- Lewis Zhuo @lewiszhuo
2018 Mazda6 Signature - The Definitive Class Leader
Mazdas are, as a general rule of thumb, always underrated, and sometimes even entirely forgotten in regard to their respective classes. Indeed, in the highly competitive market segment for mid-size sedans, the offerings that immediately come to mind are the top-selling Toyota Camry, and the Honda Accord, with any bandwidth for niche offerings largely consumed by the all-wheel champion, the Subaru Legacy. In this highly congested and cutthroat market, where can the Mazda6 manage to fit in? Let’s take a look at how this latest iteration gets on.
I was very excited to drive the Mazda6, now newly armed with the excellent turbocharged engine from the CX-9; here, it makes 227 hp and a massive 310 lb-ft of torque (interestingly, Mazda decided to list a higher power figure of 250 hp, adjusted for premium fuel, on their website, in spite of only officially recommending the use of regular gas for the Mazda6 and continuing to list the 227 hp figure on the Monroney sticker). The headline figure, however, is the torque; 310 lb-ft in a mid-size sedan, an immense figure for a mid-size sedan, means that the Mazda6 will spin the driver’s side tire with ease in the rain. In light of all of this newly acquired power and torque, I’d really like to see Mazda offer an all-wheel drive trim soon - the sheer amount of grunt certainly warrants it. Still, considering how long we’ve been waiting for Mazda to offer an alternative to the slightly anemic 184 hp engine that was previously the only choice on the 6, the additional power of this new drivetrain option is very welcome indeed, especially considering the sheer competence of the chassis.
The 6 has always been a handling champion in its class and it now finally has the necessary power to back up its sporty attributes. The steering is sharp and has good weight to it - there is some dead spot on center, but it’s very accurate and makes driving feel engaging. The suspension is very well tuned for soaking up bumps, but it manages to do so without compromising its composure during sportier driving. Even the brakes, which traditionally on Mazdas have been a little soft, feel incisive and purposeful. Amidst a sea of dreariness, the Mazda6, with its vibrance and sportiness, breathes new life into an otherwise largely mundane mid-size segment.
Our Mazda6 test car is fully loaded. It has every possible option, including all of the now typical safety features such as lane departure, blind spot monitoring, as well as forward collision avoidance.
Interior and Exterior Design:
The interior is, to put it bluntly, class-leading, especially for the top Signature trim. The general fit and finish is sublime, and the materials used, particularly the new UltraSuede surfaces and the Nappa leather seats, simply exude a sense of unadulterated quality; gone are the cheap, unpleasantly coarse plastics that once dominated Mazda’s interiors. The interior aesthetics, too, are a genuine tour de force, particularly for an ostensibly non-premium carmaker. Sleek, sharp lines delineate a widened dashboard that wraps around the passenger compartment, leaving the driver feeling safely ensconced in an elegant, tastefully minimalist cockpit. The car controls are designed with conspicuous care as well, with both the aesthetics and placement of the various control knobs and buttons evident of astute, meticulous deliberation. The 6’s interior is a legitimate, compelling statement of intent from Mazda, especially in light of the Hiroshima-based automaker’s public ambitions to elevate itself as a premium manufacturer; it compares extremely favorably to the interior of any Acura model, an established luxury brand, currently on sale. Needless to say, the Mazda6 boasts, by far and away, the best interior in its present, mainstream market segment, putting offerings from Toyota and Honda to complete shame.
At its introduction in 2013, the Mazda6’s exterior design was the talk of the town. With four years now having elapsed, the design has inevitably lost some of its luster, though Mazda have prudently updated it with a lower stance, a new grille, and LED headlights fitted as standard. Still, it’s fundamentally a very handsome design, and whilst aged it has, it has aged well.
The Mazda6, now blessed with a powertrain the chassis has always deserved, has definitively set itself apart from the rest of the field. The long-awaited availability of a more powerful engine option has elevated the 6 from simply being a solid handler to a legitimate driver’s sedan, and the consummate quality of its interior appointments has blurred the line between the mainstream and premium mid-size segments. Whilst an all-wheel drive trim remains remains missing, this latest iteration of the Mazda6 finally feels to have delivered on the potential that those initial concepts promised years ago, and now represents an extremely compelling choice for the discerning mid-size buyer.
Amazing build quality
Great driving dynamics
Less interior room than the competition
No AWD options
Specs: Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Turbocharged I4 Drivetrain: FWD
Power: 227hp @ 5,000 rpm (250hp with Premium Fuel) Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,000rpm Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Comb.): 23/31/26 MPG (2.5T) Wheelbase: 111.4 in Curb Weight: 3,560 lbs (60% / 40%) (Signature Trim) Base Price: $23,000 Price as Tested: $36,435 (incl. dest.)