On that ocean-flung lump of granite otherwise known as the island of Newfoundland, there are numerous terms for frustration that are as inventive as they are entertaining.
“You got me drove” is a great one for expressing irritation with another human, while “Oh, me nerves” is often heard in exasperation with the weather forecast. Numerous others are unfit for publication, especially ones uttered when all the rum is gone.
Beyond the Maritime weather, kids can be quick to test a parent’s patience – especially teenagers, who think they know everything simply because they’re, well, teenagers. Graciously, the assembled adolescents being shuttled around The Rock inside the 2024 Mazda CX-90 possessed more than a smidgen of self-awareness.
Installing a quartet of sophomore teens into the biggest Mazda to date seemed the most thorough test we could hurl at this new three-row crossover, so that’s precisely what we did. After all, a family vehicle should cause no more irritation than the occupants it carries.
Under the hood of this particular CX-90 is a 3.3L inline-six-cylinder aided by mild hybrid technology and hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A healthy 340 hp is generated when expensive 93-octane is in the tank, along with 369 lb-ft of torque; the former drops to a still respectable 319 hp when running on regular. Rare in this class, the engine’s configuration provides a silken power delivery welcomed in a sea of high strung turbocharged four-cylinder entries.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Despite those outsized output numbers, this three-row earns official fuel economy ratings of 10.3 L/100 km in the city, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.5 combined. This test confirmed the accuracy of these numbers, consuming 51 L of unleaded over 580 km of mostly highway driving. That works out to an impressive 8.8 L/100 km.
Driving Feel: 8/10
That straight-six layout also results in pleasing driving dynamics, offering better weight balance and a tighter turning radius than machines with four-cylinder transverse engines. Highway passing manoeuvres are brisk and drama free, though the same can’t be said of some active driving aids, which tend to be more neurotic than a paranoid informant. Fortunately, their sensitivity can be reduced in the infotainment menus (or shut off altogether).
This is one of the only machines – and certainly one of the first mainstream family haulers – your humble author has driven in recent memory which prompted total strangers to approach and gush about its appearance. One man was so moved by the colour he insisted on learning its actual name (Artisan Red, if you’re wondering), while another risked life and limb by sprinting across a crowded Costco parking lot to offer fulsome praise about the CX-90’s rich look. In fact, one family friend who knows more about cars than most initially mistook it for a Lexus.
Stopping by a series of thrift shops, scavenged prizes included a battered briefcase thought to surely contain treasures but yielding only a leather folio and some papers from the 1990s. Terrifying stuffed animals straight out of the Saw movie franchise also made the trek home, but pants which looked like they belonged to M.C Hammer stayed at the shop. Had this crew bought anything larger, the CX-90 would have been a willing assistant, thanks to 451 L behind the third row.
In fact, the entire interior played well as a road trip companion, with the kids delighting in discovering items like the hidden slide-out drawer under the second-row centre console and the pair of USB charging ports in the way back. Complaints were few, but all agreed that the otherwise comfortable second-row seats don’t slide forward far enough to permit an easy exit from the rearmost seats. However, it was agreed the seat release handles were easy to use, and rear doors – which opened nearly 90 degrees – were praised.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hadn’t yet tested the CX-90 at the time of this writing; however, Mazda’s history is littered with top performances in terms of safety. The CX-9, this crossover’s predecessor, was deemed a Top Safety Pick in its segment for 2023.
Up front, Mazda takes a different approach to infotainment controls than most competitors, funnelling commands through a rotary dial instead of permitting passengers to stab a finger at the gorgeous 10.25-inch infotainment screen. This has a learning curve, though not insurmountable. In a usability concession, Mazda permits Apple CarPlay to be controlled by touch.
Comfort is vast, even for your 6-foot-6 writer, though while the outboard dash vents up front blend seamlessly into the front doors, their design juts out like hard metal wings when those doors are open, collecting Kate Spade handbag straps and bruising knees upon a harried entry. Maybe our crew just needs to be less clumsy.
The CX-90 offers best value in its lower trims, where sticker prices undercut that of the Hyundai Palisade. This top-rung Signature checked in at $65,845, which is a lot. The best buy is likely the entry-level CX-90 GS, which packs the same silky inline-six engine (with a slightly different tune and better estimated fuel economy), and is priced at $45,900 plus fees. Amenities include that 10.25-inch infotainment tablet, three-zone climate control, and adaptive cruise control. The sole vexation with selecting the GS is a palette which does not offer this Artisan Red paint; fortunately, Deep Crystal Blue Mica is on the docket.
Whichever trim you select, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 is unlikely to get on anyone’s nerves – an important trait in any family hauler. You’re on your own with the kids, though.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I6|
|Peak Horsepower||340 hp @ 5,000–6,000 rpm (w/premium gas)|
|Peak Torque||369 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.3 / 8.5 / 9.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||2,129 / 1,155 / 451 L behind 1st / 2nd / 3rd row|
|Model Tested||2023 Mazda CX-90 Signature|
|Price as Tested||$65,945|
$450 – Artisan Red Crystal paint, $450