CX-90 ICE is Another Mazda Winner

CHATHAM, Mass. – I got lucky. I recently spent another week in the all-new 2024 Mazda CX-90 three-row sport utility vehicle, the flagship of the Japanese brand.

My first two opportunities in the latest Mazda vehicle came in May 2023 during a short stint during the #IMPA #Spring Brake 2023 and then for a week’s review in July, both samplings of the plug-in hybrid version.

This week I had the inline-six-cylinder mild-hybrid 2024 Mazda CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus, the flagship of the flagship range. It combined the Mazda performance qualities with outstanding fuel economy (28.2 miles per gallon under my aggressive right foot), especially for a large SUV with an internal-combustion engine, with complete array of premium features and amenities including a comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS).

This six-passenger (captains’ chairs in the second row) vehicle is comfortable, quiet, roomy – a great place for all trips, whether long ones ranging far afield across the Cape Cod Canal bridges to the Massachusetts south shore or on-Cape shopping excursions to Hyannis, Mashpee and Orleans.

An electric boost for the turbo engine

Mazda introduced its most powerful ICE with the CX-90, a 3.3-liter, turbocharged inline six-cylinder which can produce 340 horsepower and 369 pounds-feet of torque when running on premium unleaded gasoline (319 hp on regular fuel).

This powerplant is equipped with M-Hybrid Boost (a mild-hybrid system) to provide efficiency without compromising performance. The electric motor is placed between the engine and transmission, helping to smooth out acceleration from a standstill (eliminating any sign of turbo lag). In addition, the electric motor can directly power the CX-90 at low speeds, the only indication for the driver is a tachometer registering “0” while on the move.

The engine/motor is mated\ to an eight-speed automatic transmission which pushes the power through the standard iACTIV AWD (Mazda loves naming its system with the ACTIV nomenclature) all-wheel-drive system.

Drivers can toggle a switch on the center console to choose amongst the three settings – Sports, Off Road, Touring – of the Mi-Drive (drive-mode) system. The computer-enhanced system modifies throttle response and transmission operation to match the mode selected.

The total of these qualities produces a larger SUV (200.8-inches long, 4,885 pounds) capable of reaching 60 miles per hour from rest in a very quick 6.3 seconds (according to Car and Driver).

These performance capabilities, which I, as is my nature, explored whenever possible (as well as turning off the start-stop-system which according to industry claims can produce up to a 10-percent fuel savings, but I find it rather annoying in urban-driving), did not hurt the vehicle’s efficiency. I saw 28.2 miles per gallon in my time, besting the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s rating of 25 mpg overall (23 urban, 28 highway).

Platform, systems show modern touches

As I wrote in July, the CX-90 is built on an all-new large platform that features a front-engine, rear-wheel-bias (within the AWD’s electronics) longitudinal layout to emphasize the company’s commitment to driving performance.

The new vehicle is equipped with Kinematic Posture Control, which first debuted on the MX-5 Miata, a software feature that suppresses body lift on tight corners to enhance the grip and allows all occupants to maintain a natural posture.

The power-assisted anti-lock braking system (ABS) features ventilated rotors at all four wheels with 13.7 inches (340mm), the rears’ 13.8 inches (350mm). The system is aided by electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist.

The 21×9-inch machine-cut alloy wheels are shod with 275/45R21 M+S (mud and snow) tires.

All these components along with the e-Skyactiv powertrain translate into a large vehicle (200.8-inches long, 78.5-in. wide, 68.7-in. tall, 5,243 pounds) which drives smaller – a very good thing! The CX-90 is not a sports car, but despite its size and interior room, it handles roads – both twisting ones and bumpy ones – with aplomb. Again, just like all Mazda SUVs I have sampled (the CX-5, CX-30 and CX-50).

The ride is very controlled, whether the SUV is empty or has four adults with 10-days’ worth of luggage in the back. And when I had this load, no one noticed or commented on how aggressively I drove the roads on Cape Cod, a result of Mazda’s commitment to making its new SUV something I wanted to drive.

The suite of ADAS is extensive and includes blind-spot monitoring with exit warning; lane-departure warning; lane-keep assist; traffic-sign recognition; smart brake support; smart brake support reverse; front cross-traffic alert/braking; rear cross-traffic alert; emergency lane keeping; Mazda radar cruise control; 360° monitor, and front & rear parking sensors.

The Active Driving Display (head-up display) in the CX-90 includes eye-level ADAS warnings like blind-spot alerts, following-distance warnings, traffic-sign information and cruise-control operation. In addition, it shows navigation information and vehicle speed.

Inside, a premium cabin

The Turbo S Premium Plus designation means this CX-90 has everything Mazda can offer in terms of passenger comfort, conveniences and amenities.

The seats are trimmed in Nappa leather (heating in the first two rows, ventilation and electric adjustment up front); the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated and power adjustable, and the cabin’s environment is managed by an automatic, three-zone climate-control system.

The driver can customize the content shown on the 12.3-inch digital cluster display behind the steering wheel while the heart of the infotainment system, with standard navigation system, is the 12.3-inch color touchscreen LCD in the traditional Mazda well on the top of the dash. Placement in the well minimizes the intrusion of the screen on the interior experience while providing an easy-to-see/operate display for the driver and front passenger.

In addition to the touchscreen capability, the CX-90 retains the xx Mazda large console-mounted dial-and-button setup for navigation of the infotainment system including audio volume. The infotainment system provides the usual sources like SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio, all of which is presented through a 12-speaker Bose® premium sound system.

Complete package for the three-row SUV customer

The CX-90 range opens with the CX-90 3.3 Turbo Select at $39,595 moving through 11 variants to the (reviewed) CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus for $59,950 (as tested, with the lone option ($595) Rhodium White Metallic paint and $1,375 deliver, processing and handling fee, at $61,920).

A second long stint in the new 2024 Mazda CX-90 SUV reinforced my conviction this is a superb choice for anyone needing or wanting a three-row vehicle which delivers terrific performance, solid fuel economy and good value.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.