One of the first things I noticed upon setting off in our long-term 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV is its abnormally heavy steering weight. For a three-row family SUV, it’s a little startling. For a Mazda, it’s simply what I’ve come to expect.

How Mazda tunes its steering is different from most manufacturers these days, as it still believes in the one-size-fits-all mantra when it comes to steering effort. Although the CX-90 has Normal and Sport driving modes, the steering feel, ratio and everything imaginable about it stay exactly the same That’s quite a bit different from most other brands that offer up a light feel in Normal or Comfort but artificially step the effort up in Sport mode. There’s nothing particularly new about this phenomenon, though, as Mazda’s lived by this philosophy for quite some time. Another fan-favorite OEM that does the same? Porsche.

Generally speaking, I appreciate the consistency of a single steering mode. Just nail it from the start, and don’t let the user mess it up – most cars we praise the steering of don’t offer multiple modes. It makes sense from a safety standpoint, too. If you find yourself in a situation requiring a quick move, you want the steering to be exactly as you expect it to be. At the same time, I think that argument is selling us humans a little short, as even with fairly dramatic differences in steering tuning, it’s pretty easy to get your bearings and understand what needs to be done with the wheel in an emergency situation.

But where am I going with this? Well, I think there’s a balance that could likely be struck between Mazda’s heavy sports car steering in the CX-90 and the feather-light easiness of something like a Hyundai Palisade. If Mazda is serious about stealing a bigger chunk of the three-row SUV segment – and it sure seems like that’s the case with how much new engineering went into the CX-90 – then it would likely benefit the car to offer various steering modes like most of the industry does.

Despite how much I enjoy the weighty and lovely steering of the CX-90 on a curvy highway on-ramp, I’m also slightly annoyed at the effort required to go lock-to-lock in tight parking lots or when backing out of my driveway. For a Miata or even something sportier like a Mazda3, it’s just what I want. In a plug-in hybrid three-row family hauler? Well, I’m happy to give up a smidgen of steering “purity” for a rack that makes it easier to perform three-point turns.

The ultimate solution here would be to allow for changes to the steering effort via drive mode. I know. Scary stuff! All of us weirdos that champion Mazda’s dedication to making fun-to-drive cars no matter the segment can cruise around in the ideal “Sport” steering mode. Meanwhile, the rest of the world that ended up in a CX-90 some other way – perhaps by way of a glowing recommendation from a fellow car nerd – can use a “Normal” mode that reduces the effort required at lower speeds (I’d use it on occasion, too). Nobody is expecting such a large vehicle to behave like a sports car, so maybe Mazda could bend its rules just this once. I know I would welcome adjustable steering on the CX-90. For now, though, I’ll keep enjoying how exceptionally crispy, solid and precise the steering on our long-termer feels. No other three-row SUV in its price ballpark comes close to being this satisfying when put to the test.

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