DECADENCE ELUDES NATURE: In the world of esoteric design achieving a state of refinement implies pulling out all stops in delivering decadence. Yet what typically remains elusive is striking a balance between posh for the sake of posh with a sensation of natural being. In recent years automaker Mazda incorporated Japanese lofty style paradigms of Wabi-Sabi + Shizen + Kodo + Kaizen into their heady Signature trims to much acclaim. Not going unnoticed, though, other volume competitors have since added their semi bespoke offerings.
RARER THAN AMATI AIR: Now, in an effort to further distinguish itself among the truly discerning, the Zoom Zoom brand is driving into entry luxury territory. This time there will be no alter ego nameplate marketing equivalent to the aborted Amati experiment of the 1990s. Being resource limited, compared to the established luxury heavyweights, the erstwhile cork making company from Hiroshima is laser focusing on what draws its core following, namely the longitudinal front engine + rear wheel driven rider in unison with steed driving experience. A transition upmarket would logically imply adopting the vaunted “North to South” powertrain to drivetrain orientation. The first fruit of the harmonizing an MX-5 roadster’s propulsion layout with the connoisseur’s expectation of highway refinement is the all new 2024 Mazda CX-90 crossover utility vehicle.
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WHAT: 2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus AWD 3– Row full size family crossover sports activity vehicle. Built on a new Skyactiv Multi Solutions Scalable Archicture Large Product Group, it makes a leap to a longitudinal front-engine layout from the presumed predecessor TC CX-9‘s transverse orientation.
Power: e-Skyactiv GTM longitudinal variable nozzle turbocharged 3.3L DOHC 24V DI gas I-6
+ M Hybrid BoostTM electric motor: 16.6 hp (12.4 kW) @ 900 r.p.m. / 113 lb-ft @ 200 r.p.m. (located between engine and transmission. This system in tandem with i-StopTM will shut off the engine during vehicle coasting loads.
- Standard tune = Net 280 hp/ 332 lb-ft* @ 2000 r.p.m.
- Optional “S” tune = Net 340 hp/ 369 lb-ft* @ 2000 r.p.m.
* NOTE – running 93 Octane premium unleaded gasoline
+ Drivetrain: 8-spd. wet clutch planetary automatic transmission + PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.
Mi-DriveTM modes x 4: Comfort, Sports, Off-road, Towing
|2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S AWD||Acura MDX Type-S AWD||Buick Enclave Avenir AWD||2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD|
|Powertrain||3.3T DOHC gas I-6||3.0T DOHC gas V-6||3.6L DOHC V-6||2.5T I-4|
|Drivetrain||8 spd. planetary automatic||10 spd. planetary automatic||9 spd. planetary automatic||6 spd. planetary automatic|
|Horsepower / Torque (pound- feet)||340 hp / 369 lb-ft @ 2000 r.p.m.||355 hp / 354 lb-ft @ 1400 r.p.m.||310 hp / 266 lb-ft @ 2800 r.p.m.||250 hp / 310 lb-ft @ 2000 r.p.m|
|Fuel Economy – miles per gallon combined EPA||25 m.p.g. (observed)||19 m.p.g.||20 m.p.g.||23 m.p.g.|
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: No mere evolution of the svelte CX-9, the new 2024 Mazda CX-90 draws on the wide, low slung stance of the CX-50 compact family SAV. Mazda’s new flagship SUV than just a story of long dash to axle ratio provided by the switch to longitudinal power and drivetrain orientation. Designers became bold with the canvas particularly with a radically canted D pillar kink. more detailed double beveled wheel arch framing departs from the CX-50s contrasting dark cladding, and the grille is a slimmed down, yet more emphatic piece of eye candy. A prominent thick mirror polished chrome quad faceted crown cradles piano black chainlinks in a vertical array with a concave abdomen. Outboard arms are split by a lateral bar. A rather compact headlamp housing further creases the quad faceted cradle fac 5 6 sided crown held stamodular Skyactiv Multi Solution Scalable Architecture Scalable Solution platform for 2nd Gen. Mazda CX-9 (TC) is shared with the Mazda 6 executive sedan and is the next size up in crossover vehicle hierarchy from the (KF) CX-5 mid-size 2-row SAV.
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus AWD is the good looking spitting image of its 2016 self. It stands curvaceously in contrast to the trend of overwrought boxy crossover SUV’s. An elegant Coke-bottle fuselage is sharply raked above the tall beltline. On the assertive side there is an overhanging shark nose hood. Grand wheel arches. Corner vertical pseudo brake ducts. A dark lattice pentagonal grille makes a winged extendsion outward meeting the top of the wrap-around HID +LED DRL light assemblies.
