Sitting in the driveway, with only its nose and a few feet of hood visible from my kitchen, Mazda’s refreshed ‘6’ looks absolutely upmarket; arguably, more upmarket than the driveway. Its grille is clean and uncluttered, there’s but a small suggestion of chin spoiler, and any air intakes gracing the front look functional and not – notably – an unintended consequence. And it just gets better from there…
While much of the car news of late has focused on those automakers abandoning the segment (Ford – going forward – and FCA’s Chrysler are the most notable), the Asians are not only hanging in, but hanging on. Recently redesigned Accords and Camrys are about to be joined by an all-new Nissan Altima, while the Koreans – Hyundai and Kia – continue with refreshed takes on the Sonata and Optima, respectively. In all of this model maelstrom the Mazda6, it could be argued, is the underachiever, with design, performance and marketing parameters somewhat removed from the midsize scrum. With the recent enhancements to the Mazda6, the team from Hiroshima have not only stepped up the game – they may have redefined it.
Despite a nip here and tuck there, the Mazda6 sheetmetal remains the same upscale presence we’ve enjoyed since its last redesign. Except for (perhaps) the Tesla S, I don’t know of a 4-door shape that’s so utterly timeless as Mazda’s. While the proportion is decidedly front-wheel drive, the front overhang is minimalized – at least visually – by a front fascia that’s drawn in, rather than blown up. And while the windshield is aggressively angled, and the rear window takes an almost fastback slant, the greenhouse itself is generous – you can actually see around the car without relying on cameras to do so.
Inside, a completely redesigned interior offers a ‘welcome’ in all the right ways. The seat redesign includes high-density, vibration-absorbing urethane foam, and the shape is both supportive and accessible. Our upmarket ‘Signature’ is swathed in ‘Deep Chestnut Nappa Leather’, and if the surface is not deep chestnut it’s probably UltraSuede NU or, uh, Japanese Sen wood. If Jaguar’s XE looked this good on the inside Jaguar would have people standing in line; as it is, the Jag doesn’t, and they don’t.
The real news for this enhanced Mazda6, however, is under the hood. Like many in the segment, Mazda has dispensed with a V6, relying only on their 2.5 liter four. And in its standard, normally aspirated form the 2.5 is nice, but no cigar. Add a turbo, however, which is available within the top half of available trims, and the result is transformational. By the numbers, the turbocharger takes horsepower from 187 to 225 (87 Octane) or 250 (93 Octane). The torque picture is even better, going from 186 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm to 310 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm. And while the drop in EPA estimates is about 10% (the standard mill delivers a 29 Combined while the turbo gives you 26), the effortless manner in which the new engine goes about its business is almost sublime.
And there’s more! The unibody structure incorporates thicker steel for enhanced rigidity and sound abatement, while the suspension has been completely re-engineered for an improved driving experience. And it’s the driving experience you’re buying – or should be buying – when spending some $35K.
If I was blessed with a 3-stall garage, I could very easily see it being an all-Mazda enclave. For the family we’d opt for Mazda’s 3-row CX-9, which offers the same 2.5 liter turbo as the Mazda6, along with one of the most elegant exteriors within the 3-row category. For that long and winding road the Miata remains a favorite, and look forward to the bump in horsepower available in 2019.
For everything in between, there’s not a better midsize than Mazda’s Mazda6. Whether opting for the base, manual-equipped ‘6’ at about $22,000, or spending another $13K for its top-of-the-line signature, this is a car you can enjoy both visually and functionally long after retiring the payment book. Park one in your driveway and enjoy the first few feet that you can see…or enjoy it all.