People with “active lifestyles”–the people every car maker builds car for, or at least so the public relations types tell us–are those who participate in mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing and snow boarding. Thrill sports. Activities requiring helmets. While we wouldn’t directly consider the Mazda Mazda6, even with the optional 272 horsepower V-6, a thrill sport, we will concede it has its thrilling moments and it’s more sporting than the average mid-size mid-price sedan.
The Mazda6 was all-new for ’09. It was larger than its preceding years’ Mazda6 and counter to the current trend for true global cars, the Mazda6 was a car specifically designed and built for America. It’s predecessor was too small, too European in scale for this side of the pond and languished as a result.
We like the new Mazda6 last year and were again taken by the 2010 Mazda we recently test drove. In this sampling, with a weeklong walkaround time we got to like the shapes of the front fenders and how they reflect the similar contours of the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Mazda RX-8 sports cars. The designers were able to create the illusion that the body tapers in as well as down in front, with the fenders tacked on as accessories that well enough could have been left off for an open wheel racer. And we liked that.
We also liked the 272 horsepower V-6 of our test 2010 Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring. With more time available and in more familiar environs, we appreciated the pull of the V-6 but just as much the sound of the engine. The word “tonality” comes to mind. The engine is smooth and doesn’t seem to mind revs at all.
The engine is, to find another word, “responsive.” Snap open the throttle and the Mazda leaps, more often than not squealing the tires. That’s not really a good thing for anyone over 18 or so, and we experience some torque steer as the front wheels argued over which as going to get more traction. Fortunately throttle take-up is progressive, allowing traction control start at the right foot and at least the illusion of maturity. At higher speeds, the 272 ponies took most of the worry out of merging from low speed entrance ramps.
Handling is generally typical of front drive cars. There’s only so much one can ask the front tires to do. The 2010 Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring isn’t as sharp as a Miata, for example, but the Mazda6 isn’t a sports car. But you knew that.
The ride of our test Mazda6 s Grand Touring was smooth, handling rough pavement well and mostly silently. Wind noise was absent and road noise minimal; conversation between front and rear seats was easy and we didn’t find ourselves turning down audio volume when we came to a stop, the sure sign of a noisy ride. The interior environs, however, met the price and were almost elegant, with distinctive contours and soft-touch surfaces in the most touched locations– door tops, door panels and passenger-side dashtop. Other surfaces have hard but not brittle hard surfaces.
The audio was easy to control, particularly the buttons and toggles on the steering column which also manipulated cruise control. Our test Mazda6 s Grand Touring was equipped with the Technology Package, which included a proximity key with pushbutton start. Mazda simply blanked off the steering column ignition key location and added the starter button on the centerstack, a more elegant solution than replacing the ignition key with a twist knob.
The Technology package also must be specified to get the multi-information display atop the dash for additional $1,900 above the premium model’s price. The package, however, also includes heated and auto-dimming outside mirrors, LED rear lights and Sirius satellite radio.
The $2,000 navigation system in the test 2010 Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring was easy to use, and easy to dim for nighttime use, though it dimmed only without an inverse light on dark scheme.
The base Mazdat6, the i Sport, has a base price of $19,320. Our 2010 Mazda Mazda6 s Grand Touring, however, had a base price of $28,390, and as tested, optioned up to $33,220.