CX-9 Owner Drives New CX-90 For A Week - My Review

I had the opportunity to rent a CX-90 Turbo Premium for 1 week and drove it over 400 miles in all sorts of different conditions, roads, weather and speeds. Here’s my review of the vehicle coming from a current 2019 CX-9 Grand Touring owner (had it since new and mostly love it despite a few shortcomings). I was eagerly awaiting the release of the CX-90, because I was very hopeful that it would be our next vehicle after the CX-9. It looked SO good on paper – Turbo Inline 6 + RWD + bigger dimensions for more space and storage, etc.

I’m posting this merely as my perspective and impressions of the vehicle in hopes that it may help someone who currently owns a CX-9 and is thinking about “upgrading” or someone who is interested in purchasing a CX-90.

The Positives:

- It has good road prowess, it feels big and safe on the road and highway.

- From certain angles it looks really good.

The Negatives:

- The shifter setup to get it out-of and into Park is idiotic and potentially dangerous to those not accustomed to it.

- Steering Feel: Low speed steering feel and response is terrible. It takes a lot of turns of the wheel at parking lot speeds to turn. It doesn't feel natural at all and I did not get used to it. Overly light. The steering feel at highway speeds was OK, but not as sharp as the CX-9, including on-center feel.

- Off the Line: In regular city driving there is something clearly wrong with the low-speed clutch engagement of this design. I had read about this in car reviews online and I can confirm what they’re saying. It’s rough off the line and really struggles.

- Turbo Lag or Lousy Transmission Design/Tuning? Whatever it is, the CX-90 in this trim had very noticeable lag getting off the line under normal driving and accelerating conditions. The CX-9 2.5T has nearly instant throttle response and great low-end torque. The CX-90 felt like the opposite.

- Slight gear whine when decelerating at lower speeds. I haven’t heard gear whine in a new car in 20+ years.

- The engine is really disappointing. It doesn't sound good and it doesn’t feel very powerful. I would say it feels less powerful than the horsepower and torque figures suggest.

- Rougher/harsher ride than the CX-9.

- The windshield washer fluid sprayer design is terrible. It leaves streaks no matter what.

- There are lots of dings, chimes and warning sounds that you can’t turn off.

- Center console is extremely wide. The gas pedal is so far offset to the right that coupled with the wide center console, it forces you to twist/angle your ankle to access the gas pedal. The gas pedal needs to be shifted to the left for a proper driving position.

- Seats are unnecessarily stiff. They do not offer enough length on the seat bottoms to provide support for your thighs and lower back (I’m 6’0). The CX-9 seats aren’t good in this regard either, but the CX-90’s are even worse in stiffness and support.

- Storage space: The cubby space in the doors is nearly non-existent. The cup holders in the center console are too small. The center console storage is literally laughable and same with the glove box. I haven’t been in a modern vehicle with this tiny amount of storage in the doors regardless of vehicle size, let alone a 200+” 3-row SUV. Completely impractical. The storage space beneath the trunk is way less than the CX-9 as well. The CX-9 was the last in class for storage space, but the CX-90 designers clearly just didn’t even attempt any effort whatsoever with storage, as it’s way worse.

- There is nowhere to put your phone in the center console while driving except into one of the undersized cup holders where it doesn't really fit (I don’t have a big phone). How did they miss this?

- The HUD text is clearly distorted and not sharp. Not a problem in the CX-9.

- We got nowhere near the EPA estimated mileage, at 20.4mpg over the 400 miles (mostly 40-50mph driving, very little city driving).

- The Bose sound system did not sound nearly as good as the one in the CX-9. I can’t figure that one out.

- Fake engine sounds are lame.

- Feels extremely long in tight parking spots.

- Doors close with a really low-quality sound and feel.

- Steering wheel buttons feel cheap and chintzy.

Overall this vehicle does not drive like a finished product. It takes so many steps backwards in so many regards to its predecessor that it’s hard to believe. The worst part is that it doesn’t drive or feel like Mazda’s made up until now. They put so much money, effort and time into this new platform to go “up-market” and for it to drive like a BMW…well it drives significantly worse than the CX-9 it replaces, it's not on the same planet as BMW.

