Car Comparisons

2024 Mazda CX-90 vs Acura MDX Comparison Test and Video

Comparison Data

2023 Acura MDX Platinum Elite
2024 Mazda CX-90 Signature
Engine Displacement
Engine Cylinders
Turbo I6
Peak Horsepower
290 hp @ 6,200 rpm
340 hp @ 5,000–6,000 rpm (w/premium gas)
Peak Torque
267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
369 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Fuel Economy
12.6 / 9.4 / 11.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
10.3 / 8.5 / 9.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space
462 / 1,107 / 2,022 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row
451 / 1,155 / 2,129 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row
Base Price
A/C Tax
Destination Fee
Price as Tested
Optional Equipment
$500 – Platinum White Pearl paint, $500
$450 – Artisan Red Metallic paint, $450

Mazda has remained tight-lipped about its perceived move upmarket, choosing instead to let the products do the talking – sort of.

In reality, it’s less of a full-fledged leap into the luxury space than it is a step just beyond the mainstream products with which it has long competed. And the 2024 Mazda CX-90 marks the automaker’s biggest reach to date, both literally and figuratively. Built on a rear-biased platform akin to BMW or Mercedes-Benz and offered with materials that look as though they wouldn’t be out of place inside a more expensive machine, this new flagship three-row seems on paper like it’s ready to nip at the heels of proper premium products.

That’s why it’s pitted here against the 2023 Acura MDX, an SUV that’s perhaps not quite on the same level of its peers from those German brands, but it’s certainly not far behind, either. Finished here in Platinum Elite trim, it’s also handicapped by an asking price that’s exactly $7,000 richer than its range-topping rival, the CX-90 Signature.


It’s important to keep in mind the context within which Mazda has framed its latest – and largest – offering. There’s simply no hiding the fact that at the top of the lineup the 2024 CX-90 is equipped as a compelling alternative to high-priced premium SUVs; however, there are more affordable versions of this three-row that start from $45,900 (plus a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,995) and range up to this top trim’s $63,300 price tag. (It’s also offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain that’s a little pricier than the gas-only version tested here.)

Meanwhile, the cheapest 2023 Acura MDX starts at the same $63,300, while the Platinum Elite version tested here rings in at $70,300 before tax. There’s also a pair of sporty Type S trims that crest the $80,000 mark, while freight adds $2,595 to any one of them.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 6/10


Dollar for dollar, the Mazda looks like the better buy. It even boasts many of the same creature comforts as the MDX, including genuine leather and wood trim, a 12.3-inch widescreen infotainment display, tri-zone climate control, and heated and ventilated front seats. The CX-90 Signature even comes with second-row seats that are both heated and ventilated compared to the MDX’s that only offer the former across the lineup.

But in spite of its upscale aspirations, the priciest gas-powered CX-90 lacks the seat adjustability of this Acura and other SUVs like it (10-way driver, eight-way passenger compared to 16 for both in the MDX), while its stereo doesn’t have the speaker count (12 versus 16) and robustness of its rival’s. Sure, those aren’t exactly deal-breakers, but when it comes to premium machines, the details can make all the difference.

Otherwise, both boast modern essentials like heated steering wheels and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections, both of which are wireless, along with wireless smartphone chargers and three rows worth of USB ports. These SUVs also feature built-in navigation and subscription-based satellite radio, while the MDX also gets a Wi-Fi hotspot (which needs a paid subscription, too).

Mazda CX-90: 8/10; Acura MDX: 9/10


This pair is evenly matched on the advanced safety front, with neither claiming an obvious advantage. Stuff like lane departure warning and keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control comes standard across their respective lineups, while these fancy trims include extras like head-up display systems and surround-view monitoring. Both are also more sensitive than other vehicles on the market, with plenty of unprovoked warnings about vehicles that are a safe distance away.

Mazda CX-90: 9/10; Acura MDX: 9/10


This pair is also strikingly similar when it comes to their dimensions and everyday usability. The CX-90’s wheelbase is slightly longer, stretching 3,120 mm (122.8 in) compared to 2,890 mm (113.8 in), but somewhat surprisingly, that doesn’t lead to any more rear-seat space. In fact, they feel nearly identical aside from their configurations, with the CX-90 Signature set up with second-row captain’s chairs compared to a conventional bench in the MDX that folds in a 40/20/40 split.

While the CX-90 is a little larger inside than the CX-9 it replaces, its rearmost seats aren’t as spacious as the ones in mainstream rivals like the recently refreshed Volkswagen Atlas or the Buick Enclave that occupies a similar not-quite-premium position. In fairness, they’re about as roomy as the ones in the MDX, and children should have the space they need – although neither third row is especially easy to climb in and out of.

Cargo-carrying is another area where there isn’t much separating the CX-90 and MDX, with similar space with all seats upright (451 L vs. 462 L), and a little more in the Mazda with the rear ones folded. Meanwhile, towing maxes out at the same 2,268-kg (5,000-lb) capacity, although the MDX needs a pricey package to reach that number.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 7/10

User Friendliness

Neither of these could rightly be described as the most straightforward sport utilities on the market, although that’s true for largely different reasons. In the CX-90, it’s frustrating little details like the fact that there seems to be no way to program all the doors to unlock when the transmission is put in park, plus the lack of buttons or handles to stow the second-row seats from the cargo area.

