2024 Mazda CX-90 S Premium Plus

Experienced by Leon Brittain,

We first had the opportunity to experience the 2024 Mazda CX-90 in Malibu, CA for a special media preview last year. The three-row SUV represents the flagship vehicle for the Japanese automaker, rides on an all-new large platform, and features electrified powertrains including a plug-in hybrid. Recently, in Washington, D.C. I put some time behind the wheel of a CX-90 to truly feel it out during the week of the city’s local auto show.

My 2024 Mazda CX-90 S Premium Plus model arrived in a beautiful Rhodium White Metallic coat and quilted Tan Nappa leather interior with 2nd-row captain chairs. To exaggerate the exterior styling, Mazda outfitted my loaner with stylish 21″ diamond-cut rims finished in a black metallic hue, a body-colored rear tailgate spoiler, a power panoramic moonroof, aluminum roof rails, and LED headlights. Presentation-wise, everything inside and out was exquisite. You can even choose the new premium Artisan Red exterior finish which captivates the senses. In practicality, the functionality of the interior was frustrating, starting with the hand shifter which seems attached to a ball joint that reduces the seemlessness of the shifts. Frustratingly, the stem was difficult to move in and out of reverse.

Take a methodical look at the CX-90 from every angle to witness defining proportions that are wider, longer, and more aggressive than any prior Mazda you’re acquainted with. Mazda describes this human-centric design technique as alluring and the technology as intuitive. The company further states that every element from cabin space and cargo capacity to safety features and amenities, has been optimized for elevated user experiences. In theory, yes, but after a week of evaluation, the cabin didn’t feel as functional as described. For example, Mazda’s 12.3” multimedia system remains one of the most confusing and non-simplistic in the business. And, to adjust the temperature gauges you have to shift down to increase for warmth and shift up to decrease for cooling. Why the backward ergonomics? But you do receive USB-C charging ports and Kinematic Posture Control, which reduces body lift in tight turns to increase grip and help passengers maintain a natural posture. This specific capability is achieved through advanced software engineering.

For performance, your first powertrain choice is the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine adapted to work alongside the electric motor and 17.8 kWh high-capacity battery. The e-Skyactiv PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) features 323-horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This unit can drive specifically in electric mode. Then there is the standard e-Skyactiv G 3.3-liter Turbo engine producing 280-horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque.

Lastly is the e-Skyactiv G 3.3-liter inline 6 Turbo that powered my CX-90 S Premium Plus and distributes 340-horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Representing as the most potent mass-production engine for Mazda, it is engineered with M-Hybrid Boost to provide simultaneous efficiency and performance without one compromising the other. It is paired with an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission and is estimated to gain 23 city mpg and 28 highway mpg. Yet, acceleration was nominal and power transitions were not as smooth as I would have liked. At one point, I pressed the accelerator from a slow speed for a quick burst and the powertrain paused, then abruptly jerked the SUV forward like a startled steed. Certainly, the engine and hybrid powertrain are not in sync.

The CX-90 consists of a front engine layout, rear-wheel-bias performance, and standard i-Activ AWD that comes in handy during bad weather days. Now, this was helpful in the snowy, wintry conditions we experienced during my loan period. And with seating for up to eight passengers, you can shuttle the entire family on road trips to visit relatives or to attend your daughter’s volleyball tournaments.

The CX-90 is much larger than the outgoing CX-9 and is currently on sale. Offered in 11 configurations (can be pretty confusing), MSRP pricing ranges from $39,595 for a CX-90 3.3 Turbo Select to my $59,950 CX-90 S Premium Plus.

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