Within the past few model years, there seems to have been a rash of 3-row crossovers debuting as todays families want added interior space, utility of an SUV and AWD capability for inclement weather that includes snow here in the Snowbelt.
Not to be left out, Mazda and their superb line of AWD crossovers, have debuted their handsome CX-90 AWD midsize crossover that replaced the former CX-9 that was at the top of their crossover line. But the CX-90 has surpassed the latter in many ways.
CX-90 is all new and sits on a platform that puts it a bit more on full-size as it’s longer than most of the competition and is a mere10 inches shorter than a Chevy Tahoe full-size SUV. But it doesn’t handle or drive like a full-size as many of those are truck-based.
CX-90 is offered in five trim levels of Select, Preferred, Preferred Plus, Premium and Premium Plus which we tested. It offers seating for up to eight with a second-row bench seat or seven with captain’s chairs.
To say the CX-90 is handsome is an understatement as it has smooth, flowing, aerodynamic styling lines. And CX-90s interior follows suit as it is a work of art. Mazda designers managed to meld everything to perfection for comfort and ease of access and use. The dash in particular is covered in faux suede, as are the inner door panels and seat inserts. An elegant touch you’d only see in a Bentley or Rolls.
A vivid 12.3-inch infotainment screen serves the gamut of audio, navigation, multi-view camera system, HVAC selections, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, apps and more. Below it is a horizontal array of flush and easy to use push-button HVAC switches wherein selections can be displayed on the screen. It was nice Mazda didn’t put these frequently used controls on the infotainment screen like some of its competitors wherein their operation requires eyes off the road while searching on the screen for selections. Tucked below them is a wireless phone charger pad and mode selector rocker switch for Sport, Normal and Off-Road modes.
A stubby gear selector for the 8-speed automatic transmission requires a mere flick left to acquire Park gear. Upon my first drive in the CX-90 and parking it, and thinking I caught the park gear, when I turned off the ignition the CX-90 lurched forward only to be immediately stopped by Mazda’s Rollaway Auto Braking system. A great safety feature. After that I made sure the transmission was in Park. Perhaps Mazda engineers designed the close shift pattern to save console space, but a simple straight forward pattern for Park would be better.
Over on the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a driver information display nestles between the tach and speedo. In Sport, the gauges turn red indicating performance mode.
Heated/cooled front seats are ventilated Nappa leather with contrasting trim and are sumptuously padded with extended under thigh and pleasurable lateral support.
Second row captain’s chairs offer an easy 20-inch step-in and are supportive and comfy. And they slide well forward allowing easy third row access where those seats are mainly for youngsters as in most three-row crossovers.
Back in the spacious cargo area that has a 30-inch lift-over, and with the 3rd row seats upright, there’s 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space that measures 20.5 inches deep, 43 wide and 29.5 high. Flip the 3rd row and space increases to 40.1 cubic feet. Flip the heated second row and capacity expands to 75.2 cubes for an impressive 84 inches of cargo loading depth. That’s a full seven feet that can accommodate a mountain bike with the front wheel off and stowed atop the bike.
Beneath the cargo floor are four shallow bins to stow small items out of sight.
CX-90 Turbo S gets its grunt from a 3.3-liter, inline turbocharged 6-cylinder that generates 340-hp and 369 lb/ft of torque with high-test fuel, or 319-hp with regular fuel. It rates EPA mileage estimates of 23 city, 280-highway mpg. Coupled to the quick shifting 8-speed auto trans with paddle shifters, CX-90 carries a tow rating of up to an appreciable 5,000 pounds with the tow package. It offered impressive acceleration from a standing stop and when passing 18-wheelers, especially when the turbo spools up and kicks in.
The rear-wheel biased AWD system has a relatively tight turning radius of 41.2 feet and offers a good ground clearance of 8 inches to negotiate modest snow depths on unplowed roads.
CX-90 rode smoothly, quietly and composed on 21-inch Falkon tires. In sharp, quick turns, CX-90 remained planted for a 4,709-pound crossover.
This superb crossover came with an exhaustive list of standard features with safety items that include blind spot monitoring w/vehicle exit warning, lane departure warning, driver attention alert, driver monitoring, automatic reverse braking, rear seat alert, tire pressure monitoring, smart brake support, front cross traffic alert/braking, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, emergency lane keeping, cruising and traffic support plus a bunch more. A panoramic sunroof is also standard on the Premium Plus package as is a powered tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
The only extra cost option was for the Artisan Red paint ($595) that took the base price of $59, 950 to a bottom line of $61,920 with delivery.
Mazda’s CX-90 AWD midsize is a compelling choice among three-row crossovers. In fact, Car and Driver Magazine rated it number one among four other comparably-equipped, competitive crossovers. It’s a superb choice for families of four or more.