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Mazda’s 2024 CX-90 – The Summer I Turned Pretty

Car Reviews

Mazda’s 2024 CX-90 – The Summer I Turned Pretty

Mazda’s 2024 CX-90

The Summer I Turned Pretty

While unsure our U.S. showrooms need another 3-row crossover, this is America for cryin’ out loud, and we didn’t populate these 48 contiguous states by staying holed up in some New York pied-à-terre. We like our space, and if we can’t all be Kevin Costner we can at least give each of our kids their own seat. For that reason – and perhaps the company’s bottom line – Mazda has blown up the spec of its CX-9 3-row and given us in its place the CX-90 3-row. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never in the field of human transport has so much been owed by so many to…an extra digit.

As previously noted, Mazda is hell bent on reinventing itself as a near-luxury brand, and in that pursuit would seem to have the basics of same – well-considered designs, nicely crafted interiors, composed platforms and responsive drivetrains – absolutely nailed. But some things, such as platforms with a rear-wheel drive bias and inline six-cylinder engines, both of which are mainstays for BMW and Benz, have been left off the Mazda shelf ‘cuz they were never (at least not together) on the Mazda shelf. With the debut of the CX-90 both the platform and inline six are there in the specs, and faster than you can say ‘Hiroshima’ BMW and Benz intenders have a completely credible – and much more accessible – alternative.

There was a time when seemingly every family vacation we took began and ended with Mazda’s CX-9. Typically, my wife and I don’t need three rows, but add a kid or two, or that adult kid with his own kid, and suddenly you have several reasons for that additional room. The CX-9 was an upscale treatment in its design, detail and powertrain, and while that third row wasn’t the most generous of spaces, it worked for the passenger back there; notably, I was never that passenger.

The CX-90 won’t be confused with anyone’s Tahoe or Expedition, but in the walk-up impresses as significantly more substantial than its immediate predecessor; if the CX-9 was (perhaps) a leggings-bedecked Jane Fonda, the more expansive CX-90 is Pussy Galore. And rather than the angularity  of the big Chevy or Ford, the designers at BMW and Benz must have left an impression on the Mazda staff, as this CX-90 seems to have a lot of the softly organic elements seen recently in BMW’s X5 or the Mercedes GLE. The CX-90 face is Mazda’s own, but in both its profile and surface treatment there’s a lot of German here, and that’s fine; in my view, the world didn’t need another Honda Pilot or Lexus RX.

If you doubted Mazda’s commitment to U.S. proportions, an overall length of 201 inches on a wheelbase of almost 123 inches – 7.5 inches longer than the CX-9 – should tell you all you need to know, as does a curb weight of 4,885 pounds. (Which, as a Miata owner I can say with genuine authority: that’s two Miatas.) Despite its substantial footprint, the step from street to seat is easy, while once inside you’re met with head, leg and shoulder room perfectly proportioned for all that America’s diet preferences have to offer.

Beyond the room, of course, is what you’re given to work with, and here the design team has been almost extravagant in its attention to detail. In our top shelf Turbo Premium Plus, the interior was furnished with white ‘premium’ leather, its perforated surface bisected by a dark gray swath, and the interior framed by both a light wood and polished brightwork. While not sure the white Nappa leather will look as good in ten years as it looks today, in combination with the CX-90’s Artisan Red Metallic on the outside (which is more soulful than Mazda’s almost-ubiquitous Soul Red), you have a dynamic that looks like $80K.

Under the hood, Mazda came to a fork in the road, and with but one platform headed in both directions. Two variations of an all-new inline six can be found in eight(!) distinct trims, beginning with the base Select trim at just under $40,000, and heading on up to about $60K. That standard turbocharged six offers 280 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque on any grade of fuel, while the Turbo S delivers 340 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque on its recommended premium diet, and 319 horsepower on regular. 

Both turbocharged drivetrains are augmented by what Mazda calls M-Hybrid boost, a 48V mild-hybrid system offering greater efficiency. That efficiency is good, although perhaps not great: The base Turbo delivers 24 City/28 Freeway/25 Combined, while the Turbo S deviates just slightly, getting only an estimated 23 City, while the other two estimates are identical. And in testing by Car and Driver magazine, 0-60 arrives in but 6.3 seconds, while you can roll on to a governed top speed of 130. If only…

Equally big news, at least on a Mazda showroom, is the availability of a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant. Utilizing a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated inline four with a 17.8 kWh battery pack and – of course – a hybrid motor, the result is 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, along with 26 miles of all-electric range. With a grandson going to an elementary school roughly 22 miles from our home, on those days when we take him or pick him up, we’ll get one way on all-electric, and make the return leg getting 25 miles per gallon. In short, less than one gallon of gas to travel 44 miles. 

The operation of the Turbo S inline six is absolutely sublime. This is luxury motoring on a level with BMW or Benz, without the stress of 4-figure oil changes or 5-figure repairs once that Blessed Event is out of warranty. If there’s a disconnect for me it’s both the size of the CX-90 and the multiple trim levels offered. When compared to the Tahoe or Expedition the CX-90 is tidy; if, however, Mazda’s now-discontinued CX-9 is your reference point this newest crossover has a pizza-fueled eating disorder. 

But then, its perceived hugeness is accompanied by huge bang for the buck…

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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