With its rear-wheel-drive-based underpinnings and turbocharged inline-six engine, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is the Japanese automaker’s strongest argument yet that it’s a premium vehicle brand. But BMW- and Mercedes-like chassis and powertrain architectures alone are not the only arbitrators of what makes a high-end vehicle, and the exclusively all-wheel-drive CX-90’s $40,970 starting price puts this Mazda more in line with mainstream mid-size three-row SUV options such as the Toyota Grand Highlander, Kia Telluride, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, and Honda Pilot—rivals the Mazda toppled in a recent five-way comparison test.
But it’s one thing to impress us for a few hundred miles; it’s another to do so over thousands. Now, we have 40,000 miles to see what it’s like to live with the CX-90. This ought to be enough time to help us figure out if the CX-90 is a mainstream SUV with premium decor or a bonafide premium SUV with a mainstream price tag.
The $62,550 sticker attached to our top-of-the-line 2024 CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus certainly pushes it into premium vehicle territory. That sum also includes $325 worth of carpeted mats and $900 for a port-installed tow package, which consists of a trailer hitch and harness, tow ball and mount, and brake controller. The latter item lives inelegantly on the left corner of the lower dash—prime knee-bashing real estate.
As a Turbo S, our Deep Crystal Blue Mica test vehicle packs the more powerful variant of Mazda’s new 3.3-liter inline-six. With premium gas running through its fuel lines, the engine pumps out 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Feed it 87 octane, and 21 horses leave the pasture. The engine’s tune in lower-level CX-90 Turbo models develops only 280 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque regardless of octane. That’s probably enough grunt for most CX-90 buyers, but we’re not ones to turn down the chance for our collective right foot to wield more horsepower, even if capitalizing on this opportunity adds $7000 to the bottom line compared to a non-S Turbo Premium Plus model.
Those seven stacks of greenbacks net more than powertrain tweaks, though. The Turbo S Premium Plus features a handful of niceties its lesser counterpart does without, including ventilated (and not just heated) rear bucket seats, a roomy and opulent second-row center console, swiveling headlights, and a lane-centering system. Plus, there’s the Turbo S moniker itself, an epithet typically associated with six-figure Porsches that CX-90 Turbo S owners can now use to impress peers, potential business partners, and future in-laws. (“Look, I’m no Bezos, but I am doing well enough that I bought a new Turbo S the other week.”)
Though our CX-90 Turbo S may be the most powerful iteration of Mazda’s three-row SUV, it’s not the most spritely option. Even with 272 fewer pounds to push around, our 4964-pound long-term CX-90’s acceleration times at sub-triple-digit speeds trailed those of the gas-electric 323-hp CX-90 PHEV. Our long-term SUV’s 6.2-second sprint to 60 mph and 14.7-second quarter-mile pass fell short of the PHEV’s figures by 0.3 and 0.2 seconds, respectively. Its 3.6-second 30-to-50-mph run was 0.9 second behind that of its plug-in-hybrid kin.
That said, our CX-90 accelerated more quickly than many of its six-cylinder peers from other mainstream brands, even if the default Normal drive mode’s powertrain map leaves the SUV feeling a bit listless off the line at anything short of wide-open throttle (surely a concession Mazda made in the name of fuel efficiency.) A 48-volt electrical system that powers a stop-start motor sandwiched between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission also contributes to the relative miserliness of this sizable SUV. In its first few thousand miles, our CX-90 is averaging 23 mpg. That’s a bit off the EPA’s combined estimate of 25 mpg but better than the 22 mpg our long-term 2016 Mazda CX-9 averaged over 40,000 miles, a feat that’s made more impressive by the fact the larger six-cylinder CX-90 carries 571 pounds of additional mass compared to the four-cylinder CX-9.
In spite of its heft, the CX-90, with the aid of its 21-inch Toyo Open Country A50 all-season tires, circled our skidpad at a respectable 0.86 g and came to a halt from 70 mph in 172 feet. Both figures bettered those of our long-term 2021 Mazda CX-30. That 3293-pound subcompact SUV pulled 0.85 g on the skidpad and stopped from 70 mph in 174 feet. Our CX-9, meanwhile, kicked off its long-term test with a 0.85-g skidpad run and a 168-foot stop from 70 mph.
Still, the fact our CX-90 accelerates, grips, and stops like a much lighter vehicle does not necessarily correlate to its driving experience. Whereas the CX-9 brought an almost Miata-like sense of dynamic finesse and engagement to the mid-size SUV segment, the CX-90 is stoic and demure. There’s still more behind-the-wheel involvement than is typical of vehicles in this segment, but its slow and heavy steering, tendency to understeer (this despite just 50.6 percent of its mass sitting on the front wheels), and controlled but significant body motions make it feel a little less special from the driver’s perspective.
The opposite is true for passengers—at least in the case of the Turbo S Premium Plus trim, which is available with either tan or white leather wares. The latter hue lines the inside of our CX-90. The soft hides complement a cabin filled with high-quality plastics, striking metal decor, and a fabric-covered dashboard with distinct hanging stitches that augment physical climate controls. On the display front, there’s a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It all adds up to a cabin with the look and feel of a premium product.
Mazda has high ambitions for both the CX-90 and its future as a premium brand. The newest three-row model from Mazda certainly made a strong initial impression on us, but we’ll see how that sentiment holds up over 40,000 miles.
Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 4678 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 23 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 19.6 gal Observed Fuel Range: 450 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, four-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $61,325/$62,550
Options: Premier Towing set (trailer hitch and harness, tow ball mount kit, brake controller), $900; Premier Carpet set (premium carpet floor and cargo mats), $325
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 200 in3, 3283 cm3
Power: 340 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.7-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
Tires: Toyo Open Country A50
275/45R-21 107W M+S
Wheelbase: 122.8 in
Length: 200.8 in
Width: 78.5 in
Height: 68.2 in
Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 57/51/33 ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 75/40/16 ft3
Curb Weight: 4964 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS: NEW
60 mph: 6.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 14.7 sec @ 98 mph
100 mph: 15.2 sec
120 mph: 23.2 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.5 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 129 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 172 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.86 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 23 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 25/23/28 mpg
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Despite their shared last name, Greg Fink is not related to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s infamous Rat Fink. Both Finks, however, are known for their love of cars, car culture, and—strangely—monogrammed one-piece bathing suits. Greg’s career in the media industry goes back more than a decade. His previous experience includes stints as an editor at publications such as U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Motor1.com, and MotorTrend.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com