Our Rides: A Plugged-In Mazda

Photos by George Torline
Photos by George Torline

Mazda has been through many evolutions since they established their dealer network in the U.S.A. over 50 years ago. First, they touted the rotary engine. That lasted decades and wound up on one of their most iconic models. Then they grew and straddled between premium offerings, sporter models, and mainstream models.

They finally settled on being the brand that gave us “Zoom-Zoom” performance. Mazda figured out that enthusiasts will lead everyone else to their entire lineup.

In recent years, that focus has changed. While they still offer vehicles that quicken the heart – such as the MX-5 Miata – Mazda’s ambitions looked elsewhere…and upward.

This is how they arrived at the creation of their newest model – the three-row 2024 Mazda CX-90 SUV.

This is their most premium model ever created. An SUV that exudes luxury while retaining all of the signs that make it a Mazda.

The CX-90 was originally considered to augment the sporty-looking CX-9. However, Mazda announced that the older model will be replaced by the new one. Makes sense, as Mazda really needs one three-row SUV for Rainbow Families to accommodate our lives in one neat package.

And, spoiler alert, it is one neat package.

From the exterior, you will notice Mazda’s own design language in play with the shield-shaped front grille found across the lineup.  The front end is now flatter, exuding a luxurious texture in the grille and headlamp units. The profile is more formal with a longer roofline and gentler slope of the rear glass area. There is more glass overall, especially on the C-pillar. The rear end has larger taillamp units that stretch further horizontally towards the center of the tailgate. Each of these elements were designed for the CX-90’s upmarket ambitions.

Our tester is the Premium Plus trim package, which adds more chrome in the appropriate areas and set of 21-inch alloy wheels. The front fender badge also points to what lies underneath the hood. In our case, it is the PHEV driveline – the first plug-in hybrid offered by Mazda. All of which is tastefully done.

The theme continues inside with one of the most luxurious cabins Mazda has ever presented.

You are treated to soft touchpoints, handsome black-and-tan leather, and an elevated feel overall.

The driver now has a new 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster that is customizable. In our tester, we also get the Active Driving Display shown on the windshield. The transmission now uses a shift-by-wire method through its shirt gear lever on the center console. All of the switches and controls were also elevated to improve the overall user experience.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen now includes wireless smartphone mirroring, which works very well. Bose offers 12 speakers of beautiful sound from front to back.  

The front seats are supportive, but on the firm side. Most bodies will get comfortable up front. Our Premium Plus tester came with captain’s chairs for the second row. They fold and slide to make room for third row access. In this tester you can seat up to seven passengers, yet there are trim levels available with a full second-row beach seat with a maximum passenger capacity of eight.

Cargo space is generous behind the third row of seats, starting with 15.9 cubic feet. Fold down the 60/40 split third row seats, and that space expands to 40.1 cubic feet. With all of the seats folded down, there is up to 75.2 cubic feet to fill behind the front seats.

There are three engine choices for the 2024 CX-90. The one we are working with is powered by the first plug-in hybrid driveline in Mazda’s history. This power source combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an equally powerful electric motor. Combined, it puts out up to 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is connected both the electric and gasoline motors, sending power to all four wheels.

The plug-in system can be recharged between one-and-a-half to two hours using a Level 2 plug. We found that it would deliver 28 miles of battery-only driving. For fuel economy, we experienced an average of 36.5 MPG.

Power delivery is smooth no matter the source. You will find solid acceleration without any hesitation or unnecessary friction from the driveline. In turn, we experienced a smooth ride and excellent road behavior. Handling is very controlled with solid maneuverability.

The steering system is very good with a solid on-center feel and a good turning radius. Brake pedal feel is solid with good response. The CX-90 turned in solid stops in normal and panic situations.

Pricing for the 2024 Mazda CX-90 starts at $39,595 with a total of eleven trim levels – three for the plug-in hybrid. There are three choices of engines, including the plug-in hybrid we featured here and two in-line six-cylinder engines. Plug-in hybrid models start from $47,445. Our PHEV Premium Plus tester came with a sticker price of $58,920.

The world may have gravitated to the SUV, but it’s quite hard to find one that will satisfy your needs and wants. We think Mazda has the right combination of practicality, space, and luxury in its new 2024 CX-90.

Yes, it’s more premium than one would want, but consider the price point before you compare it with more luxurious models. While most of its direct competitors are being priced above $60,000, this CX-90 is priced below that mark fully equipped.

If you are looking for a nicer three-row SUV for you and your Rainbow Family, give the 2024 Mazda CX-90 a good look.

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