The Kammback rear liftgate is supported by muscularly flared rear quarter panels. Two-tone roof spoiler buttresses run up to liftgate side channels. A prominent chrome bar spans the entire mid liftgate. Tweezed rear wrap-around light housings envelope an amber center flasher housing. The lower liftgate hosts pentagonal creasing. A deep body color matched bumper cover is interrupted only by lower rear fascia cladding. Split dual chrome exhaust tips are included. Owner’s of 2016-2018 CX-9’s might notice the new Signature emblem on the rump.
WHY: Proper enthusiast’s North to South propulsion orientation embraced for new dive deep into entry luxury crossover SUV waters.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2019
WHERE: Mazda new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Hiroshima, Japan
WHERE TO: transaxle to PTU to rear viscous multi-clutch differential all-wheel drive varies front/ rear traction from 100/ 10% to 50/50%. The available Off-road Mi-Drive mode uses ABS low traction wheel slippage lock-out for climbing, while Hill Descent Assist uses ABS to slow things down on the decline.
- Mi-DriveTM modes x 4: Comfort, Sports, Off-road, Towing
HOW ROADWORTHY: Mellifluous potency paints the power picture of the most potent 2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S. It is well documented that DOHC inline 6 cylinder engines, the mainstay of the Roundel and Tri Star Teutonic luxury brands, are inherently better balanced than more compact “V” block formations. Mazda’s turbo I-6 implementation continues the path paved by previous Skyactiv I-4s by emphasizing grunt in the low revolution band. The all-new 8-speed automatic with quicker electro-wet clutch lockup holds onto gears longer in Sport Mode than the ancestral CX-9 with 6-speed torque converter did, almost rendering the “S” trims steering wheel shift paddles moot. Another perk of the new fore to aft transmission is the efficiency enhancements including the extra two overdrive ratios. “A still impressively high compression ratio, a new [and somewhat irritatingly rough] start / stop idle and 48V hybrid electric motor clever coast capability help the CX-90 S deliver a impressive 26 combined miles per gallon. As a luxury aspirant the cabin is nearly too well insulated to listen to the growl of the engine so the audio system provides enhancement.
- -1 Funky joystick type center console transmission drive position lever
Suspending greater mass and an engine which sits behind the front axle line, the 2024 CX-90 adopts a upper and lower “double wishbone” front control arms in place of strut type upper link location. Lateral grip with lower corner lean is improved without resorting to stiffer compression damping. Kinematic posture control, which debuted on the 2023 Mazda MX-5 roadster, employs rear brakes to reduce understeer. This technology joins the seasoned G-Vectoring which cuts engine power to enter corners with less occupant body fatigue, as part of Mazda’s “Jinba Ittai” rider in unison with steed sensation.
HOW FAR: 25 combined miles per gallon. 548 miles highway range using 91 RON unleaded gasoline.
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Tending towards the “Mid Size” end of the 3-Row crossover family SAV spectrum. The panorama moonroof likely benefits headroom. Available 2nd Row captain’s chairs*, chauffeur evoking though they may be aren’t on the stretch out scale of what’s offered in family vans. So specified the convenient fixed center console* storage comes with the inconvenience of blocking the [standard on lesser trims] aisle to Row 3. Third Row positions gain headroom bestowing metro area commute comfort for two. -1 Row 3 ingress/ egress could benefit from a “C” pillar grab handle. (* Standard on Premium Plus)
|2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S AWD||Acura MDX Type-S AWD||Buick Enclave Avenir AWD||2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD|
|Cargo capacity nom. – max. (cubic feet)||15.9 – 75.2 cu.ft.||18.1 – 95.0 cu.ft.||23.6 – 97.4 cu.ft.||14.4 – 71.2 cu.ft.|
|Legroom – Row 2, 3 (inches)||39.4″, 30.4″||38.5″, 29.1″||38.3″, 33.5″||39.4″, 29.7″|
|Curb weight (pounds)||4899 lbs.||4788 lbs.||4687 lbs.||4301 lbs.|
|Towing (pounds)||5000 lbs.||5000 lbs.||5000 lbs.||3500 lbs.|
HOW USEFUL: Modest cargo culling competes with some two-row SUVs; √ Flat folding 2nd Row tilting captain’s chairs seatbacks w/ tilt and slide 3rd Row access; 50/50% split tilting and flat folding 3rd Row seat backs; √ Sub cargo floor storage; √ Mini-spare load floor cover hooked tether; √ Proximity activating, adjustable height power liftgate
PARTICULARLY USEFUL: +1 Clamshell aperture front and 2nd Row center armrest storage bins
Not So Useful: -1 Long reach to release 3rd Row seat back latches; Blind spots from shorter backlight + tall beltline; Lower center stack wireless device shelf lacks lid.
