2016 Mazda6 Grand TouringPosted on June 10th, 2015
Flagship model raises the bar for midsize sedans
By Nina Russin
Mazda has a talent for making what others would deem impossible look easy. While competitive automakers shrink the greenhouses on their vehicles in the name of styling, Mazda creates award-winning designs with ample glass areas. Whereas some would argue that the only way to improve fuel economy is with alternative fuels, Mazda does it with a conventional gas-powered engine.
The Mazda6 is the automaker’s flagship sedan and as such, is the embodiment of everything that makes Mazda wonderful. The sedan exterior with its wing-shaped grille, muscular wheel arches, and graceful beltline is both contemporary and timeless. LED headlamps replace bi-xenon lenses on the Grand Touring model. In addition to offering excellent nighttime visibility, the LED lenses have less of a drain on the car’s charging system.
Inside, designers improved fit and finish while adding useful details such as an electric parking brake to save space in the center console, larger center console screen and premium upholstery materials.
The Grand Touring model is the most upscale of three available grades, with pricing starting at $30,195 excluding the $820 destination charge. Power comes from a 184-horsepower automatic transmission and six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection.
The sedan comes fully loaded with convenience features including keyless entry and start, 19-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth interface, satellite and HD radio, Bose audio system, heads-up display, power driver and front passenger seats, rearview camera, power moonroof, blind spot monitoring, and a 60/40 split folding rear seat.
A technology package adds adaptive cruise control, active grille shutters, regenerative braking and lane departure warning bringing the final MSRP to $33,395.
Test drive in Arizona
This week I had the opportunity to drive the Mazda6 around the Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler, Arizona metropolitan areas as well as along the Bush Highway that parallels the Superstition Mountains east of town. A section of the Beeline Highway leading to Bush Highway includes about 1000 feet of elevation gain so I was able to see how the sedan would do climbing to altitude.
Although Mazda’s marketing doesn’t emphasize value as much as some competitors, there is no doubt that the Mazda6 is a lot of car for the money. Its styling and performance rivals more expensive luxury brands. Fuel economy is 28 miles-per-gallon around town and 40 on the highway thanks to the brand’s Skyactiv technology and in the case of the GT, regenerative braking.
The Mazda6 received a five-star crash test rating from NHTSA and the 2015 model was an IIHS top safety-pick. There is no reason the 2016 car won’t follow in those footsteps.
But what really separates the sedan from the rest of the herd is its performance. The four-cylinder engine is heavy on torque for exceptional low-end acceleration. The six-speed automatic transmission manages to find the sweet spot between good power and fuel economy. It performs seamlessly when the driver uses the formula-style shift paddles as well as in fully automatic mode.
One of the reasons Mazda powertrains are so good is because engineers don’t skimp on components. You will never see rear drum brakes on a Mazda car because they don’t perform as well as disc brakes. As a brand that prides itself on driving dynamics, Mazda is willing to make the extra investment to produce maximum results.
On the Mazda6, engineers chose a four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back. By focusing on torsional rigidity, they were able to tune the electric power steering system perfectly for the chassis, offering excellent low-end maneuverability and solid on-center response at speed.
Engineers used high tensile strength steel to keep the front-wheel drive sedan’s curb weight low and maintain a good balance between the front and back of the car. As a result, the Mazda6 doesn’t suffer from understeer: the tendency to push in the corners. The sedan eats up the turns on the hilly Bush Highway, known for its off-camber surfaces.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners and below the rear glass. Standard blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors to warn the driver when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through his blind spots.
The sedan’s only flaw is some road noise at highway speeds.
In keeping with its driver-centric focus, the new Mazda6 features a redesigned instrument panel with a heads-up display that enables the driver to monitor his speed with minimal distraction. A seven-inch color screen at the top of the center stack is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions.
The new model features the latest version of Mazda Connect infotainment that includes Internet service. A mouse-type control on the center console eliminates a clutter of buttons on the center stack.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view, although I would have liked a little more support from the adjustable lumbar. The two-tone upholstery on the test car is an appealing black and chocolate brown reminiscent of modern furniture design.
The fold-flat rear seat extends the cargo floor for longer items such as skis and snowboards. Cyclists will be better served with one of Mazda’s crossovers that have a taller and more versatile cargo area.
The Mazda6 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring. The Grand Touring model includes a rearview camera with cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, LED headlamps and a heads-up display.
Mazda builds the Mazda6 at its Hofu, Japan assembly plant.
Like: A beautifully styled midsize sedan with a high level of standard safety and convenience features and excellent driving dynamics.
Dislike: Tire noise at highway speeds.
Model: Mazda6 Grand Touring
Base price: $30,195
As tested: $33,395
Horsepower: 184 Hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 185 lbs.-ft. @ 3250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 28/40 mpg city/highway
Leave a reply