Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted October 30, 2009 00:00
For the love of driving
Could it be it's style? Well, the Six is just visually exciting, featuring a sharp design at first glance, complete with a wide, low stance and sleek silhouette. Not many cars in the market, short of full on sports cars, can elicit such excitement from a parking slot or look so fast while just standing still.
Is it the level of comfort and design of the cabin? With plush leather seats and rear legroom befitting an executive car, the Mazda6 has a great cabin. The suspension, too, is set to strike a balance between high speed stability, handling and ride comfort, and has an a touch of Lexus about the silence and refinement. The cabin has a straightforward, easy to understand design and layout that hopping from any car to the Six is easy.
Perhaps it's the amount of features you get for the money? Again, there's a lot to go around, thanks to a complete array of power amenities, powered front seats, sunroof, cruise control, a powerful audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 compatibility and an auxiliary jack for your iPod. Climate is automatically controlled, and so are the headlamps and windshield wipers. There's also a lot of safety kit as standard with anti lock brakes, a full spectrum of airbags and traction control.
As excellent as the style, comfort, design and features may be, it's all just icing on the cake. What's truly great about the Mazda6 is that it's a real driver's car.
Everything about it is geared for the drive. Sitting in the pilot's seat, the bolsters hold the body firmly in place while the steering wheel can be adjusted in both tilt and rake, the rim of which feels so natural to the hands. The gauges are great on the eyes, while the shift knob for the 5 speed automatic transmission is perfectly placed and intuitive to use, especially since its pull to shift up, push to shift down... just like a Playstation. Same goes for the CF-Net human-machine interface system on the left spoke of the steering wheel, allowing full control of all primary functions like the multi-info display, audio system and even the automatic climate control using an array designed to mimic a four-way hat switch... again, just like a Playstation.
The 2.3 liter engine of the 1st generation model has been swapped for one that displaces 2.5 liters, with a slight edge in power and torque at 170 PS and 226 Nm, respectively. On full acceleration, the Six sprints to 100 km/h under 9 seconds (as per factory figures), and stretches on to a top speed of over 200 km/h. There's an Activematic transmission channeling the power to the front wheels, and with 5 gears to choose from, highway overtaking latency is quite good.
The 1st generation Mazda6 was such an involved driving experience amidst the challenging turns of a touge (mountain pass), and I'm glad this 2nd generation has maintained the drive. Turn in and the 2nd gen model feels every bit as precise and predictable. The brakes, too, dig into the tarmac very well, easily handling the heftier body.
The engine/body/suspension do complement each other very well, albeit the Six feels that it can use a bit more power... just add one turbo. There's also the sound of the engine, or the lack of it. Where the original MZR 2.3L motor produced a glorious wail at mid to high revs, this new 2.5L motor seems a tad too quiet, the insulation being all too eager to suppress music that only a finely tuned engine can produce. There's a wee bit more body roll than I remember, but thats the extra weight (the car's, not mine) talking.
So, why do we love the Six? It's simple really: we love cars that love to be driven as much as we love driving them. What's great about a Mazda -any Mazda- is that it will never forget that it's supposed to be a great driving machine from a brand of great driving machines.
With the Mazda6, it's hard to imagine sitting in the back instead of behind the wheel, sleeves rolled up, driving to find the most exciting way home. Now that's my kind of car.