With its premium features and spacious interior, the Mazda CX-90 Signature is a true standout in its class
There are plenty of choices for people looking for lots of luxury in an SUV – and a name to impress. If you want more than a Ford, there’s a Lincoln. Chevrolet shoppers may upgrade to a Cadillac. Hyundai and Kia loyalists may move up to a related Genesis. Similarly, there’s Toyota and Lexus, Honda and Acura, and Nissan and Infiniti.
However, Mazda doesn’t have a corporate relative in the luxury field. But that doesn’t matter because Mazda really knows how to dress up a vehicle. If the name doesn’t matter, consider the high-trim model of the Mazda CX-90 large, three-row SUV: the Signature. It’s pretty fancy. Pry off the badges (or cover them over), and it could be mistaken for one of the other luxury brands.
I test-drove two versions of the CX-90: the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and the mild hybrid.
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Now, to be clear, both the PHEV and the mild hybrid come in a variety of trim levels, from basic to luxurious. The PHEV loaned to me was more basic – and lower priced – than the mild hybrid test vehicle, which was the top-end trim level called the Signature. So, a PHEV could be ordered to be more luxurious than the one I test-drove, and the mild hybrid is available in more basic trim than the Signature that was loaned to me.
Aside from the trim levels, there are big differences under the hood.
The PHEV has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas engine producing 323 horsepower and a range of up to 48 km in electric-only mode. Natural Resources Canada says it gets 9.9 litres per 100 km in the city and 8.7 l/100 km on the highway.
The mild hybrid is powered by an inline 3.3-litre six-cylinder turbo engine, producing 340 horsepower. As a mild hybrid, it has a generator that captures energy when braking and stores it to power the electrical system. That reduces the load on the engine, which helps to save fuel. Power to move the vehicle comes only from the gas engine. It’s no surprise this one consumes more gas than the PHEV. It gets 10.3 litres per 100 km in the city and 8.5 l/100 km on the highway.
There are also plenty of differences inside.
When I climbed behind the wheel of this top-end CX-90 Signature for the first time, it seemed like I was stepping into a luxury sedan; it was very different than the more basic version. The interior upgrades abound in the Signature. My tester came with the Premium Tan Nappa Leather option, which includes quilting detail on the first two rows of seats and suede trim – called “Tan Grand Luxe Suede” – on the sides of the doors and the dashboard.
There is seating capacity for six people: two in the front bucket seats, two in the second row of bucket seats, and two more in the third row. If you need more room for people, other versions offer a three-seater bench in the middle row.
The Signature has a few features not available on lesser CX-90s, such as a larger 12.3-inch colour centre display screen (up from the standard 10.25-inch screen); touchscreen centre display for Apple Car Play/Android Auto; power tilt and telescopic steering wheel; power outlet socket; ventilated 2nd row of captain’s seats; and premium rear centre console armrest with a storage compartment.
More luxury touches include wood trim on the centre console and the upper door panels and a 12-speaker Bose sound system. Other goodies included a panoramic moonroof, power liftgate and 21-inch alloy wheels.
Like other Mazdas, the best part is how the gauges, switches and controls are laid out – very logical, intuitive and comfortable, unlike the strange, bizarre and awkward approach used by so many other automakers.
There’s no reaching over to touch a little icon on the nav screen to change the settings. The Mazda has a big, round knob on the console – just where your right hand is when you rest your right arm on the centre armrest – where you can zoom in or out on the nave screen or scroll through the radio stations.
The visibility is excellent, even out the back, which can’t always be said about three-row SUVs.
And then there’s the ride: the Mazda CX-90 Signature is smooth and quiet and feels more like a luxury sedan than a three-row SUV.
So, if you’re looking for a high-end, luxury three-row SUV, you might be surprised at how the Mazda CX-90 Signature compares with some better-known, more expensive competitors.
Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online. While the manufacturer provided Dale with a vehicle to test drive, the content of this review was not reviewed or accepted by the manufacturer.
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