The 2024 CX-90 Turbo S Is My Favorite Because Mazda Botched the PHEV

I can only dream of the moment someone asks me what car I drive and the answer they get would be – “a 2024 Turbo S, but it’s an SUV, not a Porsche.” I just imagine someone’s face when they hear this. Those short-lived moments filled with confusion would most certainly be hilarious and constitute some great stories for later.
2024 Mazda CX-90 Turbo S vs. PHEV 12 photos
Photo: Mazda USA / autoevolution
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As I am sure you know, Porsche does not make a Cayenne Turbo S or a Macan Turbo S. However, Mazda does give us an SUV with this name. It’s the all-new CX-90 Turbo S. What makes this situation even greater is that the vehicle has an MSRP of $51,750. Can you imagine getting a brand-new Turbo S for that money? Even with taxes and fees added, it’s still one heck of a deal!

Ok, ok! Jokes aside, Mazda’s newest three-row SUV is a big deal. They borrowed a bit from BMW’s style and gave us a great-looking car with interesting powertrains and many, many trims. Adding the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) into to mix, we get almost a dozen versions of this vehicle. That’s a lot. But the brand-new CX-90 is a lot of car as well, so it makes sense for the Japanese automaker to try and please everyone, while also inviting customers that are a bit on the well-off side to spend more.

So, out of the 11 trims available, the one I would pick is the 3.3 Turbo S. Firstly, because it just sounds great. Secondly, because it comes with almost all the best features. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the 340-hp (345-ps) six-cylinder engine and the rear-biased all-wheel drivetrain.

2024 Mazda CX\-90 Turbo S
Photo: Mazda USA Web Configurator
So, let’s look at some of the features before we dive into why Mazda managed to make the PHEV unattractive.

This SUV’s 10% cooler, 20% smoother, 15% looking like a family hauler, 5% strange, and 50% Japanese-made

Now that I’ve brought you back to the old days when Fort Minor was everywhere with their “Remember the Name” song, let’s focus for a bit on the upper trims for this (mildly) electrified CX-90. Also, disregard the percentages. They don’t have a hidden meaning, nor do they reflect something specific about this vehicle.

The only upper trims left are the Turbo S Premium and Turbo S Premium Plus. Both are six-seaters, meaning that the second row is comprised of captain seats. The Turbo S has a bench and can comfortably sit three adults. We’re on a roll already with this option. However, you can go for the captain chairs at no extra cost.

For this red-over-greige CX-90 that I’ve configured, the price before taxes, fees, and (hopefully no) dealer add-ons is $56,989. It’s not bad considering you can take the whole family on a trip, there are no worries regarding the powertrain’s readiness to deliver, and you can enjoy many cool features. The full list includes a couple of nifty extras like the premier tow package, the rearview mirror, and the sport pedal kit that adds more rubbery surfaces.

But there are a couple of things missing. For example, our Turbo S doesn’t get:
  • a windshield wiper de-icer;
  • auto-dimming driver’s side mirror;
  • body-colored rear roof spoiler;
  • the groovy Artisan Red Premium (not even as an option);
  • frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror;
  • rear window defogger with timer;
  • 150-watt accessory power outlet;
  • front and rear door pockets;
  • front and rear footwells;
  • overhead console with sunglasses holder;
  • cargo area with storage boxes.

It's also missing out on other interesting and arguably useful options, like a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, ventilated front and second-row seats, Nappa leather, 17.13:1 overall steering ratio, and a 360-degree camera system with a see-through view.

2024 Mazda CX\-90 Turbo S
Photo: Mazda USA Web Configurator
To add some of these options, we should pay around $5,000 more for the Turbo S Premium or over $8,000 for the Turbo S Premium Plus.

I get why we can’t spec the CX-90 with the Artisan Red Premium paint job. The answer is in the name – “Premium.” The Turbo S doesn’t have the denomination, but it doesn’t bother me. Soul Red Crystal (which is still a $595 option, by the way) will work just fine.

However, why isn’t the 360-degree camera system standard on a vehicle whose price starts from $51,750? Of course, we are going to ask ourselves that and be a bit mad about it, right? Well, we would all be approaching this from the wrong angle. The average price of a new vehicle in the U.S. reached new highs and was trailing toward the $50,000 mark. So, given the times we live in and Mazda being a for-profit company, it makes sense for the automaker to lock some cool features for more expensive versions of the same vehicle. Plus, let’s not forget that the Mazda CX-60 already debuted a new philosophy for the brand, so a minor price hike was to be expected. After all, this is a better, more efficient vehicle than the current CX-9.

However, it’s also a good decision for consumers. Not everyone wants or needs ventilated second-row seats, for example. It’s great that this option is not forced on you. Prospective customers can choose to pay for the vehicle they prefer, not the one that’s being marketed by the salesperson.

Of course, one can look at this marketing decision from a different perspective and be mad at Mazda for locking cool options for higher, more expensive trims.

But why keep the CX-90 PHEV from shining?

When Mazda announced this vehicle coming to the U.S., it presented it as the crown jewel. And it is! The CX-90 truly shows a new version of the Japanese automaker, one that’s aiming for the top of the premium segment.

2024 Mazda CX\-90 PHEV
Photo: Mazda USA Web Configurator
So, why did the brand decide that it would be ok to offer the PHEV – the one I would have chosen in a heartbeat – with plastic cladding instead of body-colored side molding? It makes no sense. It’s arguably the better car altogether because you have the option of not polluting very much thanks to a 91-hp (92-ps) electric motor and a 17.8-kWh battery. When electricity is not enough, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine can jump in and take the workload and can even simultaneously act as a generator for the battery in Charge mode, albeit you shouldn’t use this option too often because it increases fuel consumption.

For those Northern Americans out there that are not yet sold on battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), this Mazda is still a solid choice. If you drive it with efficiency in mind, overall ownership costs can considerably drop.

But maybe Mazda anticipated that not many people would like to own a PHEV in the U.S. and Canada. Or it may have decided to not make this version of the SUV look as posh as the six-cylinder one because it didn’t want to deal with installing too many batteries from the get-go.

At the end of the day, it’s a tad bit sad that Mazda didn’t want to give customers a CX-90 PHEV Turbo S Premium, but that isn’t enough to sway all of us away. It still has the potential to be a great vehicle for those living in or near urban areas. The black plastic might be even cheaper to replace in case something happens.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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