Scoot over CX-9, the new Mazda flagship in town is the three-row CX-90 available in two primary partially-electrified Skyactiv flavours: a mild hybrid 3.3-litre turbocharged inline-six and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder PHEV, the latter that we got to pilot.
Boasting a wide stance, long wheelbase and curvy panels to really showcase a beautiful coat of Soul Red Crystal Metallic, the big mid-size SUV plays the top dog role well. However, the stubby headlights and chunky chrome grille frame are a slight departure from conventional Mazda design and take a bit of getting used to. At the same time, the minimalistic interior is familiar and fresh and debuts a fabric dash cover connected via hanging stitches, inspired by an intricate Japanese weaving technique.
Borrowing the MX-5's Kinematic Posture Control, the suspension and braking systems work harmoniously under spirited cornering to supress body lift. The nifty technology enhances grip and prevents unwanted occupant movement, both welcome benefits on the 100-or-so kilometres I spent in the driver's seat.
The plug-in powertrain takes advantage of a 68-kilowatt electric motor — sandwiched between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission — and the total 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque outputted felt adequate climbing the steep inclines faced along the way at a good clip. The onboard 17.8-kilowatt-hour battery contains enough juice to travel 42 kilometres before the ICE kicks in.
In addition to an EV-exclusive setting, and depending on trim level, the CX-90 possesses Sport, Off-Road and Towing (up to 5,000 pounds) modes. Each alters vehicle dynamics to suit the chosen activity best, and is selectable using the Mi-Drive toggle switch placed in front of the shifter.
MSRP: $59,950 (base)
Motor: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder + electric motor
Horsepower: 323 (net)
Torque (lb-ft): 369 (net)
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic
Layout: All-wheel drive
Fuel economy (highway): 7.7 L/100 km (observed)