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2015 Mazda6 Grand Touring Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2015 Mazda6

The Mazda6 is a fine alternative to a high-budget luxury sports sedan

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

      • SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyers Guide


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2015 Mazda6

Are you looking for an affordable midsize sedan that offers a more interesting and involving driving experience than the usual suspects in that class? Consider the Mazda6.

Mazda's flagship sedan embodies the Japanese manufacturer's passion for the automobile in a class filled with notably non-passionate machinery. Mazda is, at heart, an engineering company. It didn't invent the Wankel rotary-piston engine -- but in the RX- series of sports cars it came as close as was possible to perfecting it when other manufacturers gave up. Mazda didn't invent the affordable two-seat sports roadster -- but it brought it back from the dead with the introduction of the MX-5 Miata a quarter of a century ago and has since sold more than anyone else, ever. That same spirit is found in every Mazda.

The Mazda6 has gotten awards from enthusiast publications, accolades missing from the resumés of its more popular rivals -- yet it is not just a car for the automotive enthusiast. With its fine combination of style, space, driving dynamics, and fuel efficiency, the Mazda 6 can work for anyone in need of a midsize sedan. Case in point: the 2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring sedan that has been my test car for the past week. It's the premium offering in the lineup, with leather-appointed luxury and all of the current electronic communications, infotainment, and safety technology, a lovely combination of compliant comfort and sporty handling… and a 32-mpg average for the week.

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2015 Mazda6

Other trim levels are Sport and Touring. The Sport is as well-equipped as the mid-level offerings of some competitors -- and has a six-speed manual transmission. The optional six-speed automatic is packaged with audio and connectivity upgrades. Which are standard in the Touring with the stick, plus further interior and electronic upgrades. The automatic is available in the Touring and is the only choice in the Grand Touring, which also includes all of the options for the Touring plus lighting upgrades, leather seating, and more. The optional Technology Package has safety electronics including radar cruise control, forward obstruction warning, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam control, active grille shutters to improve efficiency, and the i-ELOOP energy-recovery system. New as an early-release 2014 model in early 2013, the Mazda6 gets one-touch up and down operation for its power windows and option package content changes for 2015.




Power for all is from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Direct fuel injection allows for high compression, which means maximum efficiency -- 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque on unleaded regular, with EPA estimates of 25 mpg city, 37 highway with the stick, 26/38 with the automatic, and 28/40 with the automatic and i-ELOOP.

No V6, and I never missed it during my week with the Grand Touring. Nor did I miss it during a few laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS) during a recent press event in a different example. The Mazda 6 is quiet and comfortable around town or on the open road, yet capable and enjoyable when the road gets interesting. With a base MSRP of $30,195, the premium Grand Touring is positioned at the high end of the middle-class midsize sedan niche. The Sport, starting at $21,495, and Touring, at $23,945 are noticeably less. They may not have all of the luxury amenities of the Grand Touring, but they do have all of its excellent chassis and engine goodness, and at least as much in the way of comfort and convenience features as any competitor.

APPEARANCE: This is a distinctive car that looks like it's going fast even when parked. Long, sleek, and fluidly flowing, it's discernibly a Mazda, with its rounded five-point grille emphasized by a chrome strip underneath and prominent fenders and a long, purposefully-sculpted hood. "Cab-forward" not spoken here, even though the Mazda 6 has a front-engine, front-wheel drive drivetrain. The near-fastback passenger cabin is long and graceful, and the arched rear edge of the trunk is a long-time Mazda styling cue. It's elegant and cohesive, and well above class standards.

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2015 Mazda6

COMFORT: At premium Grand Touring level, the Mazda6 interior is close to entry-luxury in design and content. Styling is as cohesively flowing inside as out, and materials are first-class. Textured soft-touch synthetics are used for the upper surfaces of the doors and instrument panel, where they eliminate glare. Matte-silver trim is used around the vents, instruments, and shifter, and on the IP and doors. Leather covers the seating surfaces, and here both front seats are power-adjustable and heatable. They are among the best in class for comfort and support. The leather-rimmed steering wheel adjusts manually for tilt and reach and has controls for audio, information, cruise, and Bluetooth phone systems. Audio and navigation systems are controlled by a knob on the console which is surrounded by hard buttons for system choice. Use is reasonably intuitive. A tilt-and-slide moonroof lets light in when desired. There is a 12VDC power point and open space at the front of the console, bottle holders in all doors and some storage in the fronts, a moderately large glove box, and a deep console box with audio attachment and power. Rear passengers get a contoured bench, but its width and the low central tunnel make the center position more useful than in some other cars. The seatback folds 60/40. The trunk is usefully large and there is a space-saver spare tire under the load floor.

SAFETY: The Mazda6 was designed and built with safety in mind, and has received a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS and a 5-Star rating from the NHTSA. Standard safety equipment includes a full complement of airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, dynamic stability control, and traction control. At Touring and above, the Blind-Spot Monitoring System with cross-traffic alert is standard. The Smart City Brake Support System is an option in the Touring and standard in the Grand Touring. Optional there are radar cruise control, forward obstruction warning, and lane-departure warning, all part of the GT Technology Package.

RIDE AND HANDLING: A strong and rigid unibody structure ensures excellent suspension response, and allows enough well-damped suppleness for comfort and fine manners in the corners -- even pushed harder than would be legal or sane on the road. With its well-tuned MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension, the Mazda 6 feels more like a $40,000+ German sports-luxury sedan than a $20-$34,000 Japanese family car. The steering is electrically-assisted, and while a bit numb at low speeds (more assist for easier low-speed maneuverability, not necessarily bad), it's well-weighted once underway. Brakes are excellent. It's comfortable around town and on the highway and very capable around MRLS, a venue noted and loved for its challenging corners and lack of straight, level ground.

PERFORMANCE: If the Mazda6's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine sounds at first like a generic modern powerplant -- a dual overhead cam, 16-valve unit with block and head of aluminum alloy, careful design and attention to detail, and use of direct fuel injection, which allows a high 13:1 compression ratio on unleaded regular, make it stand out. It makes 184 horsepower (at 5700 rpm) and 185 lb-ft of torque at a low 3250 rpm. Low-end torque is more than adequate, and there is a strong high-end punch when needed. But the engine is wonderfully flexible and doesn't have to be redlined for a quick trip down the road. Which means that performance is not degraded by the automatic, and fuel economy is actually slightly improved. I got 29 mpg in a manual 2014 Touring, and beat that with 32 in this Grand Touring. Granted, that's not a direct comparison in the same conditions on the same roads, but similar enough. Some credit goes to the i-ELOOP ("intelligent Energy Loop")system, which generates electricity under deceleration, whether the brakes are applied or not, stores it in a capacitor, and feeds that power back into the electrical system, decreasing use of the alternator and hence a bit of power-sapping drag on the engine.

CONCLUSIONS: In Grand Touring trim, the Mazda6 is a fine alternative to a high-budget luxury sports sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Base Price $ 30,195

Price As Tested $ 33,395

Engine Type DOHC aluminum alloy 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.

Horsepower 184 @ 5700 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 185 @ 3250 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 111.4 in. / 191.5 in.

Curb Weight 3232 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 17.6

Fuel Capacity 16.4 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline

Tires P225/45R19 92W Dunlop SP Sport

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock, EBD, BA, DSC, TCS standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 28 / 40 / 32

0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Cargo Mat $ 75

Door Sill Trim Plates $ 125

GT Technology Package -- includes: Mazda radar cruise control, I-Eloop regenerative engine braking system, smart brake support, high beam control, lane-departure warning system, active grille shutters $ 2,180

Delivery Fee $ 820