Mazda6 - A sporty, quiet, quick sports sedan

Written By nyit on Saturday, April 9, 2011 | 3:34 AM

There are a lot of mid-size sedans to choose from these days, from Camrys and Accords to Legacys and Maximas, with some new Buick Regals and well-regarded Malibus as well.
Some, like the Regal, with its Opel platform and Nurburgring suspension tuning underneath, appear to be downright sporty, while others tend more toward solid, even a bit vanilla.

One automaker, though, has tried to inject some zoom into its sedan since 2003, when the first-generation Mazda6 appeared. Now here comes the second-gen, with a zoomier shape, an extra 4.5 inches of wheelbase(109.8 inches) and wider front and rear track.
Let's zoom in for a closer look.

* Zoomy looks – The 2010 Mazda6 Grand Touring certainly went to the right finishing schools. It was designed in Hiroshima, Yokohama, Frankfurt and Irvine, Calif. As a North America-only design, the wide-mouthed single bar grill flanked by almond-shaped Xenon headlights over a wide-mouthed lower air intake with fog lights connected by a silver trim line. So far, very nice. The headlights curve into rounded front fenders sharing design DNA from the flagship RX-8, while a design lines comes off them and head up and aft to catch the taillights. The rounded roof gets some chrome side trim and floats nicely into the subtle lip at the end of the trunk, over slim LED taillights over Lexus-like twin exhaust tips in the lower fascia. The 10-spoke alloy wheels reveal big disc brakes, and wear P235/45ZR18-inch Michelins. With hints of silver and chrome, the sleek long wheelbase shape and the RX-8 accents make this a sportier, more dramatic shape that worked well in its Kona Blue paint, well applied over precise-fitting panels.
* 6xy interior – Keyless entry means touching the driver’s door handle to allow entry into a very black plastic interior with some upscale silver accents and a shiny striated black pseudo-wood on the center console and dash bottoms that looked great. I also liked the shiny accent plate for the base of the automatic gearbox, just below the nifty “Start” button. It’s a more upscale look, with more dramatic angles. Our Grand Touring had firm, supportive-if-flat heated leather seats up front with three memory presets for the driver's eight-way power (four-way power for the front passenger) bucket. The driver gets a proper tilt/telescope steering wheel with stereo, cruise, Bluetooth phone/audio and voice-command buttons. Under a compact hard plastic binnacle, a silver-trimmed central 160-mph speedometer and 8,000-rpm tach flanked by gas and temperature gauges, all with bright red numbers and sporty white needles. I also liked the blue halo around the main gauges rims, and the red button backlights. A red LCD trip computer (says zoom-zoom when you start) lives inset and top center over a wide touch screen satellite navigation flanked with function buttons for a solid, powerful AM-FM-six-disc CD-Sirius Satellite Bose audio system with 12 speakers. There's an MP3 input and a 12-volt outlet under the adjustable center armrest, although true zoomers want (and don’t get) a USB/iPod interface. You can voice-command audio, navigation and phone, while the CD stacker is behind the power tilt screen.

Chrome-trimmed dual-zone climate control knobs are there, as are twin front seat heater buttons and a neat little storage nook under a flip-up door for a cellphone or player. Cupholders dot the landscape, with a decent glove box and a felt-lined tray left of the steering wheel for change. Other techno goodies include a blind-spot monitoring system that blinks yellow icons in the sideview mirrors when something is in your blind spot, and beeps if you change lanes without a signal; rain- sensing wipers, auto-dim inside and outside (heated) mirrors; HomeLink transmitter and a height adjuster for the headlights. The swoopy rear roof line doesn’t hamper rear access through the longs doors, where it’s a bit plain in black, but with good head and leg room for two. Fabric pulls in the decent trunk easily drop the split rear seats for expanded cargo space.
* Zoom zoom – With the only rotary-powered sports car on the planet, a zippy MAZDASPEED3 5-door compact and one of the few two-seat roadsters around, Mazda has some pretty good sporting cred. Even a Mazda6 we tested a year ago with a 2.5-liter four- cylinder engine (170 hp) had a sporty six-speed manual when, netting 60-mph in 8 seconds and averaging 23 mpg. With this 3,700-mile-old car’s 3.7-liter, 272-hp V-6 and solid 6-speed automatic, there’s even more zoom-zoom to play with. You can manually shift it too. The result – a quick launch and clean shifts to 60-mph in 6.9 seconds, feeling quicker than competition like the Honda Accord and Nissan Maxima. The V-6 averaged about 21-mpg in our mixed use driving.

Quiet comes the zoom here, with a solid well-mannered platform and a slippery (.27 cd) shape aided by aero panels under the engine and air deflectors near the front tires. Add a well-designed independent front and rear suspension that offers a crisp, compliant feel that's good over bumps, and we loved the way this 6 sped through life. There's some body roll in turns and some bobble if there's a bump there, but it doesn't get unsettled. This is an agile, athletic sedan with good grip in turns, a joy to sweep through turns in, stability control handling understeer nicely. And with four adults on board, it smoothly traversed a new granite block traffic circle in our town that sets some suspensions and teeth on edge. The power steering was accurate but a bit light in feel; the power disc brakes offered precise pedal control and good stops with minimal fade after repeated hard use.

- Zoom cost: The base four-cylinder Mazda6i we tested a year ago started at a bit over $19,000; our Mazda6 Grand Touring with V-6 began at $28,540 with all standard above plus leather, a/c with pollen filter, power windows/mirrors/ locks, cruise control, 18-inch tires with alloy wheels, trip computer, HomeLink transmitter and adjustable center armrest. Our options – a $2,000 navigation system with real-time traffic, and a $1,980 technology package with keyless entry/start, driver’s seat memory presets, xenon headlights, heated auto-dim side mirrors, Sirius Satellite Radio, power passenger seat, LED taillights and trip computer, for a total with destination of $33,270. A 290-hp Maxima is about the same, but looks bigger. A 198-hp Hyundai Sonata Limited we tested recently was nice and roomy, but not as much fun to drive, albeit at more than $5,000 less. And a 268-hp Accord V-6 was quick and light on its feet, but I think the Mazda6 was a bit more fun to drive.

* Bottom line: The new Mazda6 is a grown-up mid-size sedan that is quick, athletic, roomy, comfortable and quiet – zoom with room. It’s a really solid choice in a world of Maximas, Fusions, Accords and Camrys. That over-$30,000 price tag seems a bit high for a sporty family car, but that V-6 and the ride do feel rich and Euro. That said, the four-cylinder version of the Mazda6 was almost as much fun, with a precise six-speed manual transmission and lots of nice standards that felt upscale with the zoom.
2010 MAZDA MAZDA6 Grand Touring

Vehicle type 4- door mid-size sports sedan
Base price - $28,540 ($33,270 as tested)
Engine type - DOHC, 24-valve V-6
Transmission – 6-speed automatic
Horsepower (net) - 272 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque (lb.ft.) – 269 @ 4,250 rpm
Wheelbase - 109.8 inches
Overall length - 193.7 inches
Overall width - 72.4 inches
Height - 57.9 inches
Front headroom - 38.1 inches
Front legroom 42.5 inches
Rear headroom – 37.3 inches
Rear legroom – 38 inches
Cargo capacity - 16.6 cu.ft.
Curb weight - 3,547 pounds
Mileage rating - 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Last word – A sporty, quiet, quick sports sedan

By Dan Scanlan - MyCarData

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