Minivans, arguably the most efficient family vehicle, have fallen from favour, replaced by three-row utility vehicles.
Every volume manufacturer has a player in this game, Mazda included, with the second generation CX-9, introduced in 2016. That vehicle was aging, and was up against much newer vehicles, from a wide variety of competitors. So Mazda developed a replacement, the CX-90.
The CX-90 is truly all-new. Longer and wider, it rides on a new rear-drive platform, has a new drivetrain, and showcases lots of new technology.
The new global rear-drive architecture was chosen primarily because that design favours driving dynamics. The longer wheelbase also improves room for third row occupants.
Inline six-cylinder is a smooth operator, denoting European luxury
The CX-90 also showcases a brand-new engine – a 3.3-litre six-cylinder. The six holes are aligned front to rear instead of the more common V formation. This inline configuration, used by high-end European car makers, is widely known for its inherent smoothness. It also requires more space, with a transmission is attached to the rear.
The V6 design became popular because it is shorter, and can thus be installed crosswise between the front wheels.
The new, ultra-modern engine features all the latest technology, from lightweight materials to latest generation electronics.
The Turbo S version is the most powerful engine Mazda has ever offered. It produces 340-horsepower and 369 lb.ft. of torque on premium fuel.
Opt for the less-expensive regular gas, and output drops to 319-horsepower. Unless you regularly use wide open throttle for extended periods of time, you’ll not notice the difference, other than in your wallet, since torque remains the same.
A second version of the new six is also turbocharged, but delivers 280-horsepower and 332-lb.ft. of torque. Both engines use a mild hybrid system, with a 16.6 horsepower motor producing 113-lb.ft. of torque positioned between the engine and transmission.
There is no attempt to allow driving exclusively on electrons. The motor is there to provide assistance under acceleration, until the turbocharger spools up. The result is the virtual elimination of dreaded turbo lag – the period between ask and answer when nailing the throttle.
Engine imperceptibly shuts off when coasting downhill or to a stop
It also helps to reduce fuel consumption at steady highway speeds. A unique feature shuts off the engine while the vehicle is going downhill or coasting to a stop. The intent is to save fuel, and it works beautifully. You would not know of the feature unless you read, heard about it or noticed the tachometer drop to zero.
Both engines are paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission developed specifically for this application, and longitudinal orientation.
All CX-90s sold in Canada will comes with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. Our neighbours to the south are offered a base, rear-wheel-drive version.
The engine provides plenty of grunt, capable of accelerating this rather heavy vehicle from rest to 100 km/hr in less than seven seconds.
One glance inside and you know this is a different Mazda
The test vehicle came in the range-topping Signature trim level.
With this, Mazda has set its sights on a different audience. There is little giveaway from the outside, other than the new deep red Takuminuri paint developed specifically for the CX-90.
But, one glance inside and you know this is a different Mazda. The tester boasted light, very light, Maple trim on the dash, console and doors.
A truly unique cloth spans the width of the vehicle with upper and lower areas separated by Kakenui stitching. Add white Nappa leather upholstery and the effect is dramatic to say the least!
Safety and tech galore in the 2024 Mazda CX-90
The linear dash includes larger displays for both driver information, and infotainment purposes. Actual buttons are there for major controls, and the requisite suite of safety, and technical features are evident, including a unique See-Through camera view of great use when parking.
The new Mazda six is smooth as silk, but its length negates much of the extra third row legroom promised by the longer wheelbase. Second row seating is impressive, but the third row is best left to smaller occupants or shorter journeys.
I am not a fan of the new electronic shift mechanism. It requires a learning period to get into Drive directly from Park and it is too easy to leave it in Reverse, thinking you have engaged Park.
First-rate driving dynamics a given with Mazda
As we have come to expect from Mazda, driving dynamics are first rate, and class-leading. The ride is little firmer than the competition, the steering heavier, and there is little body lean in the corners – attributes appreciated by those of us who like to drive, rather than be driven.
The overall impression is that of a rock-solid vehicle, as if cast from a single block of something substantial.
Mazda’s new flagship in Signature trim is clearly a class above what you may consider the competition. The premium position is warranted by the design and application of unique high-end materials.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2024 Mazda CX-90 Signature
As tested: $65,745 including freight
Blind spot monitoring with vehicle exit warning, front cross traffic alert, emergency lane keeping with blind spot and head-on traffic avoidance assist, rear pedestrian warning, secondary collision reduction, turning across path, front and rear park sensors
31-cm infotainment screen, 12-speaker Bose audio system, wireless Apple CarPlay and android Auto connectivity, three-month subscription to satellite radio, five-year subscription to Sirius Traffic Plus with Travel Link, 110 volt power outlet
21-in diamond cut alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, handsfree power liftgate, heated, power, folding mirrors, colour head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, radar cruise control, 31-cm full digital gauge display, 10-way power driver’s seat, eight-way power passenger seat, heated front and second row seats, wireless phone charging, three-zone automatic climate control, driver personalization system, pure white Nappa leather upholstery, 360-degree monitor, power tilt & telescope steering wheel
Artisan red paint, $450
3.3-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine, 340 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. of torque, premium fuel, (319 hp on regular fuel) eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 10.3/9.5
Length, 5,120 mm; width, wheelbase, 3,120 mm; weight, 2,224 kg