2024 Mazda CX-90 GT

The CX-90 mostly rights its predecessor's wrongs, all while living up to Mazda's upmarket intentions, even in lower-spec trims
The CX-90 mostly rights its predecessor's wrongs, all while living up to Mazda's upmarket intentions, even in lower-spec trims

by Nick Tragianis | August 3, 2023


When Mazda pulls the wraps off a new vehicle, three things are guaranteed: it’ll look great, drive great, and it’ll have a really nice interior. The CX-90 is no exception; the top-spec Signature lived up to our lofty expectations with its buttery smooth powertrain, and equally buttery smooth leather. So, when we climbed into the 2024 Mazda CX-90 GT — you know, the model people will actually buy — our expectations were equally lofty. And once again, the CX-90 (mostly) did not disappoint.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for roughly the last decade, three-row SUVs and crossovers are big business these days. Most people seem to have an aversion to anything with sliding rear doors, so these minivan-alternatives are the new family haulers, blending roomy accommodations and generous cargo space with a sense of style. Bonus points if it isn’t a total snooze-fest to drive, too.


At last, Mazda seems to understand this. The outgoing CX-9 was admittedly a very pretty entry into this highly competitive segment, with a lovely interior and (relatively) sprightly driving dynamics, but ultimately held back by its tight third-row accommodations and equally tight cargo hold. Brand-new for 2024, the CX-90 mostly rights these wrongs, taking what we love about its predecessor and stuffing it into a more usable package — all the while living up to Mazda’s upmarket intentions, even in the lower-spec trims.

Mazda has made no bones about the CX-90’s baller-on-a-budget nature, starting with the underpinnings. The big news is what you can’t see — it’s built atop a new rear-drive-based architecture, something generally reserved for much pricier SUVs. You can also spec one of two equally new powertrains: a 3.3-litre turbocharged inline-six augmented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system, or a plug-in hybrid that pairs a 2.5L inline-four with a 17.8 kWh battery, resulting in up to 42 kilometres of all-electric range.

This mid-spec CX-90 GT tester comes with the former powertrain in its least-powerful tune, but it certainly didn’t feel like the “base” engine. Rated at “only” 280 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, it never once left us asking for more power, and the silky BMW-like soundtrack was delicious. All CX-90s get an eight-speed automatic transmission, and send power to all four wheels via a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. Towing capacity on the GT is rated at 5,000 pounds.

Stepping up to the CX-90’s GT-P and Signature trims ups output to 319 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque on 87-octane gas; feed it 93 and you get another bump to 340 ponies, but whether that minuscule bump worth the price difference between hogwash and high-test is up to you. Officially, the base sixer sips 9.9 L/100 km city, 8.4 highway, and 9.3 combined; we averaged 9.2 L/100 km over a fairly even city/highway split. Commendably miserly, given the CX-90’s sheer size.

As delicious as the engine is, two things somewhat soured us on the whole experience. First, the eight-speed automatic: it was mostly well-behaved around town, but mashing the skinny pedal when merging or passing often resulted in an ever-so-slightly delayed kick-down. Not only that, it’d fire off shifts we’d feel in our posteriors more often than we liked, particularly while decelerating. Second, the automatic start-stop system: it shuts off the engine while you’re still in motion but off the gas pedal, even at higher speeds. Granted, you may eventually save a few bucks on fuel, but getting back on the gas is often met with a delay in regaining forward momentum. Here’s hoping a solution to both is a simple software update away.

Beyond the occasional clunky shift and awkward stop-start system, the CX-90’s road manners are exemplary. Steering is light but it’s responsive to your inputs, and there’s a surprising degree of feedback. The CX-90 is no Miata, but chuck it into a tight on-ramp, and there’s much less roll than you’d expect. Ride quality is excellent; only the roughest of potholes, bumps, and other imperfections filter through, and wind and road noise are muted.

One area where the CX-90’s new platform lends an unexpected advantage is styling. Most crossovers built atop a front-drive platform resulting in stubby proportions, but the CX-90’s rear-biased architecture translates to a longer dash-to-axle ratio — the distance between the front wheels and door — meaning a silhouette more fitting to something with twin oversized grilles or a three-pointed star up front. The CX-90 is handsome overall, with its long hood and door panels that use reflections (rather than creases and character lines) to add depth, although Mazda making a pretty vehicle is hardly news.

Mazda putting together a lovely interior is hardly news, either, but there’s one thing that truly surprised us inside the CX-90. Countless automakers are obsessed with glossy black interior trim, somehow equating fingerprints, dust, and micro-scratches with luxury. So we were surprised — almost shocked — that there was hardly a spec of the shiny black stuff inside the CX-90, instead adorned with swathes of metallic silver trim and other bits of brightwork. Yes, it’s still plastic, but it’s nonetheless a refreshing change from the norm further enhanced by Mazda’s first-rate fit-and-finish, although the GT trim misses out on some of the more plush trim bits from the Signature.

The rest of the interior is mostly well-executed. Visibility all around is good, finding a comfortable driving position is a piece of cake, and infotainment is handled by a 12.3-inch display mounted atop the dashboard. It operates no differently than other Mazdas, including the click-wheel on the centre console, so we’ll simply leave it at this: it’s intuitive enough once you’ve set up your presents, but operating Apple CarPlay or Android Auto — both of which are wireless, and standard — with the knob is awkward.

On overall space, the CX-90 is a bit of an in-betweener. There’s generous headroom and legroom in the first and second rows; the third row is still a little tight, but it’s improved over the CX-9. Cargo space punches in at 422 litres with the rear seats up, 1,132 litres with them stowed, and 2,101 with the second and third rows folded. It’s still on the tighter end of the segment, but it’s certainly roomy enough and an improvement over the CX-9.

Ah, but the price is the CX-90’s mic drop, starting at $45,900 for the GS and topping out at $63,300 for the Signature. Our GT tester slots smack-dab in the middle at $55,350 as-tested — great value considering the premium interior appointments, silky powertrain, and laundry list of standard bells and whistles, including a 360-degree camera, 21-inch wheels, and Mazda’s suite of active safety bits, among many others.

Mazda has a lot riding on the CX-90’s shoulders. Not only does it serve as the brand’s flagship vehicle, but it also needs to be functional as a family hauler. The 2024 Mazda CX-90 GT finally understands the assignment — it’s still not the most spacious three-row SUV in the segment, and some aspects of the powertrain could benefit from some fine-tuning, but its silky engine, premium interior, and added space over its predecessor strike a great balance between function and form.

See Also

First Drive: 2024 Volkswagen Atlas

2023 Hyundai Palisade Urban

2023 Subaru Ascent Premier

Vehicle Specs
Three-row crossover
Engine Size
3.3L turbocharged inline-six
Horsepower (at RPM)
280 hp @ 5,000
Torque (lb-ft.)
332 lb-ft @ 2,000
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Nick Tragianis

Managing Editor

Nick has more than a decade of experience shooting and writing about cars, and as a journalism grad, he's a staunch believer of the Oxford Comma despite what the Canadian Press says. He’s a passionate photographer and loves exploring the open road in anything he gets his hands on.

Current Toys: '90 MX-5 Miata, '00 M5, '16 GTI Autobahn