2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV: The best of both worlds

The most common comment I hear when folks are talking or asking about electric vehicles is, “I like the idea, but I am not ready.”

Most doubts centre around the infrastructure – either the lack of sufficient charging locations or the growing problem of stations that do not work. Another factor is range anxiety – either the chance of running out of ‘juice’ or the need to go further than allowed by the range of the electric vehicle’s battery.

 

Until the infrastructure issue is addressed, the answer to me is clear – hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

They offer the ability to travel short distances on electricity alone. And when you run out of electrons, a good old fashioned internal combustion engine will kick in to take you to your destination – even if it is hundreds of kilometres away.

The best of both worlds – save the environment and avoid fuel bills!

 

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

You do so, knowing the engine has your back. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) offer decent range on electricity alone as their large battery packs can be recharged through the same charging network used by pure electric vehicles – primarily 120-volt household outlets or 220-volt Level 2 chargers at home or in many public locations.

Base hybrid vehicles receive power from a similar, but smaller battery pack. There is no provision to plug into an exterior power source. The battery is replenished by the engine when it is running, and from energy recovered during regenerative braking. They can be driven, at in-town speeds, for short distances on electric power alone.

 

Getting low on battery power with a PHEV or hybrid?  No worries, keep on trucking as the engine cuts in, and you continue.

A third type of hybrid, known as a mild hybrid, uses a 48-volt combination electric motor/generator placed between the engine and transmission. The engine can be shut down while braking, coasting, or at a stop, and restarted instantly by the powerful 48-volt motor.

Mild hybrids provide some additional power under acceleration from rest, and utilize the kinetic energy created under braking to maintain a charge. They do not have an electric-only function.

Mazda makes it a regular practice to survey owners. The company sees a growing demand for electric vehicles and it promises to be fully electric by 2030.

 

2024 Mazda CX90 PHEV
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

The 2024 CX-90 is Mazda’s first major step toward a fully electric lineup

Mazda has endowed its signature product – the new CX-90 three-row crossover – with two hybrid configurations – a mild hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

Designed from the outset to accommodate a hybrid powertrain, the CX-90 is the largest vehicle in the Mazda lineup. It uses a brand-new architecture, Mazda’s first-ever inline six-cylinder engine, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

The rear-drive platform, long the favourite of European luxury car makers, allows the engine to be placed longitudinally rather than transversely. This allowed Mazda to design and use an inline six-cylinder engine – inherently smoother than a V6 design.

 

 

It also provided room for a longer mild hybrid powertrain with an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. The result is a silky-smooth engine, rearward bias, and one of the sweetest handling crossovers on the market of any size or price – a Mazda hallmark. All-Wheel-Drive is standard across the full range of CX-90 models.

 

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

The mild-hybrid’s electric motor provides additional punch in the idle to low-speed range, where turbocharged engines are least efficient.

There are two versions of the CX-90 mild hybrid. Both utilize the new turbocharged in-line six. The standard one produces 280-horsepower and 332 lb. ft. of torque on regular fuel. The upgraded version boosts output to 340-horsepower and 369 lb. ft. of torque on premium fuel. HINT – use less costly regular fuel. The loss in power is negligible.

There is no provision to drive on electric power alone.

The Plug-In Hybrid version of the CX-90 PHEV – the subject of this review, uses a four-cylinder engine paired with a 173-horsepower electric motor, and a 17.8-kWh battery pack for a combined output of 323 horsepower. It can travel up to 42 kilometres of electric travel per charge.

 

2024 Mazda CX-90
Photo: Mazda Canada

 

If your daily drive is less than that, you can recharge overnight from a 120-volt household outlet, or in less than two hours from a 240-volt Level 2 charger. You would never need to visit the gas pump!

 

2024 Mazda CX-90
Photo: Mazda Canada

 

When you do wish to go further than 40 kilometres or so, the gas engine come to life and the CX-90 will go hundreds of kilometres at an average of 8.7 litres/100 km before needing a refill. Incidentally, a 2016 survey by Statistics Canada found the median distanced travelled by Canadians who commute by car to be 8.7 kilometres.

 

2024 Mazda CX90 PHEV
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are more expensive to produce, and thus more expensive for consumers. As an incentive, the federal and some provincial governments offer rebates. Ottawa puts out $5,000 for pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids with a range of more than 50 kilometres.

The CX-90’s range of 42 kilometres falls short of that, so it only qualifies for $2,500 from the feds. Nova Scotian buyers will get another $2,000 – $1,000 if they buy a used plug-in hybrid!

 

The largest vehicle in Mazda’s lineup is the most serious effort yet to move the brand upscale.

The fresh design, refined road manners and interior provide an excellent impression of a luxury vehicle.

 

 

Mazda owners and buyers want to do the right thing for the environment but, like so many, are not ready to take the plunge to a pure electric vehicle. The plug-in version of the CX-90 may be the perfect transition on your way to an electric vehicle.

 

FACTS & FIGURES – 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV GS-L

 

PRICE

Base: $59,950

As tested: $62,495 including freight

 

SAFETY

LED headlights, Blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, smart brake support, rear seat alert, distance and speed alert, emergency lane keeping

 

INFOTAINMENT

26-cm infotainment screen, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, satellite radio, radar cruise control

 

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

19-in alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, hands-free power liftgate, front wiper de-icer, three-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, four-way power passenger seat,

heated, power, folding mirrors, colour head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, 31-cm full digital gauge display, heated front and second row seats, wireless phone charging, driver personalization system, pure white Nappa leather upholstery, 360-degree monitor, power tilt & telescope steering wheel

 

SIGNIFICANT OPTIONS

Soul red paint, $450

 

MECHANICAL

2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, 17.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, electric motor, 323 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. of torque, combined. Premium fuel, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km combined): 4.2 hybrid, 9.4 gas only

 

DIMENSIONS

Length, 5,120 mm; width, wheelbase, 3,120 mm; weight, 2,224 kg

 

COMPETITION

Honda CR-V hybrid, Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe hybrids, Kia Sorento PHEV and Sportage hybrid; Lincoln Aviator PHEV, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 Recharge

 

2024 Mazda CX90 PHEV
Photo: Lisa Calvi

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