In the MDX, the dash-mounted drive mode dial is far too easy to mistake for a volume knob, while the push-button gear selector isn’t especially intuitive. Plus, this new-for-2022 generation of the brand’s biggest offering still goes without a touchscreen, leaving the touchpad on the console as a frequent source of frustration – particularly when interacting with either smartphone-mirroring interface.

Mazda has also been apprehensive about touch displays, relying instead on a rotary dial on the consoles of its vehicles, including the CX-90, for infotainment interactions. However, the screen itself is touch responsive and works that way with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – both of which were designed around touch inputs. Even so, AutoTrader Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai had nothing but trouble trying to pair her Samsung smartphone to the system during this test, while colleagues have reported similar problems elsewhere.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 7/10


Mazda’s choice of an inline six-cylinder engine here was a deliberate part of its push towards a premium feel for the CX-90. It’s an engine layout that’s synonymous with brands like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, and it’s renowned for its smoothness and balance. The turbocharged 3.3L delivers in that regard, too, with a silky power delivery and plenty of output – particularly at the top of the lineup, where it makes 319 hp to go with 369 lb-ft of torque. (Expensive 93-octane pushes the former to 340 hp, while cheaper trims make due with 280 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.)

Skewing more towards traditional luxury, the MDX tested here isn’t quite as generous with its output, with 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque to work with. (Those seeking a sportier MDX should check out the Type S that spins up 355 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.) In reality, the 3.5L here is more than adequate for most circumstances, it simply lacks the urgency of its rivals, including the CX-90 Signature.

Mazda CX-90: 9/10; Acura MDX: 7/10

Fuel Economy

Despite its more modest mechanical disposition, the MDX isn’t as efficient as the CX-90. And in fairness, the 11.2 L/100 km combined it’s officially rated to consume is about average for an all-wheel-drive SUV this size; the Audi Q7 is good for about the same, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), as is the Infiniti QX60 that’s also powered by a 3.5L V6 and the Mercedes GLE-Class, to name a few. It’s worth noting that all of them call for premium-grade gas.

Meanwhile, the Mazda CX-90 is somewhat significantly more efficient thanks to its 48-volt mild hybrid system, with an NRCan-rated combined average of 9.5 L/100 km – a number that was matched during this test compared to 11.5 L/100 km for the MDX. And while high-grade gas is recommended in order to maximize the engine’s output, it can safely run on regular, as it did during this test.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 6/10

Driving Feel

With a rear-biased all-wheel drive system and that inline-six under the hood, dynamism is the foundational underpinning of Mazda’s newest SUV. That doesn’t mean it’s sporty, per se, but rather that there’s a level of engagement here that’s been elevated even beyond what this brand has long delivered. However, this test week unmasked some jarring and clunky downshifts at city speeds in particular that aren’t especially becoming of a wannabe luxury ride.

Sharply contrasting those hiccups, the MDX’s powertrain is entirely unobtrusive, operating in the background with little indication of what’s happening with all but the heaviest of foot applied to the throttle. No, it’s not as engaging, but this Acura isn’t sloppy, either – it simply does what’s asked of it.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 8/10


Benefitting from so-called “amplitude-reactive dampers” that use two pistons each to isolate both bump absorption and outright stability, the MDX’s ride is smooth if not quite as supple as that of rivals that offer air suspension. Even so, it’s all part and parcel of this SUV’s relaxed, luxurious demeanour. Likewise, the quietness of the cabin and the cushy seats tell the same tale.

The CX-90 rides on the same style of multi-link rear suspension, but with conventional dampers and coil springs it can’t absorb road imperfections as well as its rival in this head-to-head. And while some of the materials inside wouldn’t be out of place in a proper premium ride, the upgraded leather upholstery in this top trim isn’t as rich as the stuff in the MDX, while the pile of the suede on the dash is so long and fluffy that it looks like a wet teddy bear.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 9/10


The rich ruby paint of this tester is pretty on-point for Mazda, making it a $450 upgrade that’s worth every penny – although the overall shape of the CX-90 isn’t quite as fluid as some of its siblings. Where even the outgoing CX-9’s proportions are relatively tidy, the door-to-window ratio here is off, making this SUV look more than a little slab-sided. At least the interior is far more inoffensive.

Acura’s design language plays well against the MDX’s overall size, although the smaller RDX does better still. Even then, the angles and shapes are just aggressive enough without going overboard, while the Platinum Elite trim’s 20-inch wheels are outstanding. Here, it’s the interior that’s less impressive, with far too much glossy plastic trim inside that’s all but impossible to keep clean.

Mazda CX-90: 7/10; Acura MDX: 8/10

The Verdict

In the end, there’s an essence of luxury in the 2023 Acura MDX that’s tangible. It’s not perfect by any means, with the touchscreen-replacing trackpad and glossy interior trim its biggest detractors. (It’s also a little difficult to climb into the third row, although it’s no more so than most SUVs this size.) But there’s a sense of premium purpose here that’s hard to match, while it even manages to feel properly priced for all it delivers.

As a full-fledged luxury SUV, the 2024 Mazda CX-90 unsurprisingly comes up a little short of premium rivals like the MDX. That point would probably be a little more forgivable if Mazda didn’t try so hard to elevate this entry to that level, only to ultimately fail in its execution. It’s not that the CX-90 is a bad vehicle – although the bizarre transmission behaviour is troubling – but it certainly misses its established expectations, lofty or otherwise.