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29 September 2023 · Mazda Stories

CX-90 | At Home In The Hunter Valley

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When I was a small person, back when the only electric cars were called ‘Dodgems’, the phrase “Grand SUV Touring” wasn’t really a thing. Of course, many aspects of life have changed, but for my children, family road tripping in vast, business-class comfort is now infinitely more attainable with Mazda’s all-new CX-90.

This challenges my parenting plan, because frankly it’s too good for them. I’m trying to raise two resilient kids, but how does that square when I tell them they can each have their own row of leather seating while watching the world through a panoramic glass sunroof?

Bored? There are fast-charging USB-C ports in every seat row to plug in electronic devices and help while away road-trip hours.

I can’t help but rewind to the mid-1980s when my three brothers and I were crammed along the family sedan’s rear bench seat. Air conditioning was via the windows (which had winding handles, obviously) and ‘entertainment’ was I Spy or trying to rescue a globule of ancient Minties from the footwell.

Life’s different in the CX-90, especially if you choose Mazda’s flagship SUV in ultimate Azami grade, with either Takumi Package or SP Package options. This means second-row seating becomes two captain’s chairs – each heated and ventilated – with a large centre console doubling as a comfy arm rest and vast storage. Pop your kids in those and they look like the two little CEOs who currently run your life.

All seats are trimmed in ultra-luxe nappa leather (white for Takumi, tan for SP), while  White Maple wood or tan suede details feature respectively. This really is next-level luxury, befitting Mazda’s largest premium SUV model, and thoroughly spoiling its occupants.

The CX-90 is not only the largest vehicle Mazda has ever built, its 254kW and 500Nm 3.3-litre straight-six petrol engine is also the most powerful ever offered in one of its production cars.

From launch, an even more torque-filled turbocharged diesel is available, which is also a 3.3-litre straight-six, and with a thumping 550Nm to go with its 187kW of power. Its economy return of just 5.4L/100km is nothing short of incredible for a vehicle this size.

Ah, now let’s talk size. Mazda’s long-serving six or seven-seat CX-9 SUV is soon being retired, making this CX-90 the pick for those demanding the versatility of three-row seating.

The CX-90 is 25mm longer and 25mm wider, but the largest difference is seen with the wheelbase, which is 190mm longer than a CX-9’s. This translates to more interior space, and when combined with the CX-90’s sleek yet generous body proportions, proper adult room in the third row.

Which gives me an idea. Road trips don’t always have to be for the family, do they? Sure, the kids could come along and we may journey to a theme park or adventure playground, but how about something just for grown-ups?

Six or seven adults to NSW’s Hunter Valley: rural drives, cellar doors, artisan farm gates and sophisticated food and wine pairings. The CX-90 has the means to accommodate this many full-size people in lounge-out luxury, and you no longer have to bore your groaning children by explaining the terroir that makes this region so world-leading for Semillon.

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Of course, the CX-90 is a family first car: it excels at school drop-offs, weekend sports and interstate trips to visit Grandma. But how wonderful that it can double as an adults-only winery tour SUV - with a dedicated driver, naturally (the fact that Mazda launched this new vehicle in the Hunter made this feel like something I was compelled to try).

It’s a simple step into the two rear seats, and even at six-foot tall, my legs and head have room to breathe. Soft cushioned-leather and wide seat bases are clearly designed with all ages of passenger in mind.

The other thing that’s grown up is the drive experience. These CX-90s are built on Mazda’s new Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture, with drive sent to all four corners via full-time i-Active all-wheel-drive.

This predominantly rear-biased drive system, plus independent rear suspension, is the go-to for driver involvement: hence its place in the finest sports cars, including Mazda’s MX-5.

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Your friends may be wowed when you share these engineering nuggets, but for those preferring it in layman’s terms, it equals an involving, fun drive mixed with impressive control, even on tougher adventures over dirt or snow.

The six-cylinder engines also appeal to the enthusiast. There’s creamy smoothness to the power delivery in both petrol and diesel, with genuine muscle from these newly developed straight-sixes.

Both of them feature M Hybrid Boost 48-volt mild hybrid tech, supporting the engine when idling or at lower speeds, reducing CO2 emissions and being friendlier to the environment.

The figures are mind-blowing, especially when you behold the size of these 5.1-metre long CX-90s. Next to the CX-9’s numbers, these new engines offer up to 47 per cent more power, up to 31 per cent more torque and up to a 40 per cent improvement in fuel economy.

As the Hunter Valley’s rows of freshly-picked vines come into view, our six-a-side team of adults can include the journey as part of this luxury escape experience.

In the CX-90 Azami, Mazda’s Driver Personalisation System has set my ideal driving position. It does so based on my eye position and height, and, using facial recognition, it’s restored my preferred audio, climate and vehicle settings.

Two crisp 12.3-inch displays – one for the driver screen, the other for infotainment – add to the high-tech experience, as does the connectivity afforded by wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™.

Chuck in a 12-speaker Bose surround sound system and all passengers can enjoy a range of 1980s classics, rather than endure the kids’ latest Disney soundtrack.

Mazda's Driver Personalisation System

*Indicative representation of product
Apple Carplay and Android Auto

Apple Carplay and Android Auto

Wireless Phone Charging

Wireless Phone Charging

Pull up to the Hunter Valley’s Spicers Guesthouse and both CX-90 and wine lovers are in their element. Numerous cellar doors are within wine-spitting distance, while the resort’s heritage, rustic buildings with wraparound verandahs ooze artisan craftsmanship.

Which is a neat segue into my CX-90’s paint colour: Artisan Red Metallic. Made specifically for this imposing SUV, this Takuminuri paint finish is a deep, rich red, so forgive me if I compare it to the hue of old-vine Shiraz backlit by early evening sunlight.

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Kid-free grown-up trips are rare treats, and to celebrate not being forced to visit the more child-friendly eating establishments (complimentary ice cream and fizzy drinks just before bedtime - thanks for that), Spicers’ on-site eRemo Italian restaurant befits our luxury escape. Wagyu sirloin on the bone with freshly shaved Canberra truffle - matched with a local 2018 Mount Pleasant ‘Maurice O’Shea’ Shiraz - certainly trumps a Happy Meal and a Coke.

Hire babysitters for an extra day and Australia’s original wine region offers the likes of Pokolbin’s Hunter Distillery gin, a behind-the-scenes tour and taste (and simple ‘Feed Me’ menu) at Brokenwood Wines, and a host of stay-young experiences. You can go axe throwing, escape rooming or even de-stress in a Smash Room (think baseball bat versus empty wine bottle).

You’ll want to take home souvenirs of the Hunter, but will you be able to fit them, having brought half a cricket team in the CX-90? A bottle each, tops? Not so. Even with all three rows of seats in place, with the generous underfloor storage space there’s an ample 257 litres of boot room up to the rear package tray.

Your six or seven occupants can take home a few cases of local grape juice behind the rear seats, then.

Grand SUV touring means you and five or six adult friends are afforded a memorable wine-region escape over hundreds of cosseting kilometres.

By Monday morning, this largest of Mazdas transforms to a practical, safe, silent haven for the school run, and those spoilt, undeserving school children.