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Mazda CX-90 PHEV review

In the world of three-row family haulers there's an almost infinite number of options. It's a category that tends to lean towards practicality over fun and performance but leave it to Mazda to turn that on it's head with a vehicle that was as fun to drive as it was practical for loading donations and supplies during our move from San Diego a few weeks ago. During this gauntlet we quite literally took multiple trips each day where it was loaded to the gills but then needed to take breaks before doing it over again. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 Plugin Hybrid filled the bill so well that Heather and I immediately added it to our short list of vehicles to consider buying.

cx 90 driving

CX-90 Feature Overview

We've been big fans of Mazda since I first drove the CX-5 about 10 years ago. Over that time we've had the opportunity to test out a few of their different vehicles and while Mazda has their own unique twist ... they are religiously obsessed with the concept of "Jinba Ittai" or the concept of a horse and rider communicating through tactile response as one entity rather than simply being a pilot or commander telling the car where to go and how to do it. 

This results in some interesting design choices that some folks might not like—such as rejecting the current trend of having huge touch screens and instead relying on a puck to navigate the screens—but it ultimately makes the driving experience safer, less stressful, and more intuitive. 

Those who have followed Mazda for a while might be scratching their head at the move from "CX-9" to "CX-90" (along with 50 and 70) but this is where my attention piqued. Essentially instead of simply getting longer ... this new generation of Mazda SUVs is also slightly wider. for a big guy like myself this is a welcome addition and presents an option to purchasing a truck to get some extra shoulder space that simply isn't available in most other vehicles in this segment.

cx 90 second row seats

Like others in the segment, though, Mazda is offering this vehicle in a wide variety of configurations, including a 6, 7, and 8-seat configuration, as well as a 3.3 Turbo, PHEV, and 3.3 Turbo S powertrain.


CX-90 Combined Specifications

ModelCity MPGFreeway MPGCombined MPGCombined MPGeElectric RangeEngine TypePower (HP)Torque (lb-ft)Additional Features
CX-90 Turbo S 23 28 25 - - e-SKYACTIV G 3.3L INLINE 6 TURBO 340 (Premium) / 319 (Regular) 369 48V M-Hybrid Boost System
CX-90 Turbo 24 28 25 - - e-SKYACTIV G 3.3L INLINE 6 TURBO 280 332 48V M-Hybrid Boost System
CX-90 PHEV - - 25 (Gas Engine) 56 (Electric + Gas) 26 miles e-SKYACTIV PHEV (100KW Electric Motor + 2.5L I-4 Engine) 323 (Premium) / 319 (Regular) 369 17.8 kWh battery pack


What I love about how Mazda positioned these three different engine configurations is that unlike other three-row SUVs where the hybrid is skewed to maximum efficiency while sacrificing the thrill of driving, here the PHEV us actually positioned pretty nicely. While you are 17 horses short of the Turbo S (when using premium fuel), you maintain the 369 lb-ft of torque and with regular unleaded it's the same 319 hp.

However, when you consider that you are getting 26 miles of all-electric mobility and a combined 56 MPGe the PHEV is a pretty compelling proposition.

Plus, consider that you can park in EV spots and charge while you shop or are a game or even at work and the PHEV has even more benefits. While gas might be cheap right now, from my perspective as a prospective buyer, I am trying to project forward to what gas prices will be like in 5 or 6 years and that is going to be a future where I'm going to be happy to have access to my 26 mile range of electric power.

cx 90 cargo space third row

Moving and Hauling

Cargo space was pretty good here though the Highlander that we were also testing beat it pretty conclusively in terms of maximum cargo capacity. The Mazda CX-90 though offered a respectable amount for most folks:

  • 2nd and 3rd Row Folded:75.2 cu-ft
  • 3rd Row Folded: 40.1 cu-ft
  • All seats up: 15.9 cu-ft

cx 90 cargo space second row

While statistically this is one of the smaller cargo volumes compared to competitors such as Kia's Telluride and Toyota's Grand Highlander, from a practical perspective it didn't seem to impact our move in a meaningful way ... though it was noticeable when loading boxes that needed to be stacked next to each other or on top of each other. For most folks that would be simply throwing a suitcase in the back or folding the seats down to put a folding table or bulky item ... I'm not sure the difference is as big as the statistics would otherwise suggest.

cx 90 dashboard

Driving Experience

For me though, what's more important is the experience of driving the car and from that point of view, I found this experience to be very enjoyable. While I'm honestly not sure how to categorize Mazda, it's either as close to a luxury SUV as you can get in the mainstream brands or an entry-level candidate for folks who might be cross shopping BMW, Mercedes, and Genesis but want to save a few thousand dollars by going with a less prestigious brand.

Quite frankly, aside from the obvious that this is a long vehicle - 201.6" vs 196.9" (Telluride) and 197.4" (Highlander) it performs great on the road. It's fast off the line at stop lights and better than most other 3-row SUVs on mountain roads.

cx 90 profile

On thing that is interesting here is that unlike other manufacturers who have decided to offer "rugged" versions of their vehicles, Mazda has chose to focus the CX-90 as being optimized for on-road driving and it excels at this with a smooth comfortable ride but aside from going slowly on well maintained fire roads, I'm not sure i would stray off the pavement. If that's what you are looking for though, the CX-50 might be a good option but it's also significantly smaller and there's currently no PHEV version.

cx 90 side view

Final Thoughts

Overall, color me impressed. This feels like the ultimate manifestation of what the Mazda engineers told me they were trying to do 10 years ago and now it's finally come to fruition across a full line of products. While this segment is extremely competitive and there are some more luxurious competitors and others with more cargo capacity and some with more power ... Mazda did a spectacular job with this vehicle. So much so that we've already begun talking with dealers in anticipation of the CX-70 PHEV's arrival next spring that should be a similar vehicle but without the 3rd row.

The 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV starts at about $50,000 and as tested with he Premium Plus package was priced at just under $60,000.