Mazda’s midsize sedan, the Mazda6 was redrawn in 2016 and, in effect, managed to eclipse every competitor on the market with its svelte body lines, enticing interiors and the fact that, above all else this front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan is a driver’s car.
Dressed in Mazda’s signature Soul Red metallic paint with parchment (near-white) Nappa leather inside, the 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring sedan has sufficient handsomeness to turn a head, especially in this color combination. It’s that rich. With the Mazda6’s muscular shoulders and sleek fore-to-aft body lines, this sedan exudes glamour, sportiness and adult cachet.
It fulfills those objectives quite nicely, particularly with its running gear, which begins under the hood with Mazda’s proprietary Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter directly-injected four-cylinder engine with G-Vectoring control; this system controls power delivery and shifting weight, particularly when turning corners. While it makes a paltry 184 horsepower at 5700 rpm, torque is a complementary 185 lb-ft at a usable 3250 for the 3305-pound sedan. Redline is 6500.
Mazda uses a shiftable six-speed automatic transmission in its Grand Touring model; a six-speed manual is also available, but not at this trim level. The tranny, with its i-ELOOP technology ekes better mileage than the standard unit, producing 27/35/30 mpg from its 16.4-gallon fuel tank. I got above that mileage and used regular fuel. The i-ELOOP is a regenerative engine braking system, similar to a KERS unit that has been used in racing for the past decade.
Mazda’s calling card for all of its vehicles is handling, and the 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring certainly handles well, using MacPherson struts and multilink front-and-rear suspensions with stabilizer bars. The chassis is helped through quick, precise rack-and-pinion steering with electronic power assist that has 2.81 turns lock-to-lock and a 36.7-foot turning circle. Vented front and solid rear disc brakes are excellent in mild and hot stops, never suffering fade. P225/45R tires mounted on matte gray twinned five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels keep mass firmly planted to the road.
Inside the cabin, driver and passenger are met with a black-and-white theme, as the parchment seats are capped in black trim and white accents adorn the dash. A seven-inch color display faces occupants, serving as an info center, audio controller and navigation system, the latter a standard item on the 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring model. It’s all business for the driver, as the triple gauge cluster houses the tachometer, speedometer and, in the third pod a mileage gauge, fuel gauge and trip information. There is no temp gauge.
The dual memory driver’s seat is exceptionally comfortable, which was appreciated for the six-plus-hour drive to Phoenix for the second NHRA race of the season. With full power for the driver, all but lumbar support for the front passenger, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, early morning drives to the racetrack were definitely nicer on a cold February morning than without. There are also heated outboard seats in the rear of this sedan.
Rear Mazda6 passengers have air outlets to keep them comfortable and plenty of space for three. The rear pulldown armrest has dual cupholders – there’s cup/bottle access in all four doors – and controls for the heated rear seats. The multitude of soft touches about this cabin includes a soft, black headliner, in addition to relatively soft dashboard areas. A small tilt/slide sunroof is standard for the car.
The 16.4-cubic-foot trunk feels larger than it is and extends far into the cabin, accented by a 60/40 fold to accept larger objects. There is a spare tire under the nicely carpeted floor and there are depressions on either side of the trunk to capture small items and allow them to stay in place during spirited driving.
Mazda’s steering wheel operates audio, trip/car info and phone access on the left, while the radar cruise control is on the right. Cruise settings for following/closing speeds are in the information center, which can be changed from screen to screen using the steering wheel controls.
For the 2017 sales year, the mid-size Mazda6 sedan, in Grand Touring trim, sports a starting price of $31,570 including freight. To arrive at the final cost of $34,695, Mazda charges for cargo mats, the Soul Red paint, a rear bumper guard, door sill trim plates and a GT premium package. The latter includes the i-ELOOP system, active grille shutters (to help mileage), shifter LED accent lighting, bright finish interior trim, Nappa leather upholstery, the heated rear seats and steering wheel, unique stitching for the steering wheel and that luscious, soft black headliner.
Mazda’s current tagline is “Driving Matters” and, for that reason more than any other, the Mazda6 needs to be considered for its abilities as a sports sedan. Other manufacturers talk about their capabilities in the sports sedan segment; Mazda walks the walk. All of its “helpers”, like lane departure, front and rear collision and the like, are coordinated to make the driver better. That includes the warning signals, which aren’t nearly as big-brotherly as some. LED lights throughout are excellent and Mazda uses pushbutton entry, exit and start/stop features.
Mazda includes paddle shifting for the Mazda6 Grand Touring and there are drive modes available. I kept the car in Sport in city driving but not over the road as I wanted to keep the mileage higher. Power is definitely better in sport mode. Mileage over the 950-plus miles driven was an average of 33.5-mpg. This driver tends to operate the Mazda6 according to its tenet: driving matters.
Although the touchscreen at dash central only works in that manner when the car is stopped, the display has a tunnel control that’s similar to those in far more expensive vehicles. Mazda fits a 12-volt, USB port, auxiliary jack in the center tunnel storage, easily paired bluetooth – but doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
In this 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring, the XM radio doesn’t have every station activated, which meant I couldn’t listen to some of my faves, but I made do. The navigation system’s card had been fiddled with and I wasn’t able to activate until returning from my trip so wasn’t able to make full use of the system. Once I did, I found it works well, giving exits for major roadways and good in-city information. Response times to activate infotainment were far better using the home button on the central tunnel than the touchscreen. There’s also a heads-up display that gives speed limits, current speed and cruise control speed.
I enjoyed my week with the Mazda6 and consider it a worthy competitor to others in its class, like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata. It’s definitely upmarket from Nissan’s Altima sedan. Although it had a few technological glitches during our time together, I can overlook those and know that Mazda will take care of any issues easily and with consummate care.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit