SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide
Sports coupes have seemingly fallen from popularity in recent years. Perhaps it's merely a matter of fashion, with upscale sport-utilities taking their place. Maybe sports coupes are seen by some as impractical relics of the conspicuous-consumption days of the 1980s. That is not necessarily true. There is at least one sports coupe that combines style, pleasure, performance, and practicality in a way unmatched by any other type of car. That is the Mazda MX-6.
The Mazda MX-6 is a refined, civilized grand touring coupe with unique, graceful aerodynamic styling, a near-luxury level of comfort, and plenty of useable performance, especially in the V6-powered LS model. It has plenty of space inside for two people and luggage, or four people for shorter distances. It proves that a sports coupe need not be impractical.
Two models of the front-wheel-drive MX-6 are offered for 1997. The basic MX-6 is powered by a 2-liter, 114-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. The LS has a 164-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6. The base model has most of the popular comfort and convenience items, and excellent fuel economy. The LS adds even more features and plenty of power to make it an alternative to some far more expensive sports coupes. All MX-6 models sold in this country are built at Auto Alliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan, a joint venture between Mazda and Ford.
A week with a new MX-6 LS was a week of practical pleasure. The car was great fun to drive, and could hold friends, family, and cargo in comfort. Even though the styling is a few years old, it still turns heads.
APPEARANCE: Style is important in the sports coupe genre, and the Mazda MX-6 will not disappoint anyone. It looks sleek and aerodynamic, and it is. Its body is a gently-rounded combination of wedge and teardrop shapes. The front of the car is dominated by graceful, feline headlights over the body-colored front bumper. A purposeful air intake below the bumper line has integrated fog lights. The short, sloping hood blends into the teardrop-shaped passenger cabin. The sculpted body sides and gently- flared fenders add interest to the car. A long rear overhang helps aerodynamic efficiency and trunk space. The tail of the car is truncated and has large, oval taillights. The MX-6 LS has 5-spoke alloy wheels and a small spoiler atop the trunk lid.
COMFORT: The 1997 Mazda MX-6 is equipped with nearly all of the modern comfort and convenience features. Even the base model has power windows, mirrors, and door locks as well as a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, cruise control, and a good AM/FM/cassette stereo system. The LS adds air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a power sunroof, antitheft system, upgraded stereo system, and carpeted floor mats. The interior is designed around the driver. Instrumentation and controls are complete yet simple and legible. The high-bolstered front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. The driver's is electrically adjustable, and the front passenger seat automatically moves forward for easier rear passenger access. The rear seat is reasonable for small people and short distances, and folds down with a 60/40/split for extra cargo capacity. The trunk has a relatively high liftover, but the latch is out of the way and trunk space rivals that of many small sedans. A leather upholstery package is offered for the committed luxury customer.
SAFETY: The 1997 Mazda MX-6 LS has dual air bags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are available, and side-impact protection has been upgraded.
ROADABILITY: The MX-6 LS balances roadholding ability and ride comfort very well. It is a joy to drive on a twisting mountain road, and a great highway cruiser as well. The fully-independent strut-type suspension is compliant and handles bumps and potholes well. The ride is firm, but not pure-sports firm, and quite comfortable on the highway or around town. When driven hard, the MX-6 feels neutral and responsive. It is quiet, with little mechanical or wind noise, only the music of the engine. The LS has four-wheel disc brakes.
PERFORMANCE: The aluminum alloy V6 under the hood of the MX-6 LS displaces only 2.5 liters but feels larger. It is a dual overhead cam, 24- valve design that makes 164 horsepower. It is smooth and flexible, with good midrange torque. My test car had the standard 5-speed manual transmission, which is a perfect match for the engine. It was a joy to shift, but, because of the engine's flexibility, shifting was not necessary too often. The optional 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission should work well with this engine, although it would somewhat change the sporting nature of the car.
CONCLUSIONS: Why should a sports coupe sacrifice comfort and practicality? The Mazda MX-6 LS offers a combination of style, performance, comfort, and practicality that makes it a wonderful all- around car.
SPECIFICATIONS 1997 Mazda MX-6 Sports Coupe Base Price $ 25,000 Price As Tested $ 25,500 Engine Type V6, dual overhead cams per bank, 24 valves Engine Size 2.5 liters, 152 cu. in. Horsepower 164 @ 5600 Torque (lb-ft) 160 @ 4800 Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 102.8 in. / 181.5 in. Curb Weight 2800 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17 Fuel Capacity 15.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded premium Tires P205/55VR15 Bridgestone Potenza RE92 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear independent struts with coil springs & stabilizer bar / independent struts with coil springs & stabilizer bar Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21/26/23 0 to 60 mph 8.2 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.31