Auto123 is spending the next few weeks behind the wheel of a Mazda CX-90 PHEV, and we’ll need all of it to properly analyze this new plug-in model from the Japanese brand. Here's the second part of our long-term review.
In the previous installment, we learned that the new Mazda CX-90 replaces the CX-9, offering no fewer than eight versions, including three with plug-in hybrid powertrains and five with an inline-6 engine. This time, we focus on its exterior and interior design.
How to describe the look of the CX-90?
I could play it clever by saying that the CX-90 is a child of Kodo. But I also understand that such a cryptic answer might be annoying.
In fact, Mazda has popularized the Kodo visual language since 2010. Poetically, it means “the soul of motion”. In concrete terms, it means that designers seek to create vehicles that give the impression of movement even when stationary.
They could have chosen to give the vehicle sharp edges to give the impression, say, of an arrow cutting through the air, or else or inflated metal panels to mimic tense muscles.
No, and no. The Kodo aesthetic favours smooth curves. These are evident in the CX-90 which is, dare I say it, long and sensual, so that its silhouette appears as organic as it is dynamic.
Now, the CX-90 measures 5120 mm and weighs over 2300 kg (in the case of the PHEV), which is longer and heavier than the Hyundai Palisade we recently reviewed over the long term. But it does not appear cumbersome. By smoothing out its roughness, the Kodo code has given it a friendly look.
Here and there, chrome emphasizes the movement of the lines but without being flashy, as evidenced by the roof rails that simply follow the horizontal line of the roof while being as discreet as possible.
Mazda is the first to say that the CX-90 is its most ambitious vehicle to date, that it is not just a simple evolution of the CX-9. But important as it is now within the lineup, the new SUV asserts itself by going for a refined sobriety.
One of its designers said: “You can draw the most beautiful vehicle on paper, but until it's built, you don't know if it will succeed in exuding a presence.”
A colleague added: “Just looking at the vehicle, you have to want to drive it!”
This emotion, which as much as possible serves as an introduction to passion, Mazda has found another way to communicate, I believe, in addition to spreading the Kodo touch on the CX-90. Indeed, this connection with those who admire the vehicle even passes through the quality of the paint.
Firstly, among the many layers applied to the exterior, one of them is often metallic. This adds glitter to the coating. Secondly, pigments are added to the recipe that provide unique shades.
For example, the Japanese love red. Think of their flag: a red circle on a white background. Refined minimalism combined with contained power. With the CX-90, among the six exterior colours offered for the rechargeable GT model, there are two attractive reds, the first called “artisanal” (with black reflections) and the second described as “vibrant” (more electric).
But even if red’s not your thing, whether you choose Jet Black Mica or Rhodium White Metallic, Mazda's signature colours complement the Kodo language perfectly because they invite light to make the harmonious forms of the body dance.
So, yes, even when the CX-90 is standing still, its sparkling and translucent robe always gives the impression of feigned immobility. Like a feline ready to pounce.
Does the interior of the CX-90 match its exterior?
Examining the interior of the CX-90 up close, we understand that the manufacturer wanted to place us in a universe that goes beyond the standardization of shapes and materials but without falling into extravagant luxury.
You sometime hear the term “premium” instead of “luxury”. Which is essentially code for, we want a certain level of enhanced quality, but we’d like to enjoy it without breaking the bank.
That’s where this CX-90 is headed. The first detail you notice is the sleek texture of the materials, whether fabrics, synthetic leather, suede or Nappa leather. Then the care with which they were assembled.
The cockpit’s designers started with a simple colour palette, then added complementary or contrasting colours, depending on the model. For example, my test GT features dark tones, while the Signature version of the inline-6 that I also tested was in Windsor Beige. Now imagine this other model that combines Dark Crystal Blue Mica with pure white Nappa!
The stitching (visible seams that accentuate the shape of the seats and sometimes the dashboard) also plays an important visual role. It’s inspired by Musubu, that is, the traditional art of knots, like those of a kimono. In the CX-90, in addition to emphasizing the dimensions, the stitching is spaced to evoke freedom and mobility, to symbolize once again the famous “jinba ittai” so dear to Mazda, the connection between the car and its driver, the cornerstone of the manufacturer's philosophy that promises to assemble machines that are in harmony with their owners.