- Punchy and smooth petrol inline six engine
- Engaging handling for such a large vehicle
- Spacious interior, even in the third row
- Transmission and ride need further refining
- Interior quality is good but could be better
- It's good value against competitors but still expensive
Japanese car maker Mazda – known affectionately among car enthusiasts as the little brand that could – has been on an upmarket charge recently. It’s invested heavily in new products based on new platforms and the peak of this new premium mission – so far – is the new CX-90 large SUV. Although it looks similar, it actually replaces the popular CX-9 in the lineup and adds larger six-cylinder engines, a new rear-biased platform, even more technology and, predictably, higher prices to match. Is the mid-spec 2024 Mazda CX-90 P50e GT the premium step up that Mazda has been pushing for? Let’s find out.
At the moment, Mazda Australia currently has three large SUVs on offer: this new CX-90, the CX-9 it replaces (production has stopped but there is still stock in dealers) and the CX-8 as well, though the CX-8 is due to be replaced in 2024 with the new CX-80 too. Underneath the CX-90 sits the also new CX-60 five-seat SUV, which will be also joined by a CX-70 in overseas markets – Australia is yet to be confirmed – as well. It’s clear that Mazda is going SUV-crazy, so why buy a CX-90?
Price & Equipment: 7.5/10
While the entry-level CX-90 Touring starts from around $80,000 drive away, we tested the mid-spec GT in ‘G50e’ mild-hybrid inline six petrol form. Its retail price is $85,355 plus on-road costs, or around $93,000 drive away (depending on location). That’s not cheap, but it is quite well equipped and is a lot of car.
2024 Mazda CX-90 GT standard equipment:
- 21-inch alloy wheels
- Dusk-sensing automatic all-LED exterior lighting
- Rain-sensing automatic wipers
- Keyless entry and push button start
- Hands-free electric tailgate
- Roof rails
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated and auto-folding mirrors that auto-dip in reverse
- Tri-zone climate control
- Leather upholstery
- Heated leather steering wheel with electric adjustment
- 12-way electric front seat adjustment with driver’s memory functionality
- Heated front and outboard middle row seats
- 12.3-inch digital driver’s display
- 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen
- Wireless and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio
- Satellite navigation
- 12-speaker Bose sound system
- Wireless phone charger
- 6x USB-C charging ports
- Rear door window shades
- 150W AC and 12V outlets in the boot
2024 Mazda CX-90 GT safety equipment:
- Eight airbags (including front centre and driver’s knee units)
- Auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection assist
- Lane departure warning with lane keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Front and rear cross-traffic alert
- Vehicle exit warning
- Low-speed rear automatic braking
- Driver monitoring
- Matrix adaptive high beam
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 360-degree camera
- Head-up display
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Auto-dimming rear mirror
The CX-90 range is yet to be tested by ANCAP, and will not be tested by Euro NCAP as it won’t be officially sold in Europe. But considering the smaller CX-60 – which uses the same platform and largely features the same equipment as the CX-90 – earned five stars for safety from both safety organisations, we’d wager that the CX-90 would receive the same rating.
2024 Mazda CX-90 GT colour range:
- Sonic Silver
- Platinum Quartz
- Deep Crystal Blue
- Jet Black
- Rhodium White ($995)
- Soul Red Crystal ($995)
- Machine Grey ($995)
- Artisan Red ($995 – on our test car)
The GT’s interior is offered in either the beige of our test car, or black.
Offering seven seats and a luxurious feel in a large SUV is nothing unique in the Australian new car market, and as a result, the CX-90 can be compared with a whole range of cars, including the Hyundai Palisade, Toyota Kluger, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Volvo XC90, Genesis GV80, Audi Q7, BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS, plus more off-road-specific SUVs like the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series and Nissan Patrol. While the Germans start from around $125,000 drive away and easily head north to around $200,000, the rest of the CX-90’s competition hits around the $80,000-$120,000 mark. As such, we think the CX-90 GT’s main competition are the Hyundai Palisade Calligraphy diesel (around $88,000 drive away) and the Volvo XC90 B5 Plus (around $106,000 drive away).
For spending $15,000+ more (or $20,000 similarly equipped), the Volvo doesn’t add all that much equipment over the Mazda: active lane trace assist, live services with inbuilt Google services and an extra zone of climate, though the CX-90 adds a panoramic roof, premium sound system, a heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, 21-inch alloys, a larger central screen and so on. Against the $5,000-less expensive Palisade, the CX-90 is more evenly equipped: the Hyundai has remote start and parking functionality, live services and more safety features like a blind-spot camera, though the Mazda adds larger 21-inch wheels and Matrix adaptive high beam.
