2014 Mazda6 Grand TouringPosted on June 2nd, 2013
Third-generation sport sedan gains Skyactiv technology
By Nina Russin
First the coffee group has to like the car. While most members are IT engineers, all but one are dedicated gearheads, owning an Audi TT RS, Mercedes-Benz CLS 500 and Porsche Cayenne between them. So when I see their collective noses smashed against the front window as I slip the Mazda6 into its parking spot, I take that as a positive sign.
Turning heads isn’t the only thing the newest version of Mazda’s midsized sedan does well. It is also fuel efficient, averaging 34 miles-per-gallon on my 200-mile test drive. The 2.5-liter direct injection engine is powerful off the line, and the six-speed automatic transmission crisp and responsive.
The sedan is also affordable, with a base sticker price of $20,880, excluding the $795 destination charge. The upscale Grand Touring model tested starts at $29,495. It comes loaded with comfort and safety features so there are very few options. Those on the test car include adaptive cruise control and smart city brake support, raising the final MSRP to $31,490.
Newest version of Skyactiv adds regenerative braking
Skyactiv technology isn’t a magic bullet, but rather a group of engineering enhancements that collectively yield a better mousetrap. Internal combustion engines are inherently inefficient due to internal friction and incomplete combustion. Even with on-board computers, only about 70 percent of the fuel that goes into the gas tank actually powers the car.
Mazda engineers have improved vehicle efficiency by utilizing very high compression ratios in their engines: 13:1 in the case of the Mazda6. Computer controls prevent the engine from detonating: a problem that at one time prevented the widespread use of this technology. The six-speed automatic transmission utilizes a lock-up torque converter rather than fluid couplings which waste a lot of energy.
Reducing aerodynamic drag around the exterior, containing the vehicle’s curb weight, and replacing the traditional hydraulic power steering unit with electric power steering all contribute to the sedan’s 38 mile-per-gallon fuel economy on the highway.
For the first time, engineers have added regenerative braking, that recaptures energy from the car’s braking system. Unlike regenerative systems in hybrid vehicles that require an electric motor and separate battery to operate, Mazda’s utilizes a lightweight capacitor. Curb weight for the Mazda6 with the six-speed automatic transmission is a modest 3232 pounds.
Road trip in southern Arizona
My week-long test drive included a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, as well as time on surface streets and highways in both cities. Features such as blind spot monitoring and optional smart city brake support on the test car make commuting in dense traffic safer and easier. Adaptive cruise control maintains a preset distance between the Mazda6 and the vehicle in front. Smart city brake support functions similar to Volvo’s city safety, applying the brakes if the driver fails to recognize a stopped vehicle ahead.
The 2.5-liter engine’s performance is proof that four-cylinder engines today have comparable power to V-6 blocks just a few years back. The engine develops peak torque at 3250 rpm: about half throttle. This means that the driver doesn’t have to dip too far into the gas pedal when accelerating into high-speed traffic. Not only does this save gas, it also enables the car to accelerate more smoothly. The engine reaches its peak 184 horsepower at 5700 rpm, well below the engine’s 6500 rpm redline.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and multi-links in the back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. Streets in Tucson’s older neighborhoods come as close as anything in this part of the country to surface streets in the Midwest. Years of hot summers have a similar effect to winter frost heaves. The sedan’s suspension did an excellent job of isolating us for bumps and jousts as we motored along.
Despite being a very lightweight car, there is enough sound insulation to isolate passengers from road, engine and wind noise. My husband and I had no problems conversing on the highway and enjoying the surfing audio channels on the satellite radio.
The Grand Touring model includes an abundance of connectivity features, such as Bluetooth and SMS text messaging. HD radio, satellite radio and Pandora are all standard equipment. A TomTom navigation system is standard on the test car. Information is stored on a SD card that the owner can remove and insert into a PC to do updates.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fishing for the key fob. I found both the driver’s and front passenger seats easy to adjust, and comfortable for drives several hours in duration.
The steering wheel is very well designed, with a narrow diameter that is much more comfortable for women, and logically arranged redundant audio, Bluetooth and information controls.
A digital information display inside the gauge cluster includes average fuel economy and driving range. A rotary knob on the center console controls infotainment functions in the center stack, eliminating a clutter of buttons on the instrument panel.
Rear passengers in the outboard positions have ample head, hip and legroom. The center position is fine for short trips around town.
The Mazda6 trunk is cavernous, easily capable of carrying a family’s luggage, golf bags or modest-sized camping supplies. With the rear seats folded flat the Mazda6 holds skis, snowboards and can even fit a road bike in a pinch.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front headrests, antilock brakes, daytime running lamps, dynamic stability control and traction control.
The all-new Mazda6 is rolling into dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, spacious midsized sedan with exceptional handling and performance and segment-leading fuel economy.
Dislikes: None. This comes as close to a perfect car as I have ever seen.
Model: Mazda6 Grand Touring
Base price: $20,880
As tested: $31,490
Horsepower: 184 Hp@ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lbs.-ft. @ 3250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: NA
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 26/38 mpg city/highway
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