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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-90


New large SUV has luxury intentions, and lives up to them with big pricing, too

14 Aug 2023



MAZDA Australia’s push upmarket continues with the new, big CX-90 family SUV, which is available with six or seven seats depending on the version you choose.


It is built on the same large vehicle architecture as the new CX-60 SUV, and as such makes use of the same powertrains – turbocharged straight-six petrol and diesel units with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology – and all grades are all-wheel drive, but with a rear-biased system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.


The power outputs are sizable – in fact, the G50e petrol version, with 254kW and 500Nm – is the company’s most powerful model to date. The diesel D50e has 187kW and 550Nm, and isn’t short of spunk, either.


Mazda offers the CX-90 in three different grades. The entry-level Touring model is priced at $73,800 for the G50e, while the D50e attracts a $2000 premium ($75,800 – all prices MSRP).


It comes standard with a host of great features, including LED lighting, 19-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch media screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, a surround-view camera and front and rear parking sensors, leather seat trim, electric front seat adjustment and front seat heating, an electric tailgate and plenty more, including a host of high-tech safety systems.


The second step up is the GT, which pushes the price up to $84,555 for the G50e petrol and $84,800 for the D50e diesel. The gap between the two grades has changed due to the luxury-car-tax threshold for efficient vehicles working in the diesel’s favour. This grade adds silver finish 21-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, second-row heated seats, a heated steering wheel, 12 speaker Bose sound system and a bigger 12.3-inch media screen with touch capabilities.


And topping the range is the Azami (D50e - $92,540; G50e - $93,655) which has black-look wheels, body-coloured cladding, while inside it has woven textile fabrics and Nappa leather upholstery is available either in black or white, and it adds cooled front seats, interior ambient lighting, driver’s seat ingress/egress electric adjustment (easy access), and a system called Cruising and Traffic Support, which can steer, accelerate and brake in some situations.


The Azami is also available with two $6500 optional packages: Takumi, which incorporates Pure White Nappa leather colour with second-row captain’s seats, or the SP package with tan Nappa leather colour with second-row captain’s seats.


Diesel models have exceptional combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres, while petrol versions have a stated claim of 8.2 litres per 100km (95 RON premium unleaded required). I observed 6.9L/100km for the diesel and 9.5L/100km for the petrol on the country-road-heavy launch drive in the Hunter Valley, NSW.


Like the CX-60, it is worth noting that the CX-90’s towing capacity differs between petrol and diesel models. The petrol versions have a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500kg, while diesels are lower, at 2000kg. Mazda says there is additional cooling for the petrol models, and due to higher demand from markets like North America, that’s why the petrol is rated to tow more.


Also consider that Mazda persists with shorter service intervals for the diesel models in its range. Maintenance for D50e versions is 12 months/10,000km, while G50e is 12 months/15,000km. The servicing costs aren’t overly cheap, either, averaging out at $672 per visit for the petrol and $643 per visit for the diesel (but keep in mind, you have to take the diesel in more regularly…!).


The brand continues to offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with the same cover for roadside assistance.


Driving impressions


There are lots of impressive elements to the CX-90’s drive experience, but arguably a few things that need a bit more polish considering the price being asked for this large SUV.


The best elements are the powertrains. The D50e, in particular, is a healthy feeling thing, with heaps of pulling power and less low-rev lag to contend with. It just has a bit more urgency when pushing away at lower speeds, which makes it feel more effortless and rewarding for an everyday driver.


The G50e has a bit more zest higher up in the revs and might suit a more enthusiastic buyer as a result. But surprisingly, it’s quite a loud engine for a petrol (louder than the diesel, to my ear) and while it offers a nice induction noise, it mightn’t be as luxurious as a petrol SUV buyer spending this kinda money will expect.


The eight-speed automatic and 48-volt hybrid system work pretty well together in urban settings and at higher speeds, with the engine at times turning off while coasting before (not quite silently) restarting when required. You can hear a little bit of electric motor assistance at times, too, which is the integrated motor helping push the vehicle away.


The ride is the biggest complaint, especially in models with the 21-inch wheels. It can feel brittle and edgy on smaller inconsistencies in the surface, and a bit bouncy and wobbly when the car encounters larger bumps.


The handling is decent, but even the firmer suspension setup can’t really hide the weight of this vehicle (between 2190kg and 2241kg kerb mass) and it can lean quite a bit in corners – even roundabouts and slower speed movements might lead to some body-shift in the seats. There’s also perhaps a bit too much road noise on coarser roads – again, more noticeably in the vehicles with 21s.


And while the brakes are decent, they can at times feel like they aren’t quite enough to pull up this big, heavy SUV as quickly as you might wish. There is regenerative braking built into the system, of course, which dulls the feeling at the top of the pedal as well.


Unlike some other large family SUVs at this price (Land Rover Defender, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Patrol) there is no digital camera mirror system. In those vehicles, you can flick a switch and have a video feed show up on the rear-view mirror, which is a godsend when you have all three rows full of people, or even just all the seats up. But in the Mazda that’s not the case, and the rearward visibility is hampered to a degree, as a result.


This tester also finds the driver’s side mirror in Mazda models to be annoying, as it’s not convex like the passenger-side mirror, and that can make merging a bit more of a task than it ought to be.


While it may appear there are more negatives than positives, a lot of that is due to the context in which this new model competes. It is up against some serious luxury SUVs at the $100K price point, and while it is a great Mazda, it might not be quite as convincing when compared against a Genesis GV80, Lexus RX, VW Touareg or Audi Q7.


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