While it’s not cheap, we think the CX-90 justifies its pricing against competition thanks to its lengthy equipment list – though we’d still like to see features like lane trace assist, rear daytime running lights (which both the XC90 and older CX-9 feature), rain-activated headlights, ambient cabin lighting, quad-zone climate control and live services added to the equipment list to add even more of a premium feel to Mazda’s flagship.
Performance & Economy: 8.5/10
Under the bonnet of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 P50e GT is a new 3.3-litre turbocharged inline six petrol engine that’s teamed with a 48V mild-hybrid system. It makes 254kW of power (between 5,000 and 6,000rpm) and 500Nm of torque (between 2,000rpm and 4,500rpm), making it the most powerful Mazda production car ever and comfortably more powerful than the 170kW/420Nm CX-9 that it replaces, let alone the 183kW/350Nm XC90 B5 and 147kW/440Nm Palisade. That’s mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
It’s extremely rare to see a new inline six engine (let alone two! There’s also a diesel unit of the same capacity available) being developed these days, and yet, that’s what Mazda has done for its large car platformed models (the CX-60 was the first recipient, now the CX-90 and soon, the CX-80 that’s due in 2024) and for that, we’re quite thankful. The 2.5-litre turbo-four used in the CX-9 was always a willing partner, but we think that such a large car should use a six-cylinder engine for its extra refinement and torque. Aside from a few refinement issues like a random occasional sighing noise when downshifting, the six in the CX-90 is a pretty good partner – it sounds good (though the fake noise pumped through the speakers isn’t great), it goes well and even when you’re flooring it, its noise is far from intrusive. On the flipside, thanks to the mild-hybrid system, it keenly switches off the engine while coasting and can even drive itself a little bit on mild throttle electrically if the conditions allow for it.
The engine is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that uses a multi-plate clutch instead of a torque converter, which is for greater efficiency, according to Mazda. What that means for buyers is that it fits half way between a normal auto and a dual-clutch unit in terms of efficiency, speediness and refinement – there’s no low-speed hesitancy that you’ll get from a DCT, but nor is it as smooth as a traditional torque converter with the occasional lumpy shift on offer and the occasional jump when the engine turns back on and a gear is engaged. However, it’s better than the CX-60 in our experience – the 90 uses an updated version of the same gearbox, which we hope the 60 receives soon – but the eight-speed gearboxes used in cars like the XC90 are a bit smoother.
The combined fuel consumption rating for the petrol CX-90 is 8.2L/100km with CO2 emissions rated at 189g/km – exactly the same as the 2.0-litre XC90 for fuel consumption and only 2g/km more, while only 0.9L/100km more than the four-cylinder diesel Palisade. We recorded 10.2L/100km in combined driving in our week with it – that’s especially reasonable given that the much less powerful and way thirster first-generation CX-9 would easily use 15+L/100km, while the turbocharged second-generation CX-9 was thirsty too. The CX-90 must use minimum 95RON premium unleaded and has a 74-litre fuel tank. Towing for the petrol CX-90 models is rated at a maximum 2,500kg braked trailer, with a 150kg tow-ball download maximum weight.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
Based on the company’s new large vehicle platform, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 G50e GT gives a lot of typical Mazda driving qualities, including keen handling, heavy steering for added sportiness and a generally sporty feeling from behind the wheel. Part of that sportiness, perhaps due to the large 21-inch wheels, is a sharp ride quality – like the gearbox, it’s not as bad as the CX-60, but some bumps are felt more than they should be and adaptive dampers would likely take the firm edge off the ride. Mazda are excellent at tuning ride and handling, and usually fettle underneath for each model year update, so hopefully the CX-90’s suspension receives a slight retuning soon to fix its firmness as that’s really our only negative from a ride and handling perspective.
Elsewhere in the driving experience, the CX-90 impresses. It has excellent refinement and even at highway speeds, is very quiet for road and wind noise, while its visibility is reasonable as well – save for the annoyingly zoomed-in driver’s mirror. Mazda’s active safety equipment is some of the best in the industry, and we particularly like the adaptive cruise control, though the front cross-traffic alert was too sensitive in our time with it. While the 360-degree camera is excellent, we think that all CX-90 models should feature the active lane centring function – like Volvo’s ‘Pilot Assist’ – of the top-spec Azami.
Interior & Practicality: 9/10
As we saw with the CX-60, the new generation of Mazda’s premium interiors are pretty good quality, feature good technological integration and reasonably exotic materials – and considering that the CX-90’s front cabin is largely identical to the CX-60, it all bodes quite well. In reality, the CX-90’s cabin is a very nice place to spend time. Material quality is quite nice – there are soft touch materials almost everywhere with the soft touch plastics on the doors, quality leather on the steering wheel, seats and doors and the nice bits of chrome on the switchgear – though the obviously fake leather piece on the dashboard fascia and untextured fake wood trim are noticeable. We also wish the CX-90’s dashboard layout was different to the CX-60.
