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Mazda Pulls Out the Stops for CX-90 Interior

It's clear Mazda is aiming upmarket. New interior details might just take it there.

Mazda CX-90 exterior
  • Mazda's newest SUV, the CX-90, is gunning for the luxury segment.
  • Exclusive Artisan Red finish is based on the brand's popular Soul Red, with shape-shifting color refraction.
  • The CX-90's top trim offers several interior upgrades inspired by its Japanese heritage.

Mazda is seeing increasing success in North America, selling nearly 300,000 vehicles in 2022. According to President and CEO of Mazda North America Jeffrey Guyton, the brand is one of only a handful of brands to sell more cars in 2022 than in 2019, before the global health crisis. While that 2022 figure represents an 11% decrease from 2021, Mazda had an explosive December with a 40.5% upsurge.

The Japanese brand is moving upmarket with intention, zhuzhing up its retail locations over the last several years and giving luxury brands a run for their money with interior appointments that exceed their pay grade. Now with the reveal of the new three-row CX-90 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), the company is staking its claim on the upscale segment with even more accoutrements.

Stitches inspired by book binding techniques

Mazda senior design manager Ian Hedge once said that he is inspired by a good book.

"For artistic inspiration I especially love Japan’s literature, both modern and classic works,” he told Harper’s Bazaar.

Hedge and the design team has taken that thread and pulled on it; indeed, one of the design elements of the new CX-90 is a “hanging stitch” that exposes the material behind the fabric covering. Spanning the dashboard, the stitching creates a zigzag pattern that suspends two textile elements. We wondered aloud if it would be more likely to fray or tear in this format, and Hedge confirmed it all passed durability testing. It creates an attractive, artisan look that supports the CX-90’s upscale aspirations.

“What we’re trying to do is show how the materials are connected,” Hedge told Edmunds. “You see the stitching and you also see what’s underneath to provide a secondary layer of interest. Then we use [the same stitching] all the way across the instrument panel to create a horizontal line to emphasize the width of the interior.”

The second component of the top trim is the integration of curly maple wood, which is often used for high-end furniture as well as guitars and other musical instruments. It displays a wavy pattern and detail that continues the ripples in the door panels, inspired by Nishijin-ori woven silk typical of Kyoto, Japan.

Color-shifting red exterior

But the real showstopper is the paint. The new CX-90 will wear Artisan Red as an option, and in the sunlight it appears to be a deep color-shifting black cherry hue, darkening under cloud cover or as night falls. It was created specifically for the new SUV, using lessons learned from Mazda’s Takuminuri process. Takuminuri translates to “artisan coloring” and uses robots that are taught to duplicate the brushstrokes of a master painter.

Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal finish, which was first seen in 2012, set the bar high. It shines with an unmistakable glow and looks different than any other red on the market. The brand wanted to create a unique red, and by painstakingly modeling how a single master painter would finish a concept car, Mazda replicated the process for mass production. Using those lessons, Mazda followed up with Machine Gray and then Rhodium White.

The white, in particular, was a revelation: While it's composed of the same three layers as the first two premium colors (a clear, reflective, and color layer) Mazda was able to reduce the thickness of the color layer by 30%. Less paint means fewer carbon emissions in the process, and that carries over to the newest color, which Mazda calls "more sustainable."

Artisan Red "uses same technique that we use as Soul Red, which is arguably one of the most recognizable paint colors in the industry,” Hedge said. “This really combines what we learned from Soul Red and Machine Gray into one; the darks are almost black and, in the light, it has that Soul Red sparkle.”

With a new hybrid powertrain, a new large platform, and these interior design elements, the CX-90 is poised to surpass its predecessor, the CX-9. In Artisan Red, especially, it's a stunner.

Edmunds says

The CX-90 is refined inside at the base level, and the top model goes all out with impressive details like unusual stitching, real wood trim, and woven fabric on the door panels with undulating patterns. It’s the best-looking Mazda interior we’ve seen.