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2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Update: 5 thoughts

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Long-Term Update: 5 thoughts


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After more than a month in our long-term 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV, I have many thoughts, some of them conflicting. I feel like this attractive three-row crossover is destined to be one of our more complicated long-termers. Here’s what I’m thinking:

I like the steering, but …

This isn’t what I want in a large, three-row crossover. The steering is heavy, responsive and a bit of work. That’s a good thing. It feels like a Mazda, which is something the company prides itself on and justifiably considers a selling point. It adds a sporty vibe to the CX-90 that no other three-row SUV possesses. But, maneuvering tight parking lots at shopping centers, backing out of spaces, sipping a coffee — they’re all a bit dicier than in more conventionally tuned crossovers like the Kia Telluride or Honda Pilot. I guess it comes down to: Does Mazda hope to gain new customers with the CX-90 or sell it to Mazda enthusiasts who need a crossover? It feels more like the latter.

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The powertrain is not great, Bob

We’ll get the bad out of the way early: I don’t enjoy this powertrain. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four labors. The eight-speed automatic seems to always be hunting for gears. It holds gears too long and will upshift clunkily. The occupants can feel a light thunk as the powertrain tries to sort it all out when the transmission settles on a gear. It also often tries to start the drive experience in EV mode, which feels plodding, before the gas engine jarringly interjects. Dropping things into sport mode can help, as it feels like the transmission calibration is more aggressive and linear. My solution is simple — get the straight six — which is a gem of an engine. 

I charged it once for several hours and got 21 miles of range, though in the allotted time I should have topped off at 26 miles. I averaged 22.51 miles per gallon during my month-plus stint in the CX-90, spending $193.54 to drive 898 miles on premium fuel, which Mazda recommends.