2024 Mazda CX-90 Premium Plus PHEV Review & Test Drive

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The segment of three-row crossovers is very competitive, and Mazda put their best efforts forward in the new CX-90 that I had a chance to review a few months ago in the top-level 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus trim. I walked away, very impressed. For this week, I get to check out the CX-90 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which is an intriguing vehicle that brings forth the good aspects of the new sporty three-row crossover but leaves us with a slight letdown as far as lack of refinement in the PHEV powertrain. Being a PHEV is a nice blend of gas power and electric, is a welcomed transition into the world of an electric vehicle future.

Combining a near-luxury theme for the interior and growing the exterior proportions without taking away from the brand’s slightly mimicked good looks, the Mazda CX-90 is a stunner in many ways. While the CX-90 has somewhat conservative looks, it remains to be classy to fit its near-luxury theme with a sporty edge, which is something Mazda is known for across the spectrum of its lineup for many years.

Performance and Driving Character

Initially getting into the Mazda CX-90 PHEV in the top Premium Plus trim level, there’s a lot to appreciate about the luxury-feeling cabin, but some of that feeling is sapped by the feeling of a rather rough sensation of the engine firing up. For the plug-in hybrid drivetrain, Mazda utilizes a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor that’s powered by a 17.8-kWh battery pack all mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system. While the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder produces just 189 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, the electric motor fills in the power discrepancy with 173 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. Together, total power output equates to 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, which is welcoming to move the CX-90 PHEV with some authority. Zero to 60 mph ticks off in 6.2 seconds, which fundamentally matches that of the full gas-powered CX-90 we tested a few months back, hitting 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.

The PHEV system in the CX-90 seems to work well without any major hiccups. However, the operation of the system feels harsh at times, where you get the buzz of the 4-cylinder engine followed up with some vibration sent through the stiff chassis of the CX-90. Often enough, the system seems to be unnecessarily harsh at lower speeds and never smooths out no matter what RPM the engine is spinning. Where things do calm down is when the system utilizes electric power only, which in the case of a fully charged battery, you can get up to 26 miles of all-electric range. On my test of the range, we were able to get 22.5 miles out of a full charge with mixed city and highway driving on a somewhat cold 45-degree morning. I attribute some of the charge loss to the cooler weather. Regardless, even at 26 miles, I am not sure many will be completely sold on the CX-90 PHEV’s electric range.

See Also: 2024 Mazda CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus Review & Test Drive

Power from the electric motor is just enough to keep up with fast-moving traffic and to overtake vehicles on non-highway/interstate roads. The EV drive mode keeps the gas engine off and uses a momentary ‘boost’ of energy with a heavy throttle and sometimes down-shifts of the 8-speed automatic transmission – unless you floor the throttle, the engine kicks on. In the default Hybrid drive mode, the electric power meter gives you a good indication of when the engine will fire up.

If anything, the CX-90 PHEV is among the sportiest 3-row mainstream crossovers you can buy, and that says a lot for lighthearted enthusiasts. Some of the traits that Mazda may have gone too far to offend some in the sporty attitude, is the steering weightiness and the extra effort it takes to turn the steering. Here, the extra steering effort is unnecessary, considering it is mostly numb for transmitting any feedback from the road. Otherwise, the driving character of the CX-90 PHEV, having just over 300 extra pounds over the non-PHEV CX-90 to carry from the battery pack, remains to have a respectable balance of sport and luxury for the ride comfort and handling.

The transitions from the use of the gas engine to electric and using a combination of the engine and motor also proved to be unrefined, with some lumps in the drivetrain that had passengers of mine wondering if I hit something in the road. There’s also a bit of unsettling sensations when coming to a stop where the CX-90 PHEV feels like you’re turning off a tractor.

Despite the shortcomings in needing some improvements for drivetrain refinement, the CX-90 does punch above its class for overall performance.

Fuel Economy and Electric Consumption

In getting just 22.5 miles of electric-only range, the CX-90 PHEV still offers up a unique proposition for buyers in having the ability to charge up using a Level 2 home charger, taking just over two and a half hours to charge a fully depleted battery and set off on a gas-free commute. I believe the 26-mile EV range estimate is legitimate in normal climate conditions. The rating of 56 MPGe combined seems on par with what I experienced in having a fully charged battery and a full 18.5-gallon gas tank.

Utilizing the hybrid system without charging the battery will yield about 25 mpg overall. There is also a mode to charge up the battery pack while driving but, it comes at the sacrifice of extra fuel usage and the engine running most of the time. The mode is good to reserve any charged energy in the battery for use at a later time.

Interior and Technology

The cabin of the CX-90 Premium Plus PHEV is where things really shine and attempt to overshadow the shortcomings of the unrefined drivetrain. There’s a welcomed level of entry-level luxury inside with plentiful soft-touch surfaces, accent stitching throughout, and a nice packaging of features.

Mazda’s customary use of its central controller knob and physical buttons of the infotainment system has the purpose of helping to keep your focus on the road. However, the 10.25-inch infotainment screen can be used as a touchscreen but only through Apple CarPlay, provided that the vehicle is stopped. I do wish Mazda would allow the screen to always have touch operation, but I can respect the lockout for safety reasons. The latest infotainment system is virtually the same as Mazda has had for many years, which can be a good thing for most as the system remains responsive and straightforward after a short learning curve. Integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless, or they can be paired through USB.

The seating areas are mostly comfy, but the front seats have a surprisingly narrow area for your legs, for taller folks, which seemed more noticeable this time around in the CX-90. There’s a lot of power seat adjustment distance in the front heated and ventilated seats. The second-row captain’s chairs are comfy as well, with just heating instead of heating and ventilation like in the non-hybrid CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus trim. The third-row seat is a bit short on legroom but convenient enough for smaller adults or children, and it seats a total of three in the third row making this CX-90 PHEV a 7-passenger vehicle.

Cargo space in the CX-90 PHEV is identical to the non-PHEV CX-90, giving you 14.9 cubic feet behind the third row and as much as 74.2 cubic feet total with the second and third rows folded having the three-passenger 3rd row. If you opt for the 2-passenger third row, such as in my CX-90 3.3 Turbo S Premium Plus test vehicle, the cargo room is increased by 1 cubic foot overall.


Mazda bundles up all the typical active safety features across the board for all trim levels. However, there are some advanced features that are added to the 3.3 Turbo Premium trim and higher, which include emergency lane keeping with blind spot asset, road keep assist, head-on traffic avoidance assist, vehicle exit warning, front/rear parking sensors, and the ability of the radar cruise control to automatically set the speed based on reading speed limit signs. The 360-degree camera system is one safety item that only comes on the Premium Plus trim levels. The specialized views from the 360-degree camera system make parking easier, as does allowing you to bring up the camera at any time, even when the vehicle is moving at speed.


Mazda tends to keep things on a level playing field for pricing that sits well in keeping a mainstream expectation. With that, the CX-90 Premium Plus PHEV doesn’t break the bank like other PHEVs with an as-tested price of $58,920. Such a price level may be the deal of the decade, considering most of the PHEV competition that includes many luxury offerings can’t be had for such a price.


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