I stepped out of the vehicle relieved that the drive was done each day. It was just all around an annoying and uncomfortable experience.

I watched the SavageGeese review of the CX-90 after driving it for a week and I echo their confusion and disappointment at what could have been an amazing opportunity.

I love Mazda as a brand. I hope they succeed in selling a lot of these to keep the brand alive, but I really hope they don’t wreck the upcoming CX-5 replacement like they did with this.
Thanks for posting your thoughts, @NWDriver. I'm interested to hear whether the other CX-90 owners share some of your experiences, good or bad.
No driving impression as I did not have a chance to drive one but since I did sit in one on several occasions I echo you observations. Huge on the outside, not much bigger on the inside comparing to CX-9. Honestly seats in the front and second row felt smaller, interior storage is non existing basically which is ridiculous for such a big car - CX9 is not the best but at least has proper doors pockets, proper bottle holders and a place for the phone and reasonably deep storage in the central console and also a small storage in the 2nd row armrest. Yes, CX-90 has a really nice looking/feeling upper dashboard but all the hard plastics look really cheap - it's a step down in my opinion comparing to CX-9 - considering that CX-9 also does not have a good hard plastic finish (easy to scratch and leave marks from even gentle touch).

I feel like people that are prizing CX-90 for fit and finish really did not have a chance to sit in a higher CX-9 trim (GT/Signature) where even door pockets have this nicer rubbery finish.

Yes, CX-90 has slightly bigger trunk - not so limited by rounded hatch but looses the under floor storage and this extra big side pockets.

Mileage: on highway I can easily achieve 32MPG, city driving worse: 20-22 MPG but it seems from the reports that the real life CX-90 mileage is not that much better.

Features/Infotainment: for 2022-2023 CX-9 is more or less the same as current CX-90

Considering everything and especially the number of issues Mazda has with CX-90 it is not appealing to me to pay extra $10K (here in Canada) for something that does not give me any significant improvement and it actually feels like I need to compromise a lot.
While he's the cx9 is no slouch! I traded my Carbon edition for the preferred premium and I'm happy with my choice, something's my cx9 did better but the cx90 is a worthy successor for me.
Definitely not a car for you OP - I've had a 2011, 2017 and 2021 CX-9 GT, so I agree with some of your negatives: lack of storage, not as comfortable over harsh roads, door closing sounds cheap.

I think the interior is even better than the CX-9... I have the PHEV so power and low speed is excellent and punchy. I do still have some low speed clunkiness, and so far no TSB fix as of yet.

I have almost 8000k miles. I've averaged over 30MPG overall (combining EV miles). On long strips (not using much EV), I'm averaging 27.5 mpg (highway and city). In terms of the ride, it still feels like a Mazda to me - my PHEV is much heavier and I can feel it, but I have no issues with the steering feel - I've adjusted to it and its good for me.

Bose system is the same sounding to me, and the steering wheel is identical, so not sure why you think it's "cheaper". I'd say Keep your CX-9...
I did not agree with the assessment at all. I find the drive superb, the seats better than my previous Lincoln and very suited to me and my preferences. I have the PHEV version and love it. I am averaging 80 MPGe because I mostly drive in EV mode 90% of the time and rarely if ever go on long trips where I am using the engine a lot. I use the engine one day a week to keep it lubricated but short trips only or if using the highway to of 15-20 miles. I found the Bose system as incredibly good compared to my previous Lincoln which had a very nice system. I have no issues with steering but rarely have to turn cycles at low speed. My transmission roughness in low speed resolved after 500 miles. They say the system has to program itself over time and that was true for mine. It's fine now. As for engine sound, I can barely hear the engine at all so not sure what that comment is about. I don't hear any fake engine sounds and again not sure where that comment comes from. As for the shifter setup, it took one time to figure out and makes send once you do it once. Try taking a look at a Cadillac shifter and you will love Mazda's. So, I found that comment petty to say the least. It's looking for a negative when there isn't really one. It's petty but that's my opinion.