HOW SAFE: √ 9 airbags; √ IIHS – 2024 Top Safety Pick Plus; √ Rear camera, fixed park grid lines; √ Blind Spot warning; √ Rear cross traffic alert;
- i-Activesense Level 1.5 driver autonomy: Full Adaptive cruise control, stop & go; Full, Forward collision warning; Lane departure warning, road departure prevention; Smart City braking for Pedestrian & Bicycle, √ Auto high beam headlamps; √ Rain sensing, windshield wipers;
- included w/ Turbo S Premium Plus trim: √ Cruising & Traffic Support (lane / vehicle trace < 40 mph) ; √ Surround camera + dynamic grid lines; √ Smart rear cross traffic & pedestrian braking; Emergency Lane Keeping √ Blind Spot Assist braking; √ Front + rear sonar park warning; √ Traffic sign recognition (Instrument cluster + HUD = Speed limits, stop signs, school zone); √ HUD – 10 x 3″ inches
-1 Lane keep assist > 40 mph = allows too much deviation, limited to warning & slight steering wheel nudge
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Premium Plus supersedes Signature = new Mazda speak for bespoke cabin appointments. Rich materials rivaling luxury brands and precision produced switchgear are exquisite. Fortunately the minimalism in controls and finish beyond reproach can be found in lesser trims. +1 First and second row bucket seats deserve the recommendation of orthopaedists. Plush microsuede from the Mazda 6 Signature has been applied to the middle dashboard.
√ Nappa leather seating (quilted Rows 1, 2), heated + evacuating ventilated Rows 1, 2; √ 8-way driver / 8-way power seats w/ 2 driver memory settings; √ Driver seating position optimization (using driver attention sensors); √ Two-tone, power tilt/ telescoping heated leather steering wheel with spoke integrated tactile redundant controls; √ 12.3″-inch TFT virtual gauge cluster; √ Power folding side mirrors.
-1 Driver’s seat to pedals offset
Cool Gizmo(s): √ 12.3″ inch Variable color drive mode influenced TFT gauge cluster; √ Color Heads-Up Display includes lane array, traffic signage; √ Precision-machined center console Command infotainment dial-joystick w/ dedicated function switches; √ Illuminated front grille borders
Details Done Right: √ Sueded dashboard accents, w/ Kumihimo bookbinder hanging stitching; √ Genuine ash wood veneers span door panels, dash & center console; √ Center console tunnel padded in seat color matching synthetic hides; √ Machined aluminum climate control dials; √ Precision cut, tactile intuitive switchgear; √ Cabin 1st and 2nd row footwell and door accent lighting.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 hard plastic cabin pillars and cargo bay wall lack fabric covering typical of true luxury segment; Ash wood trim isn’t as sublime as CX-9 Signature’s solid rosewood accents.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Mid dash shelf 12.3″ landscape capacitive touch LCD infotainment pod screen w/ remote Command rotary toggle dial; √ Wireless Android Auto + Apple CarPlay projection; √ Touch controls for Android Auto / Apple CarPlay projection; √ Native HDD GPS voice command / guidance Navigation; √ Voice command hands-free communications; √ SMS with stored contacts photos; √ 555 W, 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2.0 audio punchy without boom; √ USB-C x 6, 12V x 3 (including cargo area); √ QiTM inductive wireless device charging tray.
- + Mazda Connect menus don’t overwhelm and flow logically with useful images
- +/- Mazda implementation of Sirius Travellink supplants typical Movies application with Parking app filled with incomplete listings;
- -1 Media screen brightness and contrast too dim; Connection issues with wireless Android Auto kept disengaging projection; Wireless charging tray makes phone excessively hot, frequently shutting phone down.
HOW MUCH: $61,920 = 2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S Premium Plus AWD price as tested = $11,790 (+24%) > 2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature!
WHAT’S MISSING: 2nd & 3rd Row cargo bay remote power seat back fold / raise; 115V AC outlet; Active parking assist; Better media display illumination.
ANY COMPETITION: Acura MDX S-Type: +1 Decked out in Sport; Buick Enclave Avenir: +1 Size matters, easy to grasp Intellilink infotainment; Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy : +1 cargo capacity, intuitive tri-pane infotainment; Infiniti QX60: +1 Powered conveniences.
Contributing Editor: T. Paluch