The CX-90’s cabin offers good storage, though the XC90 and particularly the Palisade cabins are more practical. The CX-90’s door bins are big, there’s a large glovebox, there are big cupholders, there’s a shallow wireless phone charger tray under the dashboard and a central bin underneath the centre armrest that’s a bit shallow – but a Palisade has a deep tray underneath its centre console, while its centre box is significantly larger. The CX-90’s front seats offer a good range of adjustment and are generally quite comfortable, though they are a bit flat and could be larger, in our opinion. Adding a bit of extra pizazz to the cabin too, would come from more ambient lighting – a line underneath the faux leather dashboard fascia would look great.
Centre of the CX-90 GT’s cabin is a huge 12.3-inch infotainment system that runs the company’s ‘Mazda Connect’ system. It’s well featured with wireless and wired smartphone mirroring, digital radio and satellite navigation, though no live services – that’s coming in 2024. Annoyingly for some users, the screen can only be controlled by touch when the handbrake is on, otherwise you must use the centre wheel – that’s fine for us, though the much less expensive updated Mazda3 has touch functionality for smartphone mirroring always, and we hope that functionality makes its way to the CX-90 soon too. Thankfully, the 12-speaker Bose sound system is excellent with strong bass and good clarity levels.
The middle seat of the CX-90 is a positive place to spend time as it’s roomy, well featured and the good front cabin quality extends to the middle seat as well. Leg- and headroom are both pretty good for six-footers – even with the standard panoramic sunroof – and three adults will fit well thanks to ample width. The second row includes a separate zone of climate control, two USB-C ports, map pockets, heated outboard seats, large sectioned door pockets and inbuilt sunshades. There are two ISOFIX points, as well as doors that open to 90-degrees, helping child seat installation significantly.
The third row of seating is larger than in the CX-9, though not quite as roomy as the XC90, nor the Palisade in particular. Entry and exit is reasonable thanks to the seats that fold and slide forward – though the XC90’s seats are even more practical in this regard – and back there are air vents, side storage, airbag coverage and two USB-C ports. Each third row seat has a top tether point for child seats as well.
The boot of the CX-90 measures 257-litres with the third row in place, 608L with the third row folded (both figures are to the belt line, not ceiling) and with all the rear seats folded, there’s 2,025L of space on offer (to the ceiling), which is even larger than the XC90’s 1,868L maximum. The boot itself features a few hooks, a 150W AC outlet, a 12V socket and under floor storage with a space-saver spare wheel located underneath that.
Service & Warranty: 8/10
Like the rest of the Mazda range, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 P50e GT is covered by a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Its service intervals are once-yearly or every 15,000km, whichever comes first, and five years/75,000km of servicing costs $3,360 ($672 per year).
Both the Palisade and XC90 also feature five-year/unlimited km warranties – Hyundai gives you roadside assistance for however long you service with a Hyundai dealership, while Volvo gives you eight years of roadside assistance from new. Both the Palisade and XC90 use the same service intervals as the CX-90 and five years or 75,000km of pre-paid servicing costs $2,445 for the Palisade ($489 per service) and $3,000 ($600 per service) for the XC90, both a lot less annually than the CX-90.
The 2024 Mazda CX-90 P50e GT DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.2/10
There’s absolutely no question that the 2024 Mazda CX-90 P50e GT pushes the Mazda brand into a higher pricing bracket than it’s ever been in before – something we also said with every CX-9 update – and in terms of engineering, it’s the same story. Engineering both a new platform and a range of new six-cylinder drivetrains – especially for a small company like Mazda – is far from cheap, and we think that both items have made the CX-90 a more refined and more premium vehicle than the CX-9 it replaces. For enthusiasts, the CX-90 is undoubtedly the large seven-seat SUV to buy – at least, this side of a BMW X5.
Is it a step up over the CX-9? Undoubtedly yes, with far more refined, gutsier and more efficient drivetrains, the CX-90 is a definite engineering improvement over the CX-9. Elsewhere, it has added even more technology, keener driving dynamics – though not ride quality – and an even higher quality of fit and finish, while its larger size and longer wheelbase have added a roomier interior too. Against its main competition too, the CX-90 stands up well thanks to its drivetrains, dynamics and interior fit and finish, though it could be more practical and its drivetrain could be smoother. Is it worth its price tag? Time will tell, but we think the CX-90 is definitely worth consideration if you’re after a luxurious seven seat SUV.