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2024 Mazda CX-90 Review: Hybrid, AWD, and a Blast to Drive

This is the clear winner for a driving enthusiast in need of a reasonably priced three-row SUV or folks who wish to plug in at night. But are there enough of you out there? Pure consumers may need more space.

2024 Mazda CX-90(Photo/Robin Warner)
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In the CX-90, Mazda clearly developed an engaging-to-drive crossover SUV from the ground up. From the platform to the engine layout to the suspension geometry, all of it points sharply in the same direction. As a to-the-marrow driving enthusiast, I love it. I also love that you can enjoy the drive without burning a drop of gasoline — for the first 26 miles of your drive, anyway.

The Japanese brand’s largest and flagship model sold in the U.S. takes a distinct path towards its mainstream competitors. It offers many strengths, including three engine options and improved fuel economy compared to its outgoing predecessor, the CX-9. But less room inside and a higher price tag than many. 

Mazda’s invitation to fly to San Francisco and head north toward Napa in the new CX-90 to thoroughly feel it out was easy to accept.

In short: When you have the same basic chassis layout as a BMW M5, the potential for driving enjoyment is quite high. And Mazda tuned the CX-90 very well. That’s true regardless of which powertrain you choose. But families that wish to save a few bucks and maximize space might look elsewhere.

2024 Mazda CX-90


  • Dimensions 200.8" L, 78.5" W, 68.2" H; 122.8" Wheelbase
  • Cargo (seats up/down) 16 cu. ft. / 75 cu. ft.
  • 3.3 Turbo HP/Torque 280/332
  • 3.3 Turbo S HP/Torque 340/369
  • PHEV HP/Torque 323/369
  • Transmission/Driven wheels 8-speed auto, AWD
  • MPG Turbo 24/28/25; Turbo S 23/28/25 City/Highway/Combined
  • PHEV MPG 56/25 (MPGE)


  • Best handling mid-size SUV for its price, by far
  • Nice and informative graphics on the instrument cluster when using the driving assist
  • Well-integrated mild-hybrid systems with I-6, very smooth
  • Very comfortable first and second rows


  • Awkward shifter inside
  • Falls behind competitors in available cargo room with seats folded
  • Base price starts in the $40,000s

Mazda CX-90 Review

At the end of January, we first laid eyes on Mazda’s latest creation — the 2024 CX-90, with swept back, clean lines and a larger footprint than the vehicle it replaces, the CX-9. Stretching 200.8 inches from nose to tail, the CX-90 is 1.4 inches longer than the CX-9. It’s also a smidge taller and wider. But the wheelbase outreaches the CX-9 by 7.5 inches, now spanning 122.8 inches, longer than the latest Toyota Sequoia, let alone competition like the Honda Pilot.

The expansion between the two axles stems from Mazda’s new-for-North America large-vehicle platform, which allowed engineers to push the front wheels right to the corners and elongate the softly arching hood, adding to its elegant silhouette.

CX-90: Under the Hood

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV; (photo/Robin Warner)

Another first lies under the hood. Mazda’s very first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, is one of three choices. It consists of a 2.5L inline-four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor that combines to deliver 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor sources energy from a 17.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Despite weighing 5,243 pounds, that’s enough juice to travel 26 miles on electricity alone. 

And you choose when and how to spend those 26 miles. In the PHEV, you can drive it as an EV, a hybrid, or even ask the engine to charge the battery back up for you as you drive. Standing alone in the mainstream crossover segment, the PHEV manages 56 combined MPGe if you start with a full battery charge and 25 combined MPG once it’s depleted. Nice! 

Every engine offered in the Mazda CX-90 is electrified. The other choice is a turbocharged 3.3L inline-six engine with a 48V (technically 44.4V) electric motor to help at low engine speeds, making this option a mild hybrid. 

Mazda built a great engine. The inline-six-cylinder is a naturally balanced, smooth operating layout. German makes like Mercedes-Benz and BMW use it quite often for that reason. Moreover, mounting a turbocharger nets high potential for stout power. On the other hand, turbochargers tend to cause a bit of lag, but not here, thanks to an electric motor adding 113 pound-feet of torque at low rpm.

3.3L Engine: Split Duty

2024 Mazda CX-90
3.3 Turbo S under the hood of the 2024 Mazda CX-90; (photo/Robin Warner)

In the case of the CX-90, Mazda took the inline-six in two different directions. With the same hardware, different engine tunes give two distinct power figures. Mazda calls the base engine 3.3 Turbo, logically enough. Tuned to run on regular fuel, it produces 280 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. 

A second tune of the 3.3L maximizes the potential of premium fuel and turns up the turbo boost a bit. Called 3.3 Turbo S, it delivers 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque at the same engine speeds. Making it the most powerful production engine Mazda has built and a potent piece of motivation for this flagship crossover utility.

Before power gets to all four wheels, all three engines mount to an also-new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces an energy-sapping torque converter for a wet-clutch setup. Forgoing the smoothness of a torque converter works here because the electric motors help get the CX-90 moving. As a driver, I felt nothing different. That’s a clever way to improve fuel economy figures. 

And fuel economy figures impress here. You get 24 mpg in the city with the 3.3 Turbo engine and 23 mpg in the city with the 3.3 Turbo S. Both manage 28 mpg on the highway and 25 combined. That beats the outgoing CX-9’s 20/26/23 mpg (city/highway/combined) despite CX-90’s bigger size and heavier weight. That also outperforms the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot. 

