We drive Mazda’s all-new 6*
Words by: Adam Allen
Huh? What’s up with the asterisk?
OK, we admit it- this isn’t a completely new Mazda6. That said, with all the changes they’ve made for 2018- and there are some significant revisions- it kind of feels like a clean sheet redesign. We should note that it isn’t like Mazda has neglected the 6 since it hit the streets in 2014; almost every model year it brings new upgrades to the table. Not that the 6 really needed the attention, because it is an inherently excellent midsize sedan. As is typical of a vehicle that has been on the market for that length of time, the 6 is the recipient of a crucial facelift and with that comes some tidbits you should know about.
If Mazda ever launches a luxury brand, this could easily be the flagship.
Mazda fans with sharp memories know that this almost happened in 1993 as an answer to the fledging Japanese luxury brands from Honda, Nissan and Toyota. It would have been known as Amati Cars and the Millenia (remember that one?) was to be its inaugural model. If Mazda ever gets around to resuscitating the brand, but if they did the 6 Signature would make a fine flagship vehicle. If you’re wondering where we are going with this, what we’re trying to illustrate is how meaningful the 2018 enhancements are in raising the bar for the 6 sedan in a luxury car context.
Let’s hear more about these upgrades, then.
We should begin under the hood. For the last four years, the 6 has soldiered on with only one engine choice, a 2.5 litre 184 horsepower four banger shared with its smaller sibling, the bestselling Mazda3. You’d hardly call this a bad engine, except with some of its prime competition offering turbocharged fours or even V6’s it was time for a bump in power. It finally gets just that with the 2.5 turbocharged mill donated from the CX-9 family mover and it gives the 6 the shove it has always longed for. With 250 horsepower on tap (227 if you feed it Regular grade gasoline) and a robust 310-foot pounds of torque available at a low 2,000 rpm the 6 is suddenly endowed with enough thrust to keep things interesting. While it lacks the 8 or even 10-speed gearboxes of its competitors, the 6-speed auto does a good job of making the most of the newfound power and you’ll never wish for more cogs, even on the highway where the engine turns a relaxed 2,200 rpm. The other headline grabber is how quiet and polished the 6 has become, no matter the speed. We’ve spent lots of time in the 6 over the years, and each time we would bemoan the high levels of road and wind noise. Thanks to carful harmonic tuning of the exterior bits and chassis, laminated glass and strategically place sound deadening material- not too much so as to make the 6 a porker- the level of refinement is profoundly better. There’s other stuff too, like slick LED lighting all around, a new grille, and tasteful use of chrome trim here and there. Despite these niceties, all the new details are still eclipsed by the startling amount of refinement the Mazda engineers have bestowed on the 6.
Signature trim is nicer than many cars that cost much, much more.
Don’t believe us? Park a 6 in Signature trim next to luxury sedans from brands that supposedly have more prestige than Mazda and see for yourself. Sorry Audi A4; you’ve got unmistakably nice digs but the 6 has got your number. After taking in the meticulous build quality, the use of materials that feel of intense quality and the way textures and touchpoints work thoughtfully together just try convincing yourself that we’re exaggerating. It is exceedingly rare for a manufacturer to sweat the details as much as Mazda has. The Chestnut Brown leather and trim were chosen to evoke the wooden columns from Japanese temples. The old dash mounted Heads Up Display hardware was turfed in favor of one that projects onto the windshield, because Mazda was loathe to have the bits from the old unit visible to the naked eye whereas the new unit keeps everything neatly out of sight. Our favorite bit was the Japanese Sen wood trim that you’d normally see used in high end musical instruments and furniture sprinkled throughout the interior, and it practically begs you to run your finger along each place where it’s installed. Another bright spot is the addition of cooled seats, a first for any Mazda and ones that blow appreciably cool air to your back and keister.
All this effort to make it luxurious- please tell us it still drives like a Mazda?
Ever notice how some manufacturers equate luxury with isolation and dullness? You won’t find any of that here. Mazda’s ethos from Day 1 has always been to build cars that adhere to its Zoom-Zoom philosophy and that thankfully hasn’t changed. The Falken tires are geared more towards a quiet ride, but they still hang on reasonably well and the suspension will rise to the occasion when you want to play. Like its predecessor before it, the 6 is packing G-Vector control, a subtle bit of powertrain programing that cuts power ever so slightly when the wheel is turned for better turning response. And while we have broken down the highlights of the new turbo engine above, understand that it gives the 6 a sense of crisp, effortless motivation it never had before. You’ll spend most of your time driving around enjoying the 6’s comfort and serenity, but it still enjoys having fun when you feel like cutting loose.
What might go wrong?
Well, this feels weird… there isn’t any basis to be whining about wind, road and tire noise any longer. Our complaints are few and of the somewhat pedantic variety. Like how a car with 310-foot pounds of torque has more of a languid pull than a smart shove from rest, thus making it slower during the charge to 100 km/h than some of its rivals. Or how you can’t get all-wheel drive like you can on the Nissan Altima (the only one of its competitors to offer the option.) And although it works well and is wholly intuitive, Mazda’s corporate HMI infotainment system is starting to feel a little long in the tooth. When you have to really hunt for things that might be off putting, you know you’re in the company of a great car.
Should I buy a Mazda6?
If you had taken one for a drive in the past or knows someone who owns one, the gripe of it being too loud and grainy feeling likely stayed with you. That is now a thing of the past as the 6 can legitimately play amongst its fully loaded competitors and even in classes above its position in the market. You really must drive one to believe it, but trust us, you’ll be glad you did.
2018 Mazda6 Signature- Specifications
- Price as tested: $40,895
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.5-litre inline 4 turbo, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 227 @ 5,000 rpm (250 horsepower on 93 Octane)
- Torque (lb-ft.): 310 @ 2,000 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,622 kg (3,576 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.2/100km (25 mpg)