Mazda will launch its flagship CX-90 SUV in Australia in the second half of 2023 with petrol and diesel six-cylinder engines – but the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) won’t arrive until next year.

    “[The CX-90 PHEV] was developed in the US, so our engineers need to do some work to ensure it’s ADR-specific,” said Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi.

    ADR stands for Australian Design Rules.

    US data for the CX-90’s PHEV drivetrain nevertheless matches the setup in the smaller CX-60’s, which is already locked in for Australia this year.

    It uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and an electric motor to produce 240kW and 500Nm at peak, an eight-speed transmission, and a 17.8kWh battery pack to enable pure-electric driving.

    While the CX-60 offers 62km of electric driving (WLTP), expect the larger CX-90’s EV-only range to be slightly shorter due to its greater weight.

    Before the PHEV arrives the CX-90 will be offered with a turbocharged 3.3-litre inline-six petrol with 254kW and 500Nm, or a 3.3-litre turbo-diesel inline-six with 187kW and 550Nm.

    They’re mated with a new eight-speed automatic, with drive sent to all four wheels via a standard i-Activ all-wheel drive system.

    The 48V mild-hybrid system on both engines features an electric motor between the engine and the transmission, which can directly power the CX-90 at low speeds. Mazda also promises an “upscale feeling, a smooth-driving experience, [and] enthralling sound and efficiency”.

    Australia is entirely unique in getting the CX-90 with this new inline-six turbo-diesel, with no other markets set to get this engine. Mazda Australia says it specifically asked for it, and was granted its wish because the related CX-60 offers it.

    “It needed full calibration as obviously this car is bigger and heavier and all those things, so it needed all that work to be done, but it was coming off the base line of the CX-60,” said Mazda Australia national marketing manager Alastair Doak.

    While towing capacity figures aren’t yet available, Mazda executives say it will be superior to the CX-9, which has a braked figure of 2000kg and an unbraked figure of 750kg.

    Mazda is set to release full pricing and specifications for the CX-90 over the next couple of months, and CarExpert understands Australia will get a choice of six- and seven-seat options, the former incorporating second-row captain’s chairs like LE variants of the CX-8 and CX-9.

    No eight-seat variant is expected.

    For reference, the CX-60 range is priced from $59,800 to $87,752 before on-road costs. The CX-90 is almost certain to be the most expensive Mazda in Australia, and is larger in every dimension – both internally and externally – than the CX-9.

    Its petrol engine is also the most powerful Mazda has ever produced.

    Mazda says the CX-90 will appeal to both existing Mazda customers as well as owners of premium-brand vehicles, though it won’t say what vehicles it expects its flagship to be cross-shopped with.

    The CX-90’s project manager, Mitsuru Wakiie, also said the CX-90 wasn’t benchmarked against any specific vehicles overall.

    “We didn’t really specify any specific model as a benchmark. According to attribute, we tried to achieve the ideal state, then we see how we stand against them. That’s our approach,” said Wakiie-san through an interpreter.

    “I don’t think our definition of CX-90 is premium… As a consequence, you can see the CX-90 could be sort of equivalent to a premium vehicles, that’s fine, but that’s not our specific intention.”

    MORE: 2024 Mazda CX-90 revealed
    MORE: 2024 Mazda CX-90: Australia getting petrol, diesel sixes

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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