2024 CX-90: Anyway You Want It … for a Price

2024 Mazda CX-90
(Photo/Robin Warner)

Across the two different powertrains and three power outputs, Mazda created 11 different variants of the CX-90. The base 3.3 Turbo engine offers five trim levels: Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium, and Premium Plus. The Select starts at $40,970 and offers two three-seat benches to seat eight. Standard equipment includes a 10.25-inch center console touchscreen, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, three-zone climate control, and a plethora of cupholders and USB ports.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus dash; (photo/Robin Warner)

Both the price and equipment offered quickly rise from there. By the time you get to the 3.3 Turbo Premium Plus, $54,325 needs to leave your bank account. For that price, you get a 12.25-inch center console touchscreen with wireless smartphone connectivity, a wireless charging pad, a head-up display, heated and ventilated seats up front, and heated second-row captain’s chairs.

Opting for the PHEV powertrain costs at least $48,820, with three trims available, topping out at $58,325.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus third row; (photo/Robin Warner)

If you want maximum power, the 3.3 Turbo S starts at $53,125 and climbs all the way to $61,325 for the top-of-the-line, Premium Plus trim level. Luxuries inside that trim include all those above, plus heated and ventilated seats for both the first and second row and a wider two-passenger bench for the third row. Not to mention Nappa leather upholstery and a genuinely premium crossover feel inside. Considering its multi-thousand-dollar premium over its mainstream competitors, it had better!

Mazda CX-90: Space Inside

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
(Photo/Robin Warner)

The larger footprint also merits more space inside, but not by a huge margin. Where the CX-9 offered 135 cubic feet of space for passengers, the CX-90 expands to 142 cubic feet. Roomy by many measures, but smaller than both the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot, the latter by 16 cubic feet.

And cargo space suffers more. With the second and third rows folded, the CX-90 offers a reasonable 75 cubic feet of space. But the Nissan Pathfinder tops 80 cubic feet, and the Honda Pilot swallows over 110 cubic feet.

That’s a disadvantage of the platform layout Mazda used: a longitudinally mounted engine with a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. It’s simply not as space efficient as mounting the engine transversely and relying more heavily on the front axle. But there’s also an extremely important advantage.

Time for a Drive: 2024 Mazda CX-90

2024 Mazda CX-90
2024 Mazda CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus second row seating; (photo/Robin Warner)

Mazda offered up the Premium Plus versions of both its PHEV and 3.3 Turbo S powertrains for me to test. First, while you get less space than Honda and Nissan, you don’t feel it. Much of the space lost is behind the third row. And the Mazda is plenty wide to provide good amounts of shoulder and hip room. 

But you definitely do feel the road. Mazda clearly built this chassis with the driver in mind from the ground up. Steering feel approaches Porsche levels here, as does a sense of chassis behavior coming through your backside.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV driver’s perspective; (photo/Robin Warner)

Even with monsoon-like conditions in Northern California, the CX-90 went through several miles of curvy wine country roads in stride. At the first turn of the wheel, the CX-90 bends into a corner directly and quickly takes a set with minimal body roll and understeer. The double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension work well together to balance the chassis.

Thanks to the inherently rear-wheel-drive setup, I felt comfortable playing with the throttle to balance the car as I approached any given apex. And equally comfortable to heavily apply throttle at every corner exit. The CX-90 settles on its hind legs and bolts off like a sport sedan. Mazda’s largest crossover even handles quick left-to-right transitions with grace. Good fun.

And that’s true of both the PHEV and 3.3 Turbo S. Both versions took to corners with similar, enjoyable behavior.

Comfortable Cruiser

2024 Mazda CX-90
(Photo/Robin Warner)

Of course, life fills a lot of space between apexes to clip and switchbacks to conquer. When it’s time to run errands or commute to work, the CX-90 cruises comfortably. The suspension is firm but not at all harsh. Riding over bumps, heaves, and undulations on the road trouble-free and surefooted. 

Mazda also isolated the cabin nicely from outside distractions. I also came away quite impressed with the Honda Pilot in this regard. And I think the Mazda matches, or even beats it slightly in this category. Both road and wind noise stay to a minimum, when cruising on the interstate, both the PHEV and 3.3 Turbo S engines keep quiet too, making it easy to enjoy your company or your media of choice in peace. 

By the way, getting up to interstate speeds is easy too. And, again, this is true for both the PHEV and 3.3 Turbo S powerplants. Afterall, they match each other at 369 pound-feet of torque. Both get low-end help from an electric motor, and peak horsepower only differs by 17.

All-wheel drive traction meant even on California’s wet roads, the CX-90 experienced zero wheel slip as you bury the throttle. It just takes off with good initial grunt and a smooth surge toward interstate speeds. You feel constant pull until you lift off the throttle. The only significant difference comes from the tones you hear emitted from the exhaust pipe.

Granted, the 3.3 Turbo S weighs less and wins on power, so it walks away from the PHEV. But seat of the pants feel is remarkably similar considering how remarkably different these powertrains are.

2024 Mazda CX-90
(Photo/Robin Warner)

2024 Mazda CX-90 Summary

Mazda built a true driver’s crossover in the CX-90. One that proves size doesn’t need to limit fun. Here you have a three-row, two-and-a-half-ton machine with the same chassis layout and suspension geometry as a BMW M5. And while the cornering limits are lower (a lot lower), it feels similar behind the wheel.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
(Photo/Robin Warner)

What’s more, the CX-90 delivers superior fuel economy than its competitors, especially if you go the PHEV route and stay diligent about plugging it in.

Here’s the rub: for more money, you get less space. And maximizing space for the least amount of money is what most families strive to do.

If you love driving, make good money, and have a family, Mazda built the perfect crossover for you. For everyone else, driving is awesome, and so is saving fuel. That should at least merit a close look at the CX-90.

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Robin Warner

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