SAN FRANCISCO – Mazda takes a major step forward with the ’24 CX-90, a 3-row large premium CUV designed exclusively for the North American market with three new electrified powertrains covering a wide swath of potential buyers.

We drive two of the available engine options here, the turbocharged 3.3L inline 6-cyl. in the Turbo S and the 2.5L plug-in hybrid 4-cyl. While the naturally aspirated 4-cyl. is carryover, the I-6 is a clean-sheet build and the first 6-cyl. from Mazda since the transverse-mounted 3.7L V-6 was dropped from the CX-9 after the 2015 model year. The third option is a less-powerful version of the 3.3L in the Turbo trim.

All of the new powertrains take advantage of the new CX-90’s longitudinal layout, allowing the engines to sit low and rearward under the hood, providing an excellent front-rear weight distribution. A new, Mazda-engineered and -manufactured 8-speed automatic transmission employing a wet clutch vs. a torque converter sends power to the wheels via the brand’s i-activ all-wheel drive.

Both I-6 powertrains feature 48V mild-hybrid assistance for smooth stop/start function and to power accessories such as air conditioning, freeing the engine from parasitic losses. The system adds 17 hp and 113 lb.-ft. (153 Nm) of extra propulsion.

Our 340-hp, 369-lb.ft. (500-Nm) Turbo S tester (pictured, below) exhibits expected inline engine refinement, but with a bit of a subdued growl under hard acceleration, in keeping with Mazda’s sporty brand character. Most of the drive is smooth and steady, with a sharp level of performance and handling that belies its 3-row stature and weight.

2024 Mazda CX-90 I-6

I-6 covered

Part of that handling prowess lies in the rear-biased, longitudinal layout, allowing Mazda engineers to shift the powertrain rearward for better weight distribution, and to employ straight front frame rails that improve the suspension geometry and allow a sharper steering angle, says Dave Coleman, vehicle dynamics engineer.

Despite a 7-in. (178-mm) longer wheelbase compared with the CX-9, the CX-90’s turning radius is 8 ins. (203 mm) tighter, and the handling is further augmented by kinematic assistance, employing a slight brake pressure on the inner rear wheel to aid cornering, he says. Overall, the vehicle is 8 ins. longer and 2 ins. (51 mm) wider than its predecessor.

Mazda estimates fuel economy for the Turbo S at 23/28 mpg (10.2-8.4 L/100 km) city/highway, with the Turbo model’s city rating at 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km), all equal or better than the 2.5L turbo 4-cyl. the I-6 replaces. In our drive, we record 26.6 mpg (8.8 L/100 km) on a mixed driving route, bettering the vehicle’s 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) estimated combined rating.

The PHEV’s short 2.5L 4-cyl. (pictured, below) fits neatly into the engine bay with room to spare. It employs a 123-kW (173-hp), 199-lb.-ft. (270-Nm) integrated electric motor to assist the engine’s output. Total output is 323 hp and 369 lb.-ft. on premium fuel, 319 hp on regular fuel.

2024 Mazda CX-90 I-4 PHEV

PHEV covered

The PHEV can traverse up to 26 miles (42 km) in pure EV mode, powered by 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. We note that with enough charge, the CX-90 runs at all speeds in EV mode, with the gas engine firing up only under heavy acceleration. And once EV range is depleted, the vehicle still will operate in EV mode at low speeds, tapping into the 20% buffer built into the battery pack.

Mazda isn’t releasing the PHEV’s final fuel economy rating yet, but does confirm an estimated 56 mpg-e (4.2 L/100 km). In our 75-mile (121-km) drive, we post 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km) and 2.3 mi/kWh on electric-only operation, alternating between Sport, Charge and EV modes. The engine emits a raspier tone compared with the I-6 but offers ample power and punch when demanded. There’s a quiet electric motor whirr when operating in EV mode.

Inside, the CX-90 will be familiar to Mazda owners, with its central multifunction control knob, but with larger controls, a line-of-sight 12.25-in. (31.1-cm) center screen, a bright, clear 12.25-in. LCD instrument cluster and a multi-color head-up display.

The handsome brown-over-black interior in our Turbo S test car (pictured, below) matches colors closely across a range of interior materials and adds a nice touch with padded knee surfaces on the center console. “It’s the fullest expression of Mazda premium,” says Jon Leverett, launch strategy manager.

Mazda CX-90 interior

CX90 cockpit_1

Mazda’s premium approach also brings unique personalization – and how it’s achieved. A system measures a driver’s height and eye level to set a recommended position for the seat, steering wheel, HUD location and outside mirror adjustments. Up to six drivers can retrieve their saved settings by glancing at each of the outside mirrors, says Matthew Valbuena, project manager for in-vehicle technology and human-machine interface.

“Mazda is supporting the driver, not replacing the driver,” Valbuena says. “A comfortable driver is a confident driver, and a confident driver is a capable driver.”

Mazda has high hopes for the CX-90, with the model slated to triple CX-9 sales in the 2024 calendar year, Leverett says. That would mean about 100,000 units annually for a model mired in the mid-20,000s to mid-30,000s in sales since 2017, according to Wards Intelligence data.

The brand also plans to quadruple sales of the CX-30 over the CX-3 and boost sales of its best-selling CX-5 threefold.

Whether Mazda can make the transition to being a purveyor of premium CUVs remains to be seen. But offering an all-new I-6 and an efficient PHEV in a well-tailored 3-row CUV – in the $40,000-$60,000 range for the Turbo and $47,000-$55,000 for the PHEV – is a good start.

About the Author(s)

Bob Gritzinger

Editor-in-Chief, WardsAuto

Bob Gritzinger is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto and also covers Advanced Propulsion & Technology for Wards Intelligence.

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