Looking for a three-row plug-in hybrid crossover below $50,000? The CX-90 is one of very few.
For months prior to the three-row CX-90's launch, much of the conversation centered around its new inline-six engine, a configuration that is making a bit of a comeback. But is the CX-90 plug-in hybrid actually the one to have? Although more expensive, at a starting price of over $47k, the new Mazda CX-90 Hybrid SUV makes a competitive 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor. That's more power than the base inline-six in the CX-90, and as much torque as the high-output version of the six-pot. Of course, it also promises the best gas mileage figures in the range, and has the distinction of being Mazda's first PHEV in the United States.
The newly revealed Toyota Grand Highlander with its Hybrid MAX powertrain is one rival that is more powerful, but it isn't a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) like the Mazda, so it doesn't have an all-electric range. The upscale interior of the CX-90 Hybrid is another feather in its cap, but let's see if all this is enough to justify the Mazda's fairly high starting price.
The release date for the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid is scheduled for spring 2023, when it will be coming out as a 2024 model in the USA.
Whereas the base CX-90 has a sub-$40,000 starting price, the price of the 2024 Mazda CX-90 Hybrid begins at a much higher $47,445 for the Preferred trim. From there, the MSRP rises to $52,900 for the Premium and $56,950 for the Premium Plus. These prices exclude a $1,375 destination charge. The two top trims are easily more expensive than the older CX-9 range-topper, so it will challenge customers who aren't accustomed to paying these prices for a Mazda.
As mentioned, rivals will include the new Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid, but pricing for this model hasn't been revealed yet. Both the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are obvious alternatives, but these aren't available in hybrid form. The Kia Sorento PHEV comes with three rows and starts at $49,990, but it makes only 261 hp and is beaten by the larger Mazda for cargo space behind the third row.
In fact, other three-row plug-in hybrid crossovers that start at the CX-90 Hybrid's price point are almost non-existent. If you don't need three seats, the Hyundai Sante Fe PHEV Limited, at a cost of $47,370, is a possible alternative, but at 261 hp, is comprehensively outgunned by the Mazda. You can get three rows and a PHEV powertrain in the cheaper Mitsubishi Outlander, but this crossover is also down on power, technically fits into the compact segment, and is not as luxurious as the Mazda. Clearly, the CX-90 Hybrid is quite a unique prospect at its starting price.
There isn't a big difference between the exterior of the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid and its six-cylinder sibling. Sharing several styling cues with other Mazdas, such as the grille with the lower chrome surround, it's the restraint that has been applied to the CX-90's design that gives it a premium aura. The front-end is quite upright, and the larger dimensions than the CX-9 are the first hints at a more spacious interior. Elongated taillight clusters stretch almost all the way to the central badge on the tailgate, and the sides of the vehicle are smooth and clean.
All trims come with LED exterior lighting, heated side mirrors, and a mesh front grille with a Gloss Black finish. You don't need to pay extra for the power glass moonroof or power rear liftgate, and the aluminum roof rails have a classy Satin Chrome finish. Whereas the Preferred rides on 19-inch alloy wheels with a silver finish, the Premium and Premium Plus upgrade to 21-inch machine cut wheels with a black finish. All models have a PHEV fender badge, but only the top two have a shark fin antenna. Power-folding mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer are reserved for the Premium Plus.
Standard colors for the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid include Deep Crystal Blue Mica, Jet Black Mica, and Platinum Quartz Metallic. For $595 more, you can unlock access to Rhodium White Premium, Soul Red Crystal Metallic, or Machine Grey Metallic. It's a pity that the most attractive new shade, Artisan Red Premium, is limited to the top two trims for $595. The same applies to Sonic Silver Metallic, although this one requires no surcharge.
Mazda's largest SUV has been the CX-9 for some time, but the dimensions of the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid surpass this. The wheelbase of the CX-90 measures 122.8 inches, a whole 7.5 inches longer than the CX-9's. Even without the front license plate holder, the CX-90 Hybrid exceeds 200 inches in length, at 200.8 inches, whereas the CX-9 came in at 199.4 inches. With its wheel arch moldings, the CX-90 is 84.9 inches in width, and it's 68.2 inches in height. The top two trims measure 68.7 inches in height.
