Joining the CX-60 on Mazda’s new large-car platform, the CX-90 is a family flagship with refreshing points of difference.

There’s no denying the CX-90 is built to accommodate the whole family although its proportions cleverly disguise the fact that it’s very big. So big that the 21-inch alloys look just about right in their arches and not enormous. Cleaning the complete windscreen requires a footstool unless you have long levers. And you could conceal an item in the load bay and not find it again for a couple of years.

It follows that passenger comfort is outstanding with generous shoulder room in a broad cabin, ample legroom in the back for tall timber, and two third-row seats to provide seven-seater flexibility. The main seats offer the right blend of comfort and support, are infinitely adjustable and feel as they will hold their shape for the rest of the century. Drivers are treated to the broadest range of telescopic steering adjustment in a mainstream vehicle and everyone benefits from the longest wheelbase possible with Mazda’s new large-car platform.

The designers have given the CX-90 the necessary width to create a pleasing and distinctive shape that looks classy in a dark colour with bold chromework and two-tone wheels. We drove through Taupo’s busy lakefront at lunchtime and the CX-90 turned every second head. From afar, we observed a family of five thoughtfully inspecting the car in a supermarket carpark. It stands out for the right reasons and is generally well received.

Under the huge bonnet, a 3.3-litre straight-six is paired with a 48V electrical system and tuned to deliver an impressive 254kW and peak torque of 500Nm from a paltry 2000rpm. It does so very smoothly, and the powertrain is not prone to the occasional shunting that afflicts the plug-in version of the CX-60. Under load, the big six can sound tuneful although noise is well suppressed. For the majority of our 900km spent in touring mode, we were pacing along between 80 and 120km/h with the engine barely raising a sweat between a range of 1400 and 2000rpm (or at zero revs when coasting). Prod the Mi-Drive switch to engage Sport, or downshift with a discrete paddle, and overtaking response is surprisingly good on the open road with the sudden burst of revs momentarily rewarding the ears. There is a lot of weight to shift but its distribution is good so keen open-road drivers can expect to enjoy a level of balance and engagement that is absent in some category rivals.

While the CX-90 gets away with its huge wheel and tyre package on smooth roads, road roar is apparent as soon as the surface deteriorates. To fulfil its luxury brief better, Mazda would need to suppress the sense of weight that is ever-apparent at the helm and take the edge off the trembling low-to-medium speed ride on imperfect surfaces.

No complaints with the premium cabin, however. There’s a welcome simplicity to its design and a focus on quality craftsmanship. The tech interfaces have evolved for the better (and the screens are bigger and clearer) but still seem very familiar in their appearance and operation. The head-up display is smarter and significantly bigger, too. The 360-degree cameras are as useful as the electronic tailgate, and the driver assistance systems have been refined to more often be helpful than nuisance value.

Icing on the cake is the efficiency of a powertrain that is more potent and efficient than that of the outgoing CX-9. A return of 9.3L/100km over 900km of brisk open-road driving interspersed with town dawdling is good going. Plus, the convenience of a long range and rapid refuelling was welcome after some less-than-satisfactory experiences in large EVs. As for value, take a look at the inflated prices of some European SUVs and draw your own conclusions.


ENGINE 3283cc six-cyl petrol

POWER 254kW@6000rpm

TORQUE 500Nm@2000rpm

TRANSMISSION Eight-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN All-wheel drive

LENGTH 5.10m

WEIGHT 2220kg

WHEELS 21-inch alloy

TYRES 275/45 (f, r)

0-100km/h 6.6 secs

FUEL CLAIM 9.1L/100km

PRICE from $92,990



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