New here with my first Mazda. My friends have all loved their Mazdas. We test drove almost every three row SUV out there and narrowed it down to four: Audi Q7, Acura MDX, Subaru Ascent and upcoming hopeful Mazda CX-90. Coming from owning three Subarus it was painful to go another brand but we brought home this on April 7:
Turbo S premium Plus in Artisan Red on quilted nappa tan
View attachment 271
View attachment 275
View attachment 273
View attachment 272
View attachment 276
View attachment 270
View attachment 274
The Mazda CX-90 has a great engine. We’ve felt one jerky down/up/down short in the 800 miles. The transmission on my test drive and our own copy has stuttered three times from a stop/almost stop. I have not hit the throttle while letting the engine break-in but that will change soon. 😁 Body roll is well minimized for this size vehicle. It seems quite nimble and the suspension is well-tuned.
The new Artisan Red is gorgeous as well as the quilted nappa tan. BTW, the white paint also looks very nice and is just classy on those CX-90 sweeping body lines. But I wanted that new red. It’s complex, changing from brighter red to purple and even brown at certain angles. In the dark it can appear black. It’s quite a stunning color. The reddish purple on tan is a beautiful combo. I’ve never owned anything this nice looking.
Following the interior, I’m impressed by much of the tech/features. Heated and cooled seats in the first two rows, simple yet elegant controls, seat stitching, USB-C ports, double opening armrests, comfy headrests, easy second row sliding for third row access, full-size spare tire, easy steering wheel controls, heads-up display (seriously, how did we live without that?), powerful air conditioning, panaramic sunroof, folding mirrors, MIDBASS SPEAKERS IN THE FIREWALL INSTEAD OF DOORS, luxurious materials, 360 degree and rear view mirror cameras, huge center compartment in second row, automatic driver’s seat and steering wheel sliding for access, adaptive speed and distance cruise control, rain adapted windshield wipers, collision avoidance sensors in the dash and heads-up display, driver recognition and position changes, perfect ambient lighting, automatic high beams, etc.
No design is perfect and there are some “opportunities” for Mazda improvement. The mirror camera resolution is poor. The wireless charging pad doesn’t work. It’s neither a good charger nor a shelf for holding your phone. There isn’t turn-off button and it heats up your phone. However, with all that heat it doesn’t actually increase battery charge beyond 1-2% tops in our testing. It goes into cycling white/green or flashing red on actual trips vs just sitting at the dealer. The automated software in my car sees semi trucks in the adjacent lane as collision threats even when they are not threats. This could be sensor error in my car but that’s all that I can report on. The facial recognition is great when it works but fails 30%. It gets worse in dark but still fails in bright, sunny days. The seats are firm and I have to adjust them on 1-2 hour drives. My wife wanted more comfort Abe has no problem with the seats. More of my seating comfort thoughts are below.
We tend to keep our vehicles a very long time and love the security of our three Subaru AWD vehicles. We had a Toyota Sequoia that made an excellent people and corner cupboard hauler but are now close to empty nest phase. Our older son is married and the younger son is finishing his second year of college. We aren’t don’t haul a dozen people nowadays but we do expect to need grandbaby room in this vehicle. So we stuck to three rows (even though Mazda limits the top trim to six seats). With this background context covered I’d like to make comparisons to the other three row SUV’s that we considered.
The fiercest competitor to the new CX-90 is Acura’s MDX. It drives well and looks sharp. They trade points back and forth. Example: MDX has car-like steering/pedal feel while CX-90 displays Mazda’s design philosophy of road feedback and heavier steering/pedals. Do you want to drive a nicer Honda? Then buy the MDX. Do you want more of a driver’s car? Then buy the Mazda. I felt very confident while driving the CX-90 with it’s rear-wheel biased AWD, even in rain.
The Acura seats are absolutely fantastic, the most comfortable out there. I seriously can’t gush enough over the MDX seats. Oh, and both front seats get identical treatment. The passenger isn’t relegated to second class adjustments, lol. The Mazda seats look nicer but are quite a bit firmer. We’ll see how my bottom end handles a long trip but after two hours I was ready to get out of my CX-90 for a bit.
With the seat firmness addressed, the Mazda is still more refined overall. Despite the firmer seats, the overall ride is a little softer (and quieter) than the Acura . MDX has wind noise and floor vibration not present in the CX-90. I believe this is due to Mazda’s better suspension and noise damping control than the Advanced package Acura. The MDX Type S has air ride suspension but we did not test this trim back to back against the Mazda. Why not compare top trim to top trim? The MDX costs $15k more than a similarly dressed CX-90. I bought the very top trim Mazda for the bottom engine priced Acura.
More pro’s and con’s: my Mazda has ventilated second row seats which are lacking in almost all competitors. The MDX has a removable second row console that converts between seat/armrest/removable. It’s a great design that everyone should copy. CX-90 has air conditioning vents and USB-C chargers in the third row that the Acura lacks. I can become accustomed to either entertainment control but the Mazda control ring is better than the Acura trackpad. Most of all, one must go up to the $75k Acura Type S to get decent sound. The non-S trim sound is horrific. I couldn’t listen to such bloated junk. Seriously, “she sounds hideous.” Even Mazda’s Bose sounded like even spectral response in comparison. With all the Bose 3D spatial mess turned off the CX-90 is fairly true to name, “linear.” I can live with it for a while. The dash is another area where Mazda simplicity shines. The MDX steering wheel and dash controls are much busier. In contrast I can quickly find what I need in the Mazda, which ranks high on my driving safety factor.
