Mazda CX-90 first drive: largest of the large

Damien O’Carroll
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Introducing a new SUV powered by the most powerful engine you have ever made may seem at odds with the world's general move towards smaller electrified powertrains, but Mazda has a massive trump card to play in respect to the new CX-90 SUV - mainly that it is larger, more powerful and yet still significantly more frugal than the vehicle it is replacing.

The second new entrant to launch locally on Mazda's new Large Product platform, the seven-seat CX-90 takes everything about the equally new five-seat CX-60 and makes it, well, bigger.

Landing in New Zealand as a single top-spec Takami model, the CX-90 is powered by the same 3.3-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid system as the CX-60, but powered up to produce a hefty 254kW and 500Nm, compared to 209kW/450Nm in the CX-60.

But while this may seem somewhat profligate in the current climate (literally), the fact remains that the CX-90 has a WLTP fuel consumption rating of 9.1L/100km and CO2 emissions of 210g/km, while the car it effectively replaces - the CX-9 seven-seater - slurped 10.0L/100km and belched 235g/km, while only producing 170kW and 420Nm.

But the CX-90 is also far more high-end than the CX-9 (that has ceased production, but Mazda NZ has stock to see it through until the end of this year), meaning it is also significantly more expensive - where the high-spec CX-9 Takami topped the range at $74,690, the sole CX-90 Takami lands at $92,990. That's before its estimated $4025 Clean Car fee is added, but this is reduced from the CX-9's $5462 fee.

The seven-seat CX-90 takes everything about the equally new five-seat CX-60 and makes it, well, bigger.

But for the extra $17,000 you get a massive jump in quality and a serious amount of new equipment and tech, not to mention that slick inline six with its big bump in power and performance. Oh, and those sharp new looks.

The CX-90 does look quite a lot like the CX-60, but Mazda has beefed it up, particularly around the rear, with a squarer rear overhang that, combined with the raked windscreen and short front overhang, gives the CX-90 a look that is actually somewhat reminiscent of what a large Jaguar SUV might look like.

On the inside the "CX-60 but bigger" theme continues - although "wider" is probably a more appropriate word - and the materials used inside the CX-90 are of a truly high quality, with a layout that is similar to the CX-60.

The biggest difference is that the CX-90 Takami isn't available with the fancy white Nappa leather and woven fabric dashboard trim, making do instead with a more reserved black Nappa leather interior. In every other way equipment levels are broadly the same as the CX-60 Takami, which you can read about here.

On the road the similarities continue, with the CX-90 being a comfortable, deceptively quick large SUV that can handle itself impressively well through corners.

On the inside the "CX-60 but bigger" theme continues, although "wider" is probably a more appropriate word.

The 3.3-litre straight six, 48-volt mild hybrid system and clever 8-speed "torque converter-less" automatic transmission make a fantastic team, providing seamless grunt at any speed, making for effortless progress regardless of whether it is a winding back road or a motorway.

While $92,990 may seem like a big ask for a Mazda, people said the same thing about Hyundai, and it is happily selling $90k-plus Santa Fe and Pallisade SUVs these days. Also, I had driven out to the launch in a new Lexus RX 350h that starts at $120,900 and had to admit on the drive home that the Mazda wasn't all that far off in terms of quality, yet considerably better in terms of drivability. Which says a lot about where the CX-90 is aimed.

ENGINE: 3.3-litre petrol straight six with 48-volt mild hybrid system
POWER: 254kW/500Nm
GEARBOX: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
CONSUMPTION: 9.1l/100km
PRICE: $92,990


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