2011 Mazda6: Sporty Family Sedan is too much fun
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Mazda6, known in Japan as the Mazda Atenza, has been a rapidly selling midsize since it came onto the automotive scene in 2002 as a replacement for the Mazda 626. With more than one million units sold worldwide since its launch, the Mazda 6 has captured the attention of drivers, carbuyers, onlookers and the racing world – a first-place finish in the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge (GTS manufacturer’s class).
From the beginning, the Mazda6 has capitalized on the notion that it is a sporty, fun-to-drive, edgy mid-size family car that is versatile enough to appeal to trendy singles as well as drivers with families who just want more enjoyment out of their daily ride.
The 2011 Mazda6 pays off on its “Zoom-Zoom” marketing program by gaining in design cues and fuel efficiency while maintaining its active driving dynamics, quick acceleration and track-like handling. This year’s version gets a refreshening with a new headlight and fog light design, as well as a changed 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheel design. Inside, a novel steering wheel design, upgraded cloth seats, premium trim accents on the center instrument panel and innovative door armrests raise cabin standards to a new level.
Its bold exterior design is sculpted from the front fascia through the headlamp, over the top of the front-wheel opening and into the side surface ahead of the front door to establish a vibrant character while visually trimming the length of the front overhang. Powerful wheel arches, attached like wings to an airplane’s fuselage, create an athletic stance and large areas of both doors are smooth and taut to exhibit blank-space artistry, offset by jewel-like LED taillights.
My four-door test Mazda6 was bathed in sensuous Ebony Black exterior paint complemented by a Black leather interior. It hit the scales with a curb weight of 3574 pounds and measured out at an energetic and aerodynamic 193.7 inches in overall length, 72.4 in inches in width and 57.9 inches in height on a 109.8-inch wheelbase, providing a minimum ground clearance of 5.1 inches.
The outside was enhanced by premium trim, body-color front and rear bumpers, power driver and passenger body-color door mirrors, front fog lights, halogen headlights with projector beam lenses, rear window defroster, remote glass sunroof and intermittent windshield wipers.
My test ride was the Grand Touring trim version of the Mazda6. The front-wheel drive mid-size achieves its “Zoom-Zoom” demeanor with a 272-hp 3.7-liter V-6 engine mated to a 6-speed Sport automatic transmission with manual-shift mode. The combination delivers 269 lbs-ft of torque and is EPA rated at 18mpg in city driving and 27mpg on the highway. A week of testing showed an average of 21.7mpg.
In track tests, my Mazda 6 Grand Touring jumped out to a 6.4 second zero-to-60mph run and held on for a 14.9-second quarter-mile. That speed translated well on the highway with superb passing abilities. Handling was auto-cross worthy, with responsive steering, S-curve stability and road-smoothing suspension. The ride experience was quiet, confident and too much fun for a family sedan.
The interior was spacious and intuitive and included some top tech items, leather chic and some plastic that seemed out of place. Interior dimensions are 38.1 inches of front headroom, 37.3 inches of rear headroom, 42.5 inches of leg room for the front seats, 38.0 inches of back-row leg room, 57.3 inches row-one shoulder room, 56.5 inches of second-seat shoulder room and 101.9 cubic feet of interior volume.
Cabin items included dual-zone fully-automatic climate control, 8-way power heated bucket driver seat, audio system with AM/FM radio and six CDs (reads MP3 format), trip computer, cruise control, front cup holders, outside air temperature indicator, front 12V power outlets, element antenna, anti-theft protection, floor mats and overhead consoles.
From a safety perspective, Mazda 6 scores well and received a 5-star crash rating.
Safety strategy includes triple H body construction, energy-absorbing and intrusion-resistant zones in its body structure, blind spot monitoring, intelligent driver front airbag, intelligent passenger front airbag with occupant sensors, side curtain airbags, height adjustable front seat belts with pre-tensioners for driver, two active height-adjustable front head restraints, two height-adjustable rear seats head restraints and headlight control.
The 2011 Mazda 6 offers six trims, from the Sport model (170hp/167 lbs-ft of torque 2-5-liter 4-cylinder engine) base priced at $19,990 to the s Grand Touring version (272hp/269 lbs-ft of torque, 3.7-liter V-6 engine) priced at $29,320. I had the powerful, upscale Grand Touring trim with 6-speed automatic transmission.
My ride was all decked out with cool extras. The Navigation System for $2000 and the Technology Package for $1785 added a DVD-based navi system, 7-inch color touch screen, back up camera and real-time traffic as well as keyless entry, power mirrors, Sirius Satellite radio, auto-dimming mirror with HomeLink, remote engine start and xenon headlights. Other sporty add-ons included rear spoiler ($435), rear bumper guard ($90), all-weather doormats $80), moonroof wind deflector ($70) and cargo net ($40). Destination charges were $795 for a final sticker as tested of $32,615.
Considered a family sedan, Mazda6 is too much fun for its class.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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