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Let’s talk price, because that will likely be the biggest hurdle Mazda Australia has to overcome for the CX-90 to be a success.
As covered in my last long-term instalment, this test car rings the till up to $99,040, before on-road costs, thanks to the $6500 Takumi interior package on top of the $92,540 asking price.
And without mincing words, it is a massive pill to swallow, especially for those that might be looking to upgrade from a two-row, mid-size SUV like the CX-5 (topping out at $55,100) or Toyota RAV4 (topping out at $58,360).
So, maybe the Mazda CX-90 is in a goldilocks zone? Let’s deep dive into exactly what you are getting for your spend.
To help justify the cost, Mazda has thrown in all the equipment you could want in a new family car, so starting with the basics.
Tech nerds (like me) should be enthused that every CX-90 is fitted with a 10.25-inch multimedia display, a head-up display, a 7.0-inch driver display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (Samsung and Pixel owners rejoice!), USB-C charging ports, and wireless smartphone charging.
For convenience, there’s keyless entry, push-button start, tri-zone climate control, heated and folding side mirrors, a powered tailgate, heated and power adjustable front seats, satellite navigation, LED headlights, and in-built rear window sunshades – which all make juggling two kids under three that much easier.
There’s no ANCAP safety rating on the CX-90 yet, but safety equipment extends to autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, a surround-view monitor, blind-spot detection, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre-pressure monitoring, traffic sign recognition and 10 airbags.
That’s a seriously impressive list of standard equipment that matches or betters large flagship SUVs from Hyundai, Kia and Toyota.
Also keep in mind this is equipment found in every single variant of the CX-90, including the base-level Touring grade.
The mid-spec GT adds an all-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, 21-inch wheels (up from 19 inches in the Touring), adaptive headlights, electronic steering wheel adjustment, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, premium sound system and extra lashings of leather on the inside.
Finally, the top-spec Azami, like I have, scores an upgraded surround-view monitor with 'See Through View', Nappa leather interior, driver personalisation system with automatic seat adjustment, interior ambient lighting, body-coloured wheel arches, frameless rear view mirror and ventilated front seats.
Mind you, not all the features feel upmarket – namely the driver personalisation system.
So, in the CX-90 Azami, you can input a driver profile with your height and the system will automatic adjust the driver’s seat and steering wheel to those parameters.
You can, of course, adjust and tweak them to your liking before you save it, so when you next start-up the car and select your driver profile, the settings will be applied and away you go.
The problem is, however, that sometimes the start-up screen doesn’t offer the ability to select the driver profile.
Maybe it’s something that can be fixed with a software patch, but there have been a handful of instances where I’ve needed to manually adjust the seat and steering wheel again or had to dive into the settings menu to apply my driver profile.
It’s also annoying when you are in a rush (say to pick up your kid from childcare) because the whole thing takes about 30 seconds to go through, so you can’t just jump in and go.
There’s no doubt the additions to the Azami grade have come in clutch a few times over the last two months – like the soft and supple Nappa leather seats that are always a joy to park my derriere in, and the ventilated front seats that help on hotter Melbourne days.
But laid out like this, I’ve no doubt even the base CX-90 Touring has enough equipment for most families, and with prices that start from just $73,800 for the petrol and $75,800 for the diesel, you can save a significant chunk of change when compared with the Azami and not run foul of the luxury car tax threshold.
Comparing apples to apples, the D50e Touring is a significant $23,240 more affordable than this D50e Azami with Takumi pack, or $16,740 without the (admittedly, very nice) white interior option.
And it’s not like you have to compromise much in terms of equipment, 90 per cent of the functionality is there and that saving isn’t something to be balked at – especially in this current economic climate.
You even get the same 187kW/550Nm 3.3-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid technology, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives all four wheels.
Therefore, the driving experience (which I will get into next month) would be nearly identical, as different rim sizes might change the ride and handling characteristics.
Putting all of that into context, I think the rhetoric that Mazda is pushing upmarket to challenge luxury brands is a little misguided.
The base CX-90 is more affordable than some of the top-spec large SUVs from mainstream players like Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota.
This top-spec Azami? It’s a little like coming into a sandwich shop to grab a ham and cheese toastie, but being tempted to add hot sauce, bacon, tomato and other extras that blow the price out from what you would usually expect.
Can you blame Mazda, though? Most Australians are seemingly going for high-spec grades when purchasing a new car, and the CX-90 Azami is certainly a showcase for the best the brand has to offer. Just be sure to stick to your budget in the showroom.
Acquired: August 2023
Distance travelled this month: 487km
Average fuel consumption this month: 6.8L/100km (measured at the pump)
Based on new car retail price