The 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV GS-L continues Mazda’s recent streak of offering some of the most bang for your buck, offering up loads of value and punching above its price point in terms of overall refinement and appeal. No wonder it was our Crossover of the Year for 2023.
Mazda has hit a home run with the new CX-90. This seven-passenger crossover is more attractive than it has any right to be. I’m still smitten with Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal paint, giving the CX-90 a sporty vibe, though I’ll also grant their new maroon-ish Artisan Red Metallic available on upper CX-90 trims like the Signature looks fantastic. Point is, the CX-90 looks great in virtually any colour — there’s a presence to it due to its sheer size, aided by Mazda’s typical athletic and elegant design philosophy. A blacked-out grille framed by chrome trim that “bleeds” into the headlights adorns the front end; the entire front end is very flat-faced, which you’d think would clash with the rest of the CX-90’s curves, but it works.
The CX-90’s side profile is simple and clean, and like many other Mazdas, there aren’t any real character lines to speak of. Instead, Mazda uses slightly concave body panels to add depth, but the CX-90 does look a bit slab-sided from certain angles. There’s a subtle chrome PHEV badge on the front fender, as well as black trim around the wheel wells to add character. The rear end is similarly simple and the overall look is shared with most other Mazdas. I know it sounds boring, but Mazda is the king of doing more with less, and the CX-90 is no different. These simple elements come together very well for a clean overall look that will likely age well; I’d love for some larger wheels, but that can be remedied by going with a higher trim level.
Inside, the CX-90 is a nice place to be, starting with a low step-over height making for easy entry into the spacious cabin. Material quality is solid, with comfortable leatherette seating surfaces and little hard-touch plastics to speak of. The centre console is simple and clean, and you still get physical switchgear for most functions. If I have to nitpick, I’d say both the 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display and especially the digital gauge cluster suffer from less-than-ideal black levels, although the graphics and overall UI are solid. The CX-90 is the first Mazda I’ve driven with a fully digital instrument cluster, which is nice to see at this price point, rather than the part-digital, part-analog setup on most other Mazdas. I didn’t appreciate Mazda’s odd gear selector pattern, either, with park being directly to the left of reverse — it just felt unnatural. I could go for some more ambient lighting in the cabin, too, but I’m still nitpicking. The rest of the interior makes no real mistakes; it’s comfortable, roomy enough, and easy to use.
The most interesting part about the CX-90 is the powertrain — it’s all hybrid. The turbocharged inline-six engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid assist may be generating all the buzz, but our tester is the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version. It features a normally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas engine mated to an electric motor. All-in, it makes a solid 323 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. The CX-90 PHEV can drive up to 42 kilometres in pure electric mode at speeds of up to 115 km/h, or use a combination of gas and electric propulsion as needed.
Most of my travel in the CX-90 PHEV was short, local trips, so the EV range was plenty and help limit my fuel use to all of $20 for my full week of commuting and errands. I averaged a fantastic 5.4 L/ 100 km overall, efficiency that V6-powered competitors like the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Palisade could never touch.
The nice thing about PHEVs is that range anxiety isn’t a thing. Once you deplete the EV range, the gas engine kicks in to provide propulsion and even charge the battery, albeit very slowly. The CX-90’s transitions between gas and electric, and vice-versa, is among the smoothest I’ve experienced, with no perceptible hiccups in power delivery — something I can’t even say for the nearly perfect BMW X5 xDrive50e. The electric motor provides silky smooth instant torque, as is customary for EV powertrains. The four-cylinder engine doesn’t sound particularly refined, coming across a bit buzzy on a cold start. Luckily you don’t experience this quote often, as the CX-90 rarely fires up with the gas engine first. By and large, Mazda has done a great job making this plug-in hybrid powertrain feel natural; there aren’t any gimmicky spaceship sounds in EV mode, and power delivery is smooth enough to feel like a very strong six-cylinder.
At $62,903 as-tested, including a $500 upcharge for that gorgeous Soul Red paint, there’s lots of value to be had in this mid-tier 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV GS-L. If you want all the bells and whistles including bigger wheels, a GT trim is available as well, starting at $64,350 before options. Still, I would have this over Infiniti’s more expensive QX60, or even a lower-end Audi Q5. Neither offer a hybrid powertrain, and the CX-90 best both of those on value while looking just as premium. It’s the smart pick in this crowded segment.