The Q7 is refined. The seats are softer than Mazda (but nothing like the MDX). The Audi and Mazda are similar in noise and vibration. Perhaps the Audi nudges ahead very slightly, but I did not get back to back comparisons on the same roads. With the Audi one must spend $10-15k more for second row cooling. If one prefers touchpad controls and sleek interior, consider the Q7. I was very interested in the Prestige trim with its thicker glass and air ride suspension but couldn’t find one to drive near me. And while it’s AWD was tempting, we discarded it from the list due to initial price and much higher maintenance costs.
Coming from three Subarus vehicles in my driveway (plus other in the extended family), we wanted to love the Ascent. Their new Mahogany Red color is beautiful. The Napa tan interior also looks much higher class than old school Subie. Who can compete with their AWD anywhere near the price? Alas, we wanted a quieter and smoother ride. We could go up in trim for the nice leather and heated/cooled seats but the noise and vibration doesn’t improve. Also, the driver’s seat in the top two Ascent trims have a strange bump under the thigh. I never figured out if it was from the sliding thigh support or a weird seat cushion design, but I couldn’t handle it. The Subaru was quite a bit cheaper than the Mazda which we bought, about $10k less. Base trims would compare track to a similar $10k delta.
Korean twins Kia Telluride / Hyundai Palisade
The Hyundai sales manager put it best, “on paper you can’t beat it.” He’s right, you know. That’s why we actually drive vehicles instead of just going by numbers. If you just HAVE to carry 8 passengers and are too cool for a minivan, this could be on your list. But it was quickly kicked off ours. Seats are less comfortable than the quite firm CX-90, ride was louder and rougher. Quite the vibration. The Korean twins just seemed cheap in comparison. The drive was not inspiring and the AWD system failed to maintain traction with just a little throttle into the dealership (car popped over the hill).
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Nope. Imagine driving a wrangler with nicer interior. Next! Ha ha. Seriously, the interior design is luxurious and the air ride is nice but the engine, suspension, tires, everything else is just bad. Skip this line and overinflated pricing.
It seems like everyone is raving about the new Pilot. Too bad we couldn’t test one. Our local dealer didn’t have a single one in stock and quoted a minimum of $6k over MSRP for a vehicle that we couldn’t see or drive. The next dealer told another couple $10k over MSRP. We did test a Pilot and it was very boring with noise and hardness. Also, that unseen Pilot was a “throw your money down on take it or leave it for whatever trim showed up” venture. No, thank you!
Are those a few angry squirrels under the hood or a turbo 4 cylinder? Who can tell? More noise and harshness than the Mazda. Some interior trims are nice (our friends have a higher trim model and it’s great inside). Otherwise, nothing inspiring except that Toyota reliability. The one great quality here is that it will last forever, until that becomes a detriment for such a boring choice. I waited long enough to test the CX-90. I’m not waiting 9 months longer to see the upcoming Grand Highlander.
BMW X5 (and X7)
Our localish dealer didn’t have new X5 or X7 to test drive. My wife briefly tested a used X7 and liked it but $100k new was too steep. Also, it was larger and closer in size to our full-sized Sequoia. With a higher initial price and similar maintenance costs to the Audi Q7 but no driving experience the X5 dropped off the list.
I had an excellent drive in the lower trim. Went to another dealer and drive the top trim. Louder and harsher than the CX-90. The top trim seats were rough. I don’t mean “firm” like the Mazda but simply uncomfortable.
I tested one as a potential work vehicle and was underwhelmed. The four-wheel drive system couldn’t handle a simple, gentle slope in wet grass. But the biggest concern was the jerky shifting. It did not inspire confidence and since then I’ve learned of Ford’s transmission issues. Which is why I wasn’t going to even test the next candidate:
Lincoln Corsair (in lieu of the Aviator)
We wanted to test drive an Aviator but the local dealer told us they weren’t made anymore. Seems weird since they were still on the Lincoln website. Guess what? They have them in stock now . . . Anyway, the Corsair was just terrible. Aside from plenty of power from the smaller SUV, it was loud and harsh. There was a terrible vibration from the driver’s side rear tire. Dealerships, if you want me to buy your product then prepare it for the best experience. It is not my job to correct your tire pressures and balancing.
I drove a GLC and GLE. It wasn’t bad but I certainly expected more for premium reputation and pricing. It didn’t help that the salesman tried to blast music against my tastes and drove ~80 in a 20 mph zone. Oh, and I had to stop to fill gas 1/4 mile after leaving the dealership. I try to keep personalities out of business but this was just too much.
NOISY, clunky, Toyota’s squirrels in the engine. If you like this thing then you’ll LOVE the Honda Passport at half the price. And, hey, the Honda at least has excellent auto lane assist.
New here with my first Mazda. My friends have all loved their Mazdas. We test drove almost every three row SUV out there and narrowed it down to four: Audi Q7, Acura MDX, Subaru Ascent and upcoming hopeful Mazda CX-90. Coming from owning three Subarus it was painful to go another brand but we...