For nearly two decades the CX-9 has served as the flagship of Mazda’s swelling SUV lineup. It has continued to evolve and improve and provide the most comfort and seating for growing families. This year marks the end of the CX-9 and the debut of the new CX-90. What’s different about the CX-90 that separates it from it’s predecessor? A lot.

For starters, the design is blockier, stockier and more rugged looking. It lacks the design excitement of the CX-30 and the new CX-50. There are no swoopy lines to the design. No vents or swollen fenders. With the tasteful use of chrome accents and a better balance of design, the CX-90 looks more refined, more high-end than the pedestrian looking CX-9 it replaces. It looks like a much more expensive vehicle than it really is. In the competitive SUV market, standing out as more refined is a good thing.

There are mechanical improvements under the sheet metal as well. Gone is the overworked turbocharged four-cylinder that always felt so underpowered hooked to an automatic 6-speed transmission. The CX-90 sports a turbocharged 3.3L Inline-six that either makes 280 hp/332 lb-ft of torque or 340 hp/369 lb-ft depending on which model you spring for. This power is distributed through an 8-speed automatic transmission for more efficiency. Mazda gave us an example with the stronger motor in it and we were impressed with the increased power and torque. In typical Mazda fashion, you still won’t win any drag races with it but you’ll have excellent mid-range passing power while driving and that’s arguably more important than low-end grunt.

Mileage with each engine is roughly the same: 28 freeway, 24 city, 25 average. These are pretty close to the numbers we experienced as well.

The ride was solid, confident, and comfortable. Mazda engineers have done a good job of tuning the suspension to absorb the potholes and freeway expansion joints. The steering was intuitive and allowed for a tighter turning radius that we expected.

The brakes were easily modulated and intuitive. They did a great job of slowing and stopping the heavy car without issue.

Inside was where the real improvement were. Our model had seating for seven with captains chairs for the middle row and a third-row seating setup in the far back. All the seats could be folded flat to provide huge cargo carrying volume. Our top-of-the-line model had color-blocked white leather seats and a white leather dash combined with black carpeting. It really looked sharp. The control layout was simply and straightforward.

The CX-90 also benefits from additional sound reduction. The ride in the CX-90 was quiet with little wind or tire noise, alllowing you hear phone calls or the great stereo system better.

Mazda has done an excellent job of improving their top-end SUV. The name change from -9 to -90 suggests Mazda has added more value and more refinement, more creature comforts, more power, etc to their new car. They have. The name change accurately reflects what a big jump this is and we think people will prefer it over the CX-90 by a considerable margin.

Performance: 6

Handling: 6

Design: 6

Interior: 8

Infotainment: 6

Sound: 5

Fun: 5

Overall: 6

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