- Sporty driving experience
- Premium materials
- Wide-opening rear doors
- We wish third-row access was easier
- Not enough cargo space
- Firm ride
Make no mistake, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is not for everyone. You don't like Mazda's point of view? Fine, but at least it has one. In a market with more than a dozen three-row SUVs, the 2024 CX-90 cuts through the chaos and stands proud with clear ambitions. This family SUV caters to those who enjoy driving and won't balk at this Turbo S Premium Plus trim's nearly $62,000 as-tested price. Wait, $62,000 for a Mazda three-row SUV?
Oh CX-90, That's So Mazda of You
Every 2024 Mazda CX-90 down to the roughly $41,000 base trim boasts something you can't get at any price from most of the competition: a deliciously premium rear-drive stance. Although every CX-90 has all-wheel drive, the new Mazda is based on a rear-drive platform that lends its profile view a look that's more Mercedes than Honda.
Seriously, consider how close the Honda Pilot's front wheels are to the doors. With the Mazda, those front wheels are pushed dramatically forward, and a long side vent draws attention to it. Not everyone will care about this, but that again speaks to Mazda's position as wanting to be seen as more premium and exclusive than its mainstream rivals.
Then there's the engine.
Spend more than 50 grand to unlock what we'll call Level 2 CX-90. A plug-in hybrid is also available, but this one ranks as the most powerful Mazda production engine ever made. The 3.3-liter turbocharged inline-six is good for 340 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, impressive numbers in a segment where horsepower ratings usually fall short of 300. Mazda recommends premium fuel with this engine, so if you want to save a few dollars a year on gas, consider lower trims that carry a 280-hp version of the same engine sipping regular fuel.
Even with 340 hp, our loaded CX-90 fights 4,883 pounds of luxury on its way to 60 mph. The Mazda's 0-60 time is 6.5 seconds, which is, well, fine. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S feels plenty quick in the real world, with the engine booming whenever you step on the throttle. Still, we expected quicker results when considering the competition. The Mazda is only 0.4 second quicker than the less powerful 2023 Honda Pilot and 2023 Hyundai Palisade (each at 6.9 seconds), and it also beats the 2023 Subaru Ascent, an SUV that defies its 7.1-second time by feeling just as quick around town as the Mazda. All three of those SUVs make do with less power because they're at least 250 pounds lighter.
There's more to driving than just stabbing an accelerator pedal, though, and that's where the Mazda comes alive.
Not a Refrigerator
You can really tell Mazda went to great lengths to make this three-row SUV act more akin to a sports car than a refrigerator. You feel it from the moment you step on the 2024 CX-90's sensitive brake pedal to the first turn of the SUV's heavily weighted steering wheel. You might even find yourself actually having fun on a winding road, forgetting for a blissful moment all the tasks on your to-do list.
This three-row SUV forces owners to be honest about their priorities. Some will be turned off by the heavier-than-average steering—but not CX-5 or CX-50 drivers trading up.
We also noticed a bit of engine whine during downshifts around town, but it's so faint that you may not notice it beneath whatever you're playing on the sound system. Also at low speeds, a couple editors occasionally felt some unrefined transmission behavior.
On the track, the test crew appreciated the Mazda's strong turn-in and liked the way the brakes felt as well as how they withstood testing without fade or odor.
Where the new Mazda SUV falls below our perhaps too-lofty expectations is with its performance numbers. Braking from 60 to 0 mph takes 120 feet, a respectable distance that's merely comparable with most of the competition and trails the Ford Explorer ST-Line's impressively short 113 feet.
Figure-eight performance also fails to reflect the CX-90's sportiness on the street, thanks primarily to a stability control system that could not be completely defeated while testing on the MotorTrend test course we refer to as a racetrack in a bottle. We weren't sure we ever had a completely representative lap of what this SUV could do. The CX-90's figure-eight time of 27.2 seconds at 0.62 g (average) is nearly identical to the performance of several three-row SUVs that feel vastly less sporty. Despite that, and compared to other rivals in the real world, the CX-90 still walks and talks the way you expect a Mazda to.
Wish It Were More Refrigerator-Like
Sometimes, though, what you really need is a great appliance—and the 2024 Mazda CX-90 simply isn't one. We hoped Mazda would improve practicality against the competition as it transitioned from CX-9 to CX-90, but that isn't the case.
Third-row access isn't as easy as in the segment's best, though the wide-opening rear doors are a real plus. Once you're in the third row, the relatively high floor limits comfort for adults. Kids back there might want a better view of the outside world, and the third-row side windows aren't especially big.
Clearly, the CX-90 is as much about the driver as it is schlepping kids and their gear.
Keep that in mind, because the 2024 Mazda CX-90 has one of the segment's smallest cargo areas with the second or third rows folded. Even the entry Toyota Highlander, a three-row SUV small enough that Toyota saw fit to introduce a larger model, has more space despite being about half a foot shorter.
Still, which SUV would you rather be seen in?
Maybe the sacrifices are worth it. The fabric trim on the dash is on trend and, yes, we'll use the "p word" again: It looks and feels premium. Heating and ventilation for the second-row seats is a cool detail, and the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster plus 12.3-inch infotainment screen that tilts toward the driver adds to the atmosphere.
When you're talking about $62,000 for a mainstream-branded three-row SUV, though, you get to nitpick. One of the biggest omissions—a feature found on the Hyundai Palisade that's $8,500 cheaper when loaded—is a power-folding and reclining third row seat.
One for the Home Team
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 in completely loaded Turbo S Premium Plus form is the most Mazda-fied three-row SUV you could hope to experience. It pegs the meter—we're talking about one of the sportiest mainstream-branded three-row SUVs on sale today, one that makes concessions to everyday practicality for driving enjoyment and an upscale design.
We believe the best SUVs can achieve a bit of both, but that's not the new Mazda CX-90. Want practicality for everyone? Get a Pilot or Palisade. Interested in a more premium ride with a nod to sportiness? For those who can look beyond the price, your CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus has arrived.Looks good! More details?
|2024 Mazda CX-90 AWD Specifications|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$61,920|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 6-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.3L Turbo direct-injected DOHC 24-valve I-6 plus electric motor|
|POWER (SAE NET)||340 hp @ 5,000 rpm (gas), 17 hp (elec); 340 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm (gas), 113 lb-ft (elec); 369 lb-ft (comb)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,883 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||200.8 x 78.5 x 68.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 96.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/28/25 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||490 miles|
|ON SALE||Spring 2023|