2024 Mazda CX-90 Review: Don’t Let the Badge Fool You, This Is a Seriously Luxurious SUV

Mazda's years-long upmarket ambition shines through with this all-new model

Classy, elegant styling Daunting, confusing trim selection
Beautiful interior design Missing a few (but not many) hallmark “luxury” features
Smooth, potent six-cylinder engine Still has less interior space than its rivals
Still the best-handling SUV in its class
Solid fuel economy

2024 Mazda CX-90 Overview: Forget what you think you know

It’s time for a change.

The CX-9 served nearly two decades as Mazda’s flagship three-row SUV, but the second-generation model was long in the tooth before the automaker officially discontinued it this year. Now, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 has launched as an all-new successor model, complete with a new rear-wheel drive-based platform, stylish design, new powertrain options and a thoroughly luxurious cabin. Over the past few years, the company’s carried an ambition to move upmarket and challenge well-known luxury brands with a classier vision than anything that’s come before. The CX-90 is a culmination of that vision, as well as the starting point for a new generation of so-called “large architecture” models.

That architecture brings in a brand-new 3.3-liter turbocharged engine in two states of tune, with either 280 or 340 horsepower. Notably, the more potent version available in the higher spec CX-90 models is the most powerful engine Mazda’s integrated into a production vehicle. Along with this three-row SUV, a two-row version called the CX-70 — ostensibly a successor to the old CX-7 — will go on sale sometime in the next several months, if you don’t need to seat up to eight people.

The 2024 Mazda CX-90 brings more and better luxury features to the mix than anything the brand’s offered before, but you’ll have to pay a hefty price tag if you want all the bells and whistles for your family hauler. Pricing for this new model actually starts off much more attractively at $40,970 for the base 3.3 Turbo Select. Quick note: All models with just “Turbo” in the name have the lower-tuned, 280-horsepower version of the turbo inline-six engine.

Move up to the 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus (“S” signifying 340 horsepower) like the model we’re testing here, and you’ll have to shell out a whopping $61,920.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

Sure, that is a heap of money for a Mazda, I know.

Before you dismiss Mazda’s boldness for charging above $60,000 for one of their cars, I’d argue that price tag isn’t as ridiculous as you might think at first glance. Unlike past models, you really need to group the new CX-90 with the current crop of luxury three-row family haulers, because it deserves the “luxury” designation.

Pitch this against a comparably equipped BMW X7 xDrive40i for $84,700, a mid-range Audi Q7 55 Premium Plus for $72,940 or a Mercedes-Benz GLE 450 4Matic in Pinnacle trim for $84,225, and the CX-90 is a bargain by comparison. If you’re looking for a more direct luxury competitor on price, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 competes in the same realm as the Acura MDX or Lexus RX, bringing similar performance and features in the price bracket reaching into the low-$60,000s.

However, Mazda obviously isn’t just competing against the upper echelon. The Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy, for example, offers a raft of desirable features for about $10,000 less than the fully-kitted CX-90. Kia’s Telluride SX Prestige is a similar story (assuming you can get one at MSRP). The Ford Explorer offers an ST performance model, a ruggedized Timberline and a high-end Platinum and King Ranch, all for under a $60,000 MSRP. So, the CX-90 still needs to make a strong case as a classy family hauler, as it still ostensibly competes against its mainstream rivals.

If you are shopping for a three-row SUV and a gas-swilling six-cylinder doesn’t appeal — at 25 mpg combined, it’s actually not terrible and it’s better than the old CX-9 — there is a plug-in hybrid version. The CX-90 PHEV uses the familiar 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G engine with an electric motor, but its bigger 17.8-kWh battery pack allows you to drive about 26 miles on electricity alone (Kase managed 26.7 miles when we tested the PHEV earlier this year).

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

The Mazda CX-90 still shines as the driver’s family hauler

It may not be able to drive great distances on electricity alone, but the gas version of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 does take advantage of a 48-volt mild hybrid system. As I said earlier, how much power that engine provides depends on whether you choose the standard Turbo trims (280 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque) or the Turbo S. Opting for the S bumps the output up to 340 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, so Mazda does incentivize you to spend more cash if you want the most powerful version.

As for whether you should take the bait…well, the answer’s a bit of a mixed bag. With a 0-60 time in the low-6-second range, it’s on-paper punch looks pretty decent. In real-world driving, I found there’s a touch of lag as you set off, before the more potent CX-90 really gets into its stride at about 3,000 RPM. You could blame some of the momentary hesitation on the multi-plate wet clutch system that replaces your standard torque converter in most other automatic transmissions — a decision that allows the electric motor to kick the engine off at speed to improve fuel economy. The straight-six offers a nice surge of power, but you’re also paying $7,000 more for the extra 60 horsepower and 37 lb-ft of torque.

Honestly, I think you’d be happy in the long run saving the money and going for the 3.3 Turbo (non-S) model. It won’t be significantly slower than the S — and at the end of the day, we’re talking about a three-row family machine here, not a sports car — while you also get slightly better city fuel economy, per EPA ratings.

On the fuel economy subject, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 actually manages strong results for a three-row SUV. Most of the segment manages in the 20-22 combined mpg range, but this model actually manages 24 city / 28 highway / 25 combined mpg, making it one of the most efficient gas-powered options out there. The 2.4-liter turbocharged Toyota Highlander is the only rival that comes close, at 24 combined mpg. In a week of mixed driving, I managed between 24 mpg when I hammered it to as high as 28 mpg on a 65-75 mph highway cruise.

Another positive note: When properly equipped, the six-cylinder CX-90 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

Ride comfort and handling are both strong plus points, but it may take a change in your approach

Much like we laud Volvo for their pathological devotion to safety, the new CX-90 wouldn’t truly be a Mazda without solid driving prowess. It certainly doesn’t disappoint, with a top-notch all-wheel drive system and a chassis setup that keeps body roll remarkably well-controlled for a car its size.

Still, the old CX-9 also offered a great driving experience for the family-oriented folks out there, and this doesn’t feel like it’s on a completely different level. The CX-90’s ride is firm, but really well balanced between comfort and handling.

It just feels nice, and that’s more or less the theme you need to take into account here. Even when you’re on it in Sport mode, the CX-90 responds better to smooth steering and throttle inputs, rather than tossing it around like you might in a MX-5 Miata (or even a CX-5). It aims to be a luxurious experience and it’s still a large car, so you need to recalibrate your mind a bit if you’re coming at the CX-90 with your mind set on Mazda’s RX-7-era ethos.

On the subject of drive modes, the CX-90 also has specific options for towing and off-roading. Tommy checked out how the car performs in TFL’s slip test and at Tumbleweed Ranch — that video’s posted below.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

The Mazda CX-90 packs elegant interior styling, plenty of features

For the past few years, Mazda has punched well above its weight with its interiors — and the CX-90 takes things to a whole new level. This new model can seat up to eight passengers, though if you spring for the higher trims you’ll lose the second-row bench in favor of captain’s chairs, knocking the total seating capacity down to seven or even six, in either a 2-2-3 for the Turbo models or 2-2-2 configuration for the Turbo S Premium and Premium Plus.

No matter which model you shop, though, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 gets a handsomely styled interior complete with at least a 10.3-inch infotainment screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. The entry-level Select still gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, full LED lighting and three-zone automatic climate control, but you will need to step up through the price band to get the full range of luxurious features.

In my week-long test, Mazda (naturally) sent the fully loaded 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus, which has nearly everything under the sun apart from massaging seats, which is a hallmark of more expensive SUVs. At nearly $62,000, though, you get Nappa leather seats, stitched fabric dashboard upholstery and light wood trim that outclasses virtually every mainstream SUV and anything luxury brands offer at this price point, bar none.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

The CX-90 goes all digital — at least on higher trims.

To get the swankiest interior features as well as the nicest cabin appointments, you will have to move up to the Premium Plus model, either with the standard output Turbo or the higher-output Turbo S. That gets you the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as well as the larger 12.3-inch infotainment display.

At its core, you’re still looking at the same Mazda Connect operating system in service across the rest of Mazda’s lineup. This is technically a touchscreen, though how it’s positioned and Mazda’s decision to lock you out while driving means you’ll need to use the command wheel on the center console.

As a Mazda owner, I can attest to that solution actually growing on you over time. Working within Mazda’s own menus on the move can feel a bit clunky if you’re trying to switch radio stations or make navigation inputs, but it’s relatively straightforward for working Apple CarPlay and changing lower-level settings.

Weirdly, Mazda does obscure some desirable features away from the driver, so you will have to dive through menus to unlock some things other cars provide far more easily…like the manual shift mode, for example. Mazda also uses a clever setup to dial in your ideal driving position, which I’ll cover in greater detail below.

This new model is physically larger, but how does that translate to usable space?

It’s not just about the driver here, though, since seating space and cargo capacity are the main reasons to buy a three-row SUV at all. To that end, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 grows by 2.2 inches over the old CX-9, to 201.6 inches. Of that extra length, 1.4 inches of it goes toward added legroom, split between the first and third rows. The second-row legroom remains the same as the CX-9, at 39.4 inches.

So, on paper the CX-90 is a bit roomier than the car it replaces. That said, it’s still not as cavernous as some rivals on passenger space or cargo volume. The Kia Telluride offers up to 87 cubic feet of space with the rear two rows folded, while the CX-90 tops out at 75.2 cubic feet. It’s a similar story with all the seats in place.

While the Telluride still offers 21 cubic feet, the CX-90 only offers up to 15.9 cubic feet, depending on your seating configuration. If you need the maximum amount of interior volume, Mazda’s latest offering is still below average against the competition. It’s also worth noting that neither the second nor the third row get power-folding seats, even in this top-end Premium Plus version.

Um…where’s the manual shift control?

Features you probably won’t notice at first

Mazda’s latest mantra is “Feel Alive”, which is their latest take on building cars for people who thoroughly enjoy driving. That’s why I was a bit miffed when I first got in the CX-90 and noticed its gear selector. Notice anything missing from the picture above? You just get P-R-N-D, and that’s it.

You get paddle shifters on every single model, but there’s no manual mode? What gives? By default, the transmission will switch back into fully automatic mode even when you’re using the paddles.

Well, there is a setting to enable permanent (sort of) shift control in the infotainment system. You have to go to Settings, then Vehicle Settings to change the shift logic, but then you can actually have some control over the gears. That’s important to folks like me who want the most from their driving experience — yes, even in a three-row family rig…don’t judge me — so why not integrate this feature into the shifter itself?

If that’s not annoying enough, it also resets when you power cycle the car. Then, you have to re-enable this setting every time you drive the car. Why is this better than flicking the shifter an inch to the side, Mazda?

Things get better when you personalize your driving profile, though

Apart from the annoying shift logic setting, one of the CX-90’s cooler features also lies within the settings menu. Similarly to the European CX-60, you can actually set up the ideal driving position as part of the driver personalization system available on the Turbo S Premium and Premium Plus.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus

As part of your driver profile, the system asks you to input your height, after which it will automatically tilt and telescope the steering wheel and adjust the seat to give you the most comfortable driving position. It also ties in how you adjust the side mirrors and uses facial recognition to recognize you and load your profile when you get in the car.

These aren’t normally features we cover in great detail, but small attention to detail touches like these can put the 2024 Mazda CX-90 in that luxury category, and possibly win over skeptics of the relatively high price tag, at least for a higher-end model.

2024 Mazda CX-90 Verdict: Not just a new car, but a new identity for Mazda’s brand

Make no mistake, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is a full-on luxury SUV. It offers every single feature the automaker can muster, making it a flagship to be proud of. Like pretty much any car you’re shopping for, it’s not perfect: There are a few luxury features this car lacks and it’s not as spacious as other options in the segment.

Nevertheless, the CX-90 carries on the old CX-9’s legacy as one of the best cars to drive among three-row SUVs. That turbo-six offers a great balance of power and relative smoothness against the old four-pot, and it’s fuel efficient to boot. With striking styling inside and out, a quiet cabin and a comfortable ride, I’d still choose a Mazda CX-90 over the rivals. If you’re in the market, it’s definitely worth your time and consideration.

Should you spring $62,000 for one, though? As nice as the higher end features are…there are a few less expensive ways to go. The less powerful $54,325 Turbo Premium Plus gets you most of the way to the high-end on features — you just don’t get quite as much oomph.

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, I’d recommend the Turbo Preferred Plus, at $47,275. Not only is it a whopping $14,625 less expensive, but you still get the 5,000-pound towing capacity, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging, heated leather seats, a power sunroof and a head-up display.

Mazda’s i-ActivSense package comes as standard equipment across the range. That includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, vehicle exit warning and radar cruise control. You still have to step up the higher trims (Premium and Premium Plus) for more advanced features, including the 360-degree monitor.

While I didn’t cover the CX-90 PHEV much in this review, we are testing that version soon. Stay tuned!

What about warranty coverage?

One area where Mazda does fall down on the whole “luxury” experience is in its maintenance and warranty coverage. The 2024 CX-90 gets no complimentary maintenance, unlike many luxury rivals and even mainstream ones, including the Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Palisade.

Mazda’s warranty program isn’t special, either: Just the industry standard. Every CX-90 gets 3 years or 36,000 miles on its limited warranty for bumper-to-bumper coverage, and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.