No matter how much GM, Ford and FCA try to kill the mid-size, front-wheel-drive sedan, there are auto makers that understand the need for this type of vehicle and produce cars that people want to buy. A prime example is Mazda’s Mazda6, which was redrawn for the 2018 model year with exterior and interior upgrades that make it a fabulous car to drive.
A recent trip to Phoenix for the second race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season offered the opportunity to enjoy the newest, 2018 Mazda6 Signature, top of the model line. From its sexy shape, reminiscent of Mazda’s Vision coupe concept from several years ago, all deliberately smooth and flowing, from its large grille and chrome accents to the tiny lip of a rear spoiler and two large protruding exhaust pipes at the rear, this Mazda looks ready to tear up the road.
Once known as the “zoom-zoom” company, Mazda cars and CUV/SUVs are made for people that like to drive. Their vehicles, from the MX-5 Miata to the CX-9 SUV appeal to the enthusiast for sublime driving capabilities, useful technology and luscious interior appointments. This Mazda6 front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan ekes elegance from stem to stern and is modernized tremendously compared to its predecessor.
Power for the 2018 Mazda6 is a 2.5-liter, directly injected inline turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower at 5,000 rpm when using premium fuel and 227 horsepower at the same rpm on regular gasoline. Maximum torque is a healthy 310 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm and redline is 6,300 rpm. Mazda’s SkyActiv suite of mechanical and chassis-derived components allow this machine to be powerful and achieve good economic results over the road.
Mated to a six-speed shiftable transmission with both paddle shifters and floor-shift capability, the Mazda6 boasts both normal and sport modes for optimal touring. When other manufacturers offer more gears, Mazda has managed, again with its SkyActiv suite, to attain excellent usable power and economy with six forward gears. Unfortunately, with this model and engine, a third pedal is not available.
Suspension is through MacPherson struts and multilinks, beautifully controlled by excellent damping and a rebound spring. It’s definitely a satisfying driving experience with minimal body roll. And it’s still a wonderfully comfortable ride. Even the electric power steering (EPAS) feels tight and controlled on-center, with only 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, and brakes are right here, right now. Falken 225/45R tires are mated to 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels. The 2018 Mazda6 Signature is such a tidy machine that it doesn’t feel like it weighs 3,560 pounds. Chassis refinement will do that.
Inside this Machine Gray metallic sedan is parchment Nappa sport leather throughout the cabin, with soft touch black dash and chrome accents. The look is elegant, the power front seats are supremely comfortable for long hauls and have heating and cooling features; the driver’s seat has two memories.
The driver’s office has full gauges including temperature, something not offered on all Mazda vehicles. The speedometer stands front-and-center, with critical travel information like average and instant mpg, outside temp, range and odometer surrounding it. The luscious leather-wrapped heated steering wheel offers audio, phone and info on the left and cruise control, with car distance adjustments to the right.
Uncovered storage at the base of the center stack on this Mazda6 has a grippy floor, perfect for the phone, while a small covered storage/armrest with a pair of 12 volt plugs, 2 USB, an SD enclosure for navigation and a single auxiliary plug. Rear passengers do get air flow, heated seats and a 60/40 split allows more than the excellent 14.7-cubic-foot cargo hold of the trunk. There’s two USB plugs in the rear pull-down that also offers added cup holders.
Mazda truly updated its infotainment offerings on this car, starting with the stand-up navigation screen at dash central and the heads-up display that gives important info, speed, lane departure, following distance and posted limit. The latter has an orange surround when over the limit. Navigation is excellent, adjusting directions after a side trip and remembering the last location. Mazda’s Bluetooth system is easy to sync and the SiriuxXM Bose audio system with 11 speakers is well-suited to the cabin. There aren’t too many “nannies” and those are not intrusive at all. Mazda, indeed makes a driver’s car.
Drivers can readily achieve 23/31/26 mpg using regular fuel in the 16.4-gallon tank, making a long trip to Phoenix far less expensive than expected. And the driving experience is what you’d expect with a Mazda: for anyone that gets pleasure from driving, the $36,140 asking price (paint color is the sole option on this Mazda6 Signature) is worth the entry fee. Compared to others that are in its “class,” the 2018 Mazda6 Signature is a real driver’s car. It’s fun, its refined and an elegant package all around. I’d have one in a heartbeat.
By Anne Proffit