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2009 Mazda6 Grand Touring Review

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2009 Mazda6 Grand Touring

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Mazda has had its ups and downs in the mid size sedan market. They began hot with the first 626 in the 1980s. The upstart brand had a certain European ambiance in both styling and performance that outpaced both the American and Japanese competitors – though sales did not entirely reflect that charm. The coupe was especially stylish. The early Mazda was updated at least twice, each time becoming a bit more white-bread, tawdry and tepid. Finally, the 626 went away without being immediately replaced.

Then, in 2003, the first generation of this Mazda6 came to the market with vastly improved styling, much improved performance and sporting an unmistakable move up-market. Now, here we are with generation-two of this 5-passenger mid-size sedan, introduced in ’08, continuing that up-market philosophy. A tad bigger in nearly all dimensions this 2009 Mazda6 S Grand Touring is a knockout, I think – one of the best looking and sensible of the genre.

The styling really jumps out at me. We see styling queues from the sexy RX8 with exaggerated wheel bulges and a swoopy, pointy, racy, horizontal theme, influenced by Franz Van Holtzhousen (Mazda’s award-winning young designer) who has now moved on to other pursuits – a great loss to Mazda. The sporty, narrow nose with a hint of a wry smile flows swiftly into the rearward lines culminating in a perky tail like the RX8. Dual exhaust outlets on the 6-cylinder models, with trapezoidal, chrome-trimmed outlets extrude from the low rear fascia. Standard (at least on the GT) 18-inch alloy wheels fill the wells nicely.

Inside, the styling is a tad more conventional but still dressy and attractive. The large round analog gauges are electroluminescent with red, blue and white light. A soft glow follows the tip of the gauge needles. Most controls are easy to figure out and operate, though the tiny radio knobs are unmanageable with bulky gloves. (It is still winter here, by the way.) Our perforated, gray, firm leather seats have plenty of lateral support and lots of adjustment range. Our rear seat passengers this week were impressed with the roominess back there, including lots of head room. I had seen a report on the car that dissed the rear head room. Perhaps my passengers were not as tall.

The Mazda6 comes in 7 separate iterations, beginning at about 18-grand. Variations include: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models with either 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder power, plus a base SU model with the 4-banger. Our tester is the Grand Touring version with the V6 engine and it shows a base price of $28,260. Our GT comes with 6-speed automatic with manual mode, 18-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, leather, dual climate control, Sirius Satellite Radio, those cool, colored gauges, trip computer, a good array of chassis dynamics, dual exhaust, keyless entry with push-button start, blind spot monitoring and all the expected stuff. Our sticker shows two options only: a Navigation System and Moonroof/Bose Package. Total MSRP is $32,790. At first glance I thought that sounded a bit steep for a Mazda sedan but, after spending a week with it and doing the research, that sounds pretty reasonable.

I found the 3.7-liter, DOHC V6 to have plenty of power and sophistication. It doesn’t sound or feel as good at red line as the German competitors, but it costs considerably less and is nearly as smooth. It makes a good 272 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. The new six-speed automatic shifts quickly and responsively in the manual mode and so smoothly in automatic mode that we can barely perceive the gear changes. We have no complaints with any of the powertrain. Sixty months and 60,000 miles are covered by the powertrain warranty but the rest of the car is only covered for 36 months and 36,000 miles.

Nearly all measures are up from the last generation of the Mazda6 – size, weight, power, features and, amazingly, even fuel mileage. This one is rated at 17-mpg city and 25-mpg on the highway.

Both the engine and transmission come from Japan but the car is assembled at the Mazda/Ford factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, just down river from Detroit. US and Canadian parts content is about 45%.

Trunk space is about 10% larger than the last generation but the opening is smaller, so it might be a struggle getting large cargo stowed.

I like the Mazda6 a lot – because of appearance, performance and practicality. We’ll soon be seeing updated versions – ‘refreshed’ they call it – of the other Mazda products, including the venerable, 20-year-old MX5 Miata. Since they don’t try to compete in all segments of the market Mazda has kept focus on their strengths.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved