Can a big three-row, eight-seat SUV zoom-zoom? It can if it’s a Mazda.
Since the introduction of that lovable Miata roadster more than three decades ago, Mazda has added a fun quota to all its vehicles it calls Zoom-Zoom.
It made them handle just a little tighter, steer with a little more precision, and scoot off the line with a little more giddyup.
The last-generation CX-9 SUV had lots of zoom. Compared to the typical three-row 4×4, it felt like it was running on triple espresso with a 5-hour Energy drink chaser.
Now Mazda has just introed the replacement for the much-loved CX-9, badging it the CX-90. And it has a bucketload of zoom-zoom.
The big news here is it’s brand new engine. In place of the typical turbocharged four-cylinder turbo motors used in rivals, this CX-90 comes with a brand new, very BMW-ish 3.3-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder.
I know, it’s just an engine, right? But this one delivers up to 340 horses, has more muscle than The Rock, and can average better than 28-to-the-gallon on the highway.
Then there’s the new styling. This thing looks gorgeous, with its swoopy roofline, long hood, high waist and lovely chrome-ringed shield grille. It’s like a Volvo XC90 and a BMW X7 had a one-night stand and this is what popped out.
Add to all this, an all-new interior. Spring for one of the higher trim levels and you get Barcalounger-style captain’s chairs in the second row, gorgeous diamond-quilted Nappa leather upholstery and a very funky suede-like covering for the dash.
Our top-of-the-line Premium Plus model, with its sea of tan leather, even splashed across the steering wheel, was like sitting in a vat of caramel.
Having the longest wheelbase in its class means that third-row seat is roomy enough for a couple of grown-ups for a short drive to dinner, or a trio of kids heading to soccer practise.
And as a load hauler, the CX is a star. Fold flat the second and third rows for Ikea runs, and there’s over 75 cubic feet of space. That’s a lot of flat-pack Sektion kitchen cabinet boxes.
Fire-up the new in-line six, engage drive with the eight-speed automatic, and goose the throttle. The zoom-zoom here is zero-to-60mph thrust in just 6.3 seconds with plenty of mid-range muscle for safe, swift passing and freeway merging.
I must say I was a little disappointed with the smoothness and refinement of this new motor. In-line sixes are supposed to be turbine-smooth and melodious when revved.
While all is quiet and refined in casual driving, high revs increase the volume with a soundtrack that’s more raspy and buzzy than sweet.
But in the handling department, the CX-90 has that zoom-zoom sporty feel rivals can only dream about. Through the curves, or changing lanes, there’s minimal body roll, and the steering, while a little on the heavy side for my taste, is scalpel-precise.
One of the trade-offs with the Mazda’s zoomy handling however, is a pretty firm and an often fidgety ride. Those 21-inch tires on our Premium Plus tester thumped into potholes, while rough pavement sent shimmies and shakes into the cabin.
Yet perched behind the wheel of this new CX, and you get the feeling of driving something sportier than the rest. That thick-rimmed wheel feels great to grip, while the driver’s seat offers terrific support. Nice dials and controls too.
When it comes to choices in this new CX-90 range, there are more than cheese selections at a Trader Joe’s deli. The seven-model line-up kicks off with the 3.3 Turbo Select at $39,595 and tops out with the loaded Turbo S Premium Plus, like our tester, at $59,950.
There’s even a Plug-in Hybrid with a turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electric motor for a combined 323-hp, priced from $47,445.
Looking for a super-stylish, high-quality, sporty-driving three-row SUV? This new CX-90 definitely has the zoom-zoom.