Mazda's first product using its new rear-drive-biased platform and range of plug-in hybrid and inline-six engines is the CX-60 SUV. But it's not coming to America. For us, the automaker is leading with the three-row 2024 Mazda CX-90. And compared with the CX-9 that it effectively replaces, the new Mazda CX-90 is bigger, more powerful, more efficient and more luxurious.
Although it's longer and wider than the two-row CX-60, the CX-90 looks very similar, at least from the A-pillars forward. The nose is long, with the front wheels pushed far ahead of the cowl. This of course is to make room for the longitudinally mounted engines. The front is a bit blunt, again, possibly as a result of adapting Mazda's design language to a much different front-end layout. From the A-pillars back, it's very clear that there's more length, but it balances out the nose nicely. The side window treatment is different from its smaller sibling, too, with the window sill staying straight instead of sweeping up at the back. This also keeps the rear pillars thinner and probably helps with rear visibility. And like all other current Mazdas, the surfaces are smooth and taut, and depending on the trim level, the body cladding can be black plastic or color-matched. There is plenty of chrome garnish, too, which the CX-90's designer says intended to highlight "it's elegant styling." We say it makes it a tad busy, especially compared to the CX-50 and Mazda's other most recent designs.
The dashboard and infotainment designs are nearly identical to those in the smaller CX-60, and certainly build off the CX-50's design, with a low, wide and reductive design. A mid-level trim we saw at the CX-90's reveal in Malibu, Calif., had a similar materials treatment as the range-topping CX-50, with black pleather on the dash and doors accented with orange stitching. By contrast, the range-topping CX-90 pictured above features classy and distinctive gray fabric on the dash and doors accented by unique hanging stitching inspired by traditional Japanese weaving and hand book-binding. The instruments are all digital and a new 12.3-inch display runs Mazda's latest tech interface, also found in the CX-50, that utilizes a console-mounted controller for all functions except Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Those alone open the door for the display to function as a touchscreen. In checking out the SUV in-person, we also discovered the cabin to be fairly roomy, and importantly for a three-row vehicle, the rear-most seats are more accommodating than the outgoing CX-9 with decent legroom and far more headroom. It would likely be mid-pack when compared to mainstream three-row crossovers, and above average for luxury-branded ones.
But of course, the parts under the skin are the biggest news. There are two powertrains available, a plug-in hybrid that pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, and a turbocharged 3.3-liter six-cylinder with a much lower-power 48-volt mild-hybrid assist motor. The PHEV four-cylinder makes 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, whereas the six-cylinder makes 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.
Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that uses a clutch pack instead of a torque converter. We'll know more when we get to drive the CX-90 in March, but for now at least, the transmission was developed in-house according to Australia's Drive. All-wheel drive is standard, though it is biased for rear-wheel-drive. How much? Again, we'll know more in a few months.
Mazda didn't provide specific fuel economy numbers (there is a theme developing), but it did reveal that the six-cylinder will return better than the current CX-9's 23 mpg combined, despite the CX-9 having a four-cylinder and making just 250 horsepower. And the plug-in hybrid should do even better. It has a 17.8-kWh battery pack, just like in the Mazda MX-30 R-EV. We expect somewhere between 20 and 40 miles of range, based on what other SUVs of similar size and battery capacity can manage.
Besides improved efficiency, the CX-90 gets better towing capacity. And this time, Mazda did reveal by how much. The CX-90 can pull up to 5,000 pounds. That's a 1,500 pound improvement over the CX-9, and puts the CX-90 on parity with other three-row SUVs.
Additionally, Mazda has introduced new suspension with the new powertrain layout. It's independent all around with double wishbones at the front and a multilink design at the rear. To further aid the handling, Mazda is implementing its "Kinematic Posture Control," like it uses on the current Miata. We've covered it in more detail when testing a so-equipped Miata, but basically, it applies a touch of targeted braking to help keep the body roll in check.
The CX-90 will go on sale in the U.S. this spring. Pricing hasn't been announced, but we would expect it to be similar to, and possibly more, than the CX-9. For reference, the CX-9 starts at right around $40,000.
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