In typical Mazda fashion, even its largest SUV is fun to drive. The new CX-90 three-row – which replaces the also good CX-9 – brings actual driving prowess to an otherwise lackluster class thanks to a rear-wheel-drive architecture and two new powertrains: An inline-six and a four-cylinder plug-in.

I'm testing the latter; a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a 14.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack and a single electric motor. Mazda's first American PHEV has 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Quick Specs 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus
Engine 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder Plug-In Hybrid
Battery 14.8-Kilowatt-Hours
Output 323 Horsepower / 369 Pound-Feet
EV Range 26 Miles
Charging Time 2.5 Hours (Level 2)
As-Tested Price $58,920

Even though this version of the CX-90 weighs 5,236 pounds, it doesn't feel too bulky. The torque from the electric motors hurries it off the line while the four-cylinder adds more oomph. Don't call it quick, but the CX-90 gets off the line better than any of its naturally aspirated, V6 competitors.

It’s not perfect. There is some clunkiness at low speeds; the handoff between the electric motor and gas engine isn't seamless. While the four-cylinder hums around town, it’s loud and a bit rough when you lay your foot hard on the throttle. But that can be expected with a small engine lugging around this much weight.

The good news is that you can drive the CX-90 on battery power for up to 26 miles. That is technically the worst among other three-row plug-ins – the Volvo XC90 Recharge and Kia Sorento PHEV both do 32 miles – but the Mazda will recharge on a Level 2 charger in just two and a half hours while the Kia and Volvo take about three and five hours, respectively. Not to mention the CX-90 also has two regenerative braking modes: Normal and High.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Review

Pros: Torquey Powertrain, Excellent Handling, Fast Charging

The CX-90 has a stiffer suspension than most other three-rows. That extra rigidity does affect ride quality – it feels crashy over broken pavement – but it also yields nice balance and excellent weight distribution in the oft chance you take your three-row SUV canyon carving. The steering is responsive and quick but feels artificially heavy, an odd choice for a family hauler.

The interior is premium – and not just for the class. The CX-90 dips into luxury territory with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support and a seven-way power-adjustable passenger seat. All three rows wear Nappa leather on this Premium Plus trim, which adds second-row captain's chairs, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

The second row is plenty roomy for your 6-foot-tall author, with ample amounts of head and legroom, but the third row isn't as spacious. Clumsily navigate through the narrow entryway and into the third row and the CX-90 only has 36.9 inches of headroom and 30.4 inches of legroom – the latter is a few inches below average for the class. And that extends to the trunk space; the CX-90's 14.9 cubic feet behind the third row lags far behind its competitors.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Review

Cons: Harsh Ride, Below-Average Space, Pricey

A 12.3-inch screen comes standard on the Premium Plus model versus the still-decently-big 10.3-inch screen on the base CX-90 and lesser trims. Both have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a good ol' fashioned central control knob to control it all. Unfortunately, the base screen isn't a touchscreen and the 12.3-inch screen only functions as a touchscreen when the car is stationary. Mazda says it's for safety reasons, but it makes for a frustrating user experience. Third-party apps like Spotify and Google Maps require multiple twists of the knob to access basic functions.

The CX-90 starts at $40,970 with the $1,375 destination fee included if you go for the absolute base Select model with the 3.3-liter inline-six. The cheapest CX-90 PHEV is $51,915 before options, so not exactly cheap. Opt for the Premium Plus like the one tested here – which has standard Nappa leather, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, and ventilated seats – and it's $58,825 before options.

2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Review

The Verdict: Like most Mazda SUVs, the CX-90 is the driver's choice among three rows. It has ample power, excellent suspension tuning, and a well-sorted steering rack that makes this big heavy SUV decently fun. The 26 miles of range on electric power is an added bonus, and although it does get pricey with the PHEV, the CX-90 is still far more affordable than some of the “luxury” options while feeling just as nice.

The big downside of the Mazda is that families that genuinely need a third row with luggage space may need to look elsewhere. The CX-90 falls short on passenger and cargo room compared to some of the more traditional three-rows.

Photos: Jeff Perez For Motor1

Competitor Reviews

FAQs

Is The Mazda CX-90 Bigger Than The CX-9?

Yes. While both SUVs have three rows of seats, the newer CX-90 is nearly two inches longer than the outgoing CX-90. The CX-90 is 201.6 inches long and the CX-9 is 199.4 inches long.

Is The Mazda CX-90 Gas Or Electric?

Both. The CX-90 is available with a turbocharged 3.3-liter inline-six engine or a plug-in-hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 14.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The CX-90 is not fully electric.

Is The Mazda CX-90 A Luxury SUV?

Sort of. While Mazda is not technically considered a luxury brand, the interior of the CX-90 is premium and comes with optional Nappa leather.

Gallery: 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV Review

Mazda CX-90

Engine 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder Plug-In Hybrid
Motor Single Electric
Battery 14.8-Kilowatt-Hours
Output 323 Horsepower / 369 Pound-Feet
Transmission 8-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 5.9 Seconds (est.)
Weight 5,236 Pounds
Efficiency 56 Combined MPGe
EV Range 26 Miles
Charge Time 2.5 Hours
Charge Type 240-Volt Level 2
Seating Capacity 7
Towing 3,500 Pounds
Payload 1,175 Pounds
Cargo Volume 14.9 / 75.2 Cubic Feet
On Sale Now
Base Price $39,595 + $1,375 Destination
Trim Base Price $51,915
As-Tested Price $58,920
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