The CX-90 inaugurates an all-new rear-wheel drive platform that serves as the basis for an ambitious gentrification strategy. This invariably changes the proportions of the vehicle. We therefore note a fairly long front part to accommodate the longitudinal mechanics which drive it. In profile, we thus observe a more “remote” passenger compartment than that of adversaries with transverse mechanics. In the case of the CX-90, the design is refined and shows great confidence, but somewhat encroaches on rear visibility, like many Mazda products. The rather wide tracks serve as support for the sturdy wings. That said, Mazda would probably have benefited from giving this important creation a more remarkable design on the front end. Its configuration may seem too absorbed by the desire for standardization of the manufacturer's SUV range.
The exterior panache blends harmoniously well with the CX-90's interior. The dashboard is in itself an aesthetic and ergonomic tour de force. The composition is based on a variety of trims as well as numerous materials enhanced by a coherent arrangement of colors. A quiet force emanates from these tense vertical lines. It's also assembled very carefully, which gives the impression of being in a vehicle much more expensive than the asking price. Sitting in the comfortable front furniture, however, we discover an obvious deficiency in terms of storage capacity, despite the large central console. The third row is also limited in terms of legroom, but center passengers benefit from the necessary space as well as a large door opening.
Under the hood
The standard 3.3L turbocharged inline-six is a game-changer in the segment. However, we should not be fooled: this 340 hp engine (optional) does not have the velvety appearance of the German offers. However, it has a lot of flexibility. Under strong acceleration, a vibration emanates from the rear axle, accompanied by a sound that is not entirely melodious. In the context of relaxed driving, however, smoothness prevails and consumption is reasonable. The stop/start system, however, seems too engaged, causing a significant delay when trying to take off from a stationary position or making it difficult to maintain a cruising speed without cruise control. The hybrid group composed of a 2.5L four-cylinder greatly softens these features thanks to its more involved and powerful electric mill, in addition to having 40 km in the bank.
Behind the wheel
The CX-90 uses a double wishbone front suspension, a configuration that allows, among other things, to make the front axle more incisive when cornering. Due to a reduction that requires a lot of steering wheel rotation, the SUV nevertheless seems more massive than it should be, especially when parking. The chassis, however, displays an undeniable balance by containing the roll well, placing it at the top of the dynamic charts of its horde, without however having the typical temperament of a vehicle with a rear-wheel drive chassis. When fitted with 21-inch rims, the ride can also seem dry at times, a behavior which does not create weariness, but which exposes the limits of these so-called fixed shock absorbers which would benefit from an adaptive system. Finally, let's note the excellent soundproofing which allows you to cover the kilometers in complete peace of mind.
The infotainment system is based on a horizontal screen which is touch-only when Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are activated. You move from tab to tab using a wheel placed on the central console and lined with buttons. A second rotary dial is placed nearby for volume control. The whole thing works pretty well and Mazda has made some changes to promote smoother navigation. Accessing Apple CarPlay is faster: simply push down the control wheel from the home menu. Certainly, we would have liked a little less manipulation at times and a more configurable instrumentation screen, but the system has good image definition and a black background which soothes the eye. The Bose system also does an exemplary job in its sound reproduction.
The Mazda CX-90 is not just another generic and bland SUV intended to generate juicy profit margins at all costs. It is rather the result of in-depth reflection on the way in which the small Japanese manufacturer sees its future, all in refinement. It's an imposing project, different as Mazda knows how to do, but also imperfect. The configuration of its mechanics deserves to be refined, as does that of its steering, which is clearly too slow in certain circumstances. Without being a defect in itself, it will not necessarily appeal to customers looking for excessive interior volume or a very soft ride. It is, in short, a convincing and skillfully positioned first attempt in terms of price with a range that starts at $45,900. The rest of the story will be very intriguing.
A shorter cousin soon revealed
Mazda will reveal the CX-70 this week, which will be a shorter platform cousin of the CX-90. At the time of writing, nothing has leaked about this proposal, but we expect the same mechanical package and probably a slightly lower starting price to compensate for the absence of a third row.
A “mild” hybrid system or not
The six-cylinder has a small 17 hp electric motor which supports it when accelerating at low speeds to reduce fuel consumption. The plug-in hybrid version is entitled to a 173 hp electric motor allowing the vehicle to be moved alone for approximately 40 km measured during a road test.
An in-house transmission
Unlike many competitors who rely on OEMs, Mazda developed its eight-speed transmission entirely in-house. It has a clutch set rather than a torque converter for efficiency and its compact appearance. Its performance is good, but it betrays its youth with certain jerks at low speed.
It can also tow
Depending on the versions chosen, the CX-90 can tow a load varying from 1588 kg to 2268 kg. The plug-in livery has a towing capacity of 1588 kg.
Government rebates that narrow the gap
The plug-in hybrid version can benefit from total government rebates of $7,500, which narrows the gap of almost $10,000 that separates it from the six-cylinder livery.
- Model tested: Mazda CX-90 Signature six-cylinder
- Engine: 3.3L DOHC L6 Turbocharged
- Power: 340 hp from 5000 to 6000 rpm (with 93 octane gasoline)
- Torque: 369 lb-ft from 2000 to 4500 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual mode
- Powertrain architecture: Longitudinal engine, all-wheel drive
- Consumption (EnerGuide): 9.5 L/100 km (super recommended, but not obligatory)
- Price (with options): $66,245 (range between $48,730 and $66,245)
- Competitors: Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Palisade, Ford Explorer, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas and Toyota Highlander/Grand Highlander
- Anything new in 2024? : New model that replaces the CX-9