A high curb weight remains the Achille's heel of any plug-in vehicle, and at 5,243 pounds, the CX-90 Hybrid is not a light crossover. It weighs 834 lbs more than the CX-9 and 534 lbs more than the base CX-90 with the 3.3-liter engine.
Although it'll probably lack the silky smoothness of the six-cylinder model, the engine in the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid isn't short on power. The longitudinally-mounted 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder mill has a specially tuned intake to improve torque, and it is paired with an AC synchronous e-SkyActiv electric motor. The combined system outputs are 323 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and with its rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, we estimate that the 0-60 mph time will be in the region of 6.5 seconds. Mazda says that the PHEV can drive entirely on electric power alone in a variety of conditions.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, but it does without a torque converter. The electric motor between the engine and transmission directly powers the CX-90 at low speeds, and aids smooth acceleration from a standstill.
Power goes to all four wheels via the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system with a rear bias. That, together with a manual mode for the transmission and a Sport driving mode, should make the CX-90 Hybrid one of the more engaging vehicles to pilot in its segment. There are also Off-Road and EV driving modes, along with a Towing mode for the top two trims. All trims have a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, which is more than the older CX-9 but less than the mild-hybrid CX-90 with the six-cylinder mill.
EPA gas mileage specs are yet to be published for this model, but we do know that the CX-60 PHEV sold in other markets can travel around 39 miles on electric power alone with the same powertrain. As the CX-90 Hybrid is larger and heavier, its all-electric range will probably be closer to 30 miles. Its mpg rating should also be better than the 25 mpg combined achieved by the six-cylinder model.
Charging the 17.8-kWh lithium-ion battery from 20% to 80% will take six hours and 40 minutes based on Level 1 charging with a 120V socket so can be done overnight. With Level 2 charging at 240V, that time drops to 90 minutes. Mazda does also specify that these times are based on a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so expect slower results when conditions are colder.
The last thing anyone wants when being whisked down the road in silence by an electric motor is to be seated inside a squeaky, cheap-feeling cabin. Well, there are no such concerns in the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid's interior as it may just be the best one ever designed by the Japanese manufacturer. Inspired by Japanese aesthetics, there's a charming simplicity to the interior, which doesn't try to dazzle you with disco-like lighting or enormous touchscreens. Rather, the driver can still interact with conventional controls for the shift lever and ventilation system, and there is a rotary controller to interact with the 10.25-inch full-color center display. This display grows to 12.3 inches on the Premium Plus, but all models have a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster.
There are eight seats in the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid Preferred, but the top two trims have seven seats as they swap out the second-row bench seat for a pair of captain's chairs. All models have heated front seats, which are also power-adjustable. Heated second-row seats and ventilated front seats become standard on the Premium Plus.
On the dashboard, distinctive hanging stitching is something you won't find in other cars, and is another link to Japanese culture. Materials are excellent, with leather upholstery for the first row and second-row outboard seats, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Premium Plus has interior-matched door panel inserts with contrast stitching and piping.
Three-zone automatic climate control keeps everyone comfortable, and long-distance trips are made easier thanks to the radar cruise control system. The base model comes with an eight-speaker sound system, upgraded to a Bose Centerpoint system with 12 speakers on the top two trims. And, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard throughout, the Premium and Premium Plus offer wireless operation of these functions. Lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning are a few of the standard driver-assist technologies.
Cargo space in the Mazda CX-90 Hybrid will differ based on whether the third row is configured for two or three passengers. With three passengers, there are 14.9 cubic feet behind the third row, 40 cubes behind the second row, and 74.2 cubes behind the first row. A bit more space is freed up when the third row is configured for two, with 15.9/40.1/75.2 cubes, respectively. Across all these metrics, the CX-90 Hybrid provides a little more space than in the CX-9.
A front center console with USB-C inputs is standard, and the top trim also has a second-row center console. Those in the third row have access to their own air conditioning vents and available third-row USB-C ports.