This swoopy, setback body, with its steeply raked windshield, sloping profile, and 21-inch wheels, will soon enter the automotive market as Mazda’s largest vehicle and new flagship. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 replaces the Mazda CX-9 and will ride on a new platform. It moves from the muscle of one of two engine options, both hybrid and both surpassing 300 peak horsepower.
What Makes the Mazda CX-90 Go?
Many Mazdas from the past made good use of a 2.5L inline-four-cylinder engine with both naturally aspirated and turbocharged induction systems. That trend continues here, but with a twist. Or shall I say an additional twist? It comes in the form of an electric motor and 17.8kWh battery pack to supply the energy.
Mazda stayed mum on much of the details, but we know from the Program Manager, Mitsuru Wakiie, that it’s naturally aspirated and runs on the more efficient Atkinson engine cycle. And that total system output peaks at 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, 73 and 49 more than the CX-9, respectively. They named it e-Skyactiv PHEV.
That’s the base engine, in terms of power, anyway. Mazda also developed a turbocharged 3.3L inline-six engine, which brings as much as 340 horsepower to the party and delivers the same 369 pound-feet. Healthy!
It’s a hybrid too. A mild hybrid that helps the inline-six along at low speeds. This motor nestles between the crankcase and transmission and does not contribute to peak output. Rather it supplies the needed nudges at really low engine speeds, like when the CX-90 starts from a standstill. This one is named e-Skyactiv G.
Inline-six engines inherently run smoothly and are favored by many a car nerd. But Wakiie also states it provides weight savings compared to a similar-sized V-6 and helps with the packaging on the CX-90 too. More on that in a moment.
Bigger, Yet More Efficient
Either engine channels its power through a new eight-speed automatic transmission, two more speeds than the outgoing CX-9’s gearbox. It also goes without a torque converter, instead using a wet clutch pack.
That makes this transmission much more efficient. Torque converters require engines to churn through oil baths to smoothly get a car moving before a clutch engages, and off you go. I can only speculate at the moment, but it seems as though Mazda effectively replaced that operation with electric motors.
Since electric motors help either engine, Mazda is confident we’ll see improved fuel economy from the CX-9’s 20 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, and 23 combined, despite the CX-90’s larger footprint and probably heavier frame.
Given the battery pack’s size — the plug-in hybrid 2.5L — will likely run at least 30 miles on electricity alone. So its economy numbers will shatter that of the CX-9. But, again, I merely speculate at the moment.
Commendable Chassis, 3-Row Seating
One more thing about the engines. Mazda mounted them longitudinally in the CX-90. That brings two advantages. First, it’s better for weight distribution — the front of the CX-90 stays relatively light. Second, combining that trait with skinnier inline engines left plenty of room for a double-wishbone suspension configuration up front.
Yes! Enthusiasts prefer that suspension geometry because it tends to make for the best handling, response, and feel. All good things. On paper, at least, Mazda looks to be continuing its tradition of providing engaging drives in all of its products. Even the biggest ones.
Mazda’s latest creation will offer three rows of seating. Depending on the trim, it will seat between six and eight people. The top trim splits passengers up by twos in all three rows, with the first two rows getting both heated and ventilated seats to play with. The second row enjoys its own climate control zone as well, bringing the total to three.
Carbon Reduction in Less Obvious Ways
The CX-90 also indicates Mazda’s approach to reducing its carbon footprint. Frankly speaking, the relatively small Japanese brand fell behind its competition here. But new technologies like hybrid everything and torque converter-free transmissions (that also have more gear ratios to play with) show a course correction.
Mazda found ways to reduce carbon emissions in less visible ways. Ironically with the most visible part of a car — its paint. Especially a brand-new color for the CX-90: Artisan Red.
“The Artisan Red color, it’s the latest expression in a quite sophisticated paint technology that we have,” said Jeff Guyton, President and CEO of Mazda North American Operations.
“A lot of the C02 that’s released in car manufacturing is by virtue of the paint booth. You paint the primer coat, then you dry it. And drying uses energy. Put the color coat on, dry it. Put the clear coat on, dry it. Mazda has a unique technology, which we call wet on wet on wet. We don’t dry the car between steps and bypass all of that required energy use. We only dry it at the end.”
2024 Mazda CX-90: Still More to Learn
Expect to see the 2024 Mazda CX-90 hitting dealerships later this year. With luck, we’ll get a chance to learn more about it then. Like how much it costs, exactly how much bigger it is than the CX-9, and what it is like to drive sometime soon.
The CX-90 is pretty. But it’s also pretty darn big. How Mazda will overcome the heft to still deliver driving fun is a question I can hardly wait to answer.