2014 Mazda6 Road Trip Review By Larry Nutson
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2014 Mazda6 Road Trip Review By Larry Nutson

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2014 Mazda6

Bringing Brotherly Love to the Motor City

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

There is not much better a way to get to know a car than a long road trip. The all-new 2014 Mazda6 would be the “wheels” for our third road trip in as many months. From our home in Philadelphia we were off to the suburbs of Detroit for the long Thanksgiving weekend.

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Our road trip Mazda6 was the i Grand Touring model equipped with i-Eloop and with a base price of $29,695. Like all "6s" it's powered by a 184HP SkyActiv-G 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder that is mated to a 6-speed automatic. EPA test fuel economy ratings are 28 city mpg, 40 highway mpg for a combined test rating of 32 mpg, or 3.1 gallons per 100 miles. The EPA test ratings without i-Eloop are 26 city/38 highway/30 combined mpg with the automatic.

The Mazda6 is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models. Prices start at $20,990 for the Sport with manual transmission and run up to $29,695 for the Grand Touring with automatic. I drove the Mazda6 at its intro earlier this year. Here's the link to my write-up that provides more specifics and details on the background on this sporty mid-size sedan.

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Options on my test car included the GT Technology Package for $2080 featuring Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC), I-Eloop regenerative engine braking system, High-Beam Control, Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and active grille shutters. Other options such as clear film rear paint protection, cargo mat, door sill trim plates and the beautiful Soul Red paint brought the total to $33,145 including the $795 delivery fee.

For those who like three pedals when driving, a six-speed manual transmission is offered on the Sport and Touring models.

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Much to my surprise, and also delight, my Mazda6 media loan car was fitted with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires. This was especially appropriate since the national weather service was forecasting a nor’easter and the media was hyping this big threat to the heaviest travel day of the year. Most new cars come today with all-season tires. Well, if you live in a snowy, cold-climate area, those tires are actually three-season. When winter conditions are common for three or more months of the year, winter tires are a smart investment. Depending upon your driving habits, one set can see you through several winter seasons. Note: mount them on their own wheels; it’ll save you in both time and money in the long run.

The winter tire is designed to provide maximum performance in low…below 45ºF winter temperatures and on ice, snow and slush. This tire performs better due to its combination of more flexible sidewalls, specific winter tread patterns, deeper tread depth, and perhaps most importantly, a tread compound which remains soft in the lower winter temperatures. Under rainy and also under dry road conditions, stopping distances can be shorter with winter tires when the outside temps are under 45ºF. A negative is that winter tires are slightly, but not disturbingly, noisier.

Our road trip would cover 625 miles of interstate each way, and taking about 9 hours driving straight through. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is interesting to drive as it crosses Pennsylvania horse country, rolls through lots of farmland, and crosses the Appalachian Mountains in central Pennsylvania through four tunnels. Posted speed limit is 65mph and many folks like to exercise the 10-over rule-of-thumb. In addition to running radar speed enforcement, the PA State Police cruise at about 80mph and if they are not catching up to a car in front, that usually becomes their next customer. Although signs are posted for speed enforcement from the air, we didn’t see any. The western portion of the turnpike is fun to drive as it twists, winds, and climbs up and down through the Appalachians.

During the 1930s the Pennsylvania Turnpike was designed to improve automobile transportation across the mountains of Pennsylvania, using seven tunnels built in the 1880s for the then abandoned South Pennsylvania Railroad. The road opened on October 1, 1940 between Irwin and Carlisle as the first long-distance limited-access highway in the United States. Following World War II, the turnpike was extended east to Valley Forge in 1950 and west to the Ohio border in 1951. In 1954, the road was extended further east to the Delaware River.

As you enter Ohio the speed limit bumps up to 70mph, the terrain flattens near Akron and Cleveland making for less-interesting driving, but the straighter roadway makes for better sight lines while running at 10-over. At Toledo you hang a right and head north on I-75 into Michigan and the environs of the Motor City.

We like to get where we are going, and only make short stops for fuel, needed biological breaks, and perhaps a small bite to eat. I’m, by choice, the designated driver, although my wife did a stint across Ohio heading west since I needed a break. The heavy traffic volume on the day before Thanksgiving, cold temperatures ranging from 28º to 40ºF, my heavy foot, along with the uphill terrain did not make for achieving any amazingly low fuel consumption.

From Philadelphia at sea level it is basically uphill to Ohio. In western Pennsylvania some of the elevations reach 2500 to 3000ft as you drive into the Appalachians. The cold ambient air with its increased density increases drag and therefore fuel consumption is increased in the range of 5% to 10%. I was happy to have the Blizzaks as we hit some snow passing through western Pennsylvania and as it turned out on Thanksgiving morning in Michigan.

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The Mazda6’s EPA test highway rating of 40 mpg equates to 2.5 gallons per 100 miles. We got about 3.1 gallons per 100 miles. Or, we used 0.6 gallons more per 100 miles. Thus, at $3.25 a gallon it cost us $1.95 more for each 100 miles. But…we got to our destination quicker and safer and with the confidence that if we had hit heavy snow we could get through it.

In our around town city driving in Michigan we got 28 mpg, exactly matching the EPA test rating. Skyactiv technology and i-Eloop helped. With its name derived from "Intelligent Energy Loop," i-ELOOP is a capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system that converts a vehicle's kinetic energy into electricity as the car decelerates. The electricity captured is then stored for later use to power all the vehicle's electrical components, such as headlights, climate control and audio systems. This reduces the need for the engine to burn extra fuel in order to generate electricity and, therefore, improves fuel economy without sacrificing driving performance. Conventional alternators are constantly charging the battery in an effort to keep up with a vehicle's electrical loads, which means using engine power to operate the alternator, which, in turn, consumes fuel.

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All in all we enjoyed the Mazda6 and found it to be a very roomy and capable road trip car. It’s also comfortable and easy to drive in the urban city of Philadelphia and the suburbs of Detroit. My wife is the first critic of car seats and she was very complimentary of the Mazda6. I too felt comfortable. I used the Mazda Radar Cruise Control which, basically, slows the car by lifting the throttle and if needed applying the brakes when you get too close to a vehicle in front and then reaccelerates to the set speed when space opens up.

I prefer sporty handling cars, so the Mazda6 fits my bill. The SkyActiv engine is responsive and quiet. There is not much road noise making for easy conversation and enjoying the audio. My wish list of nice-to-haves for the Mazda6 includes an optional heated steering wheel, and a power-fold feature for the outside mirrors. My wife thought early morning interior cabin warm-up took a little long, but that didn’t bother me.

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If you are interested to compare the 2014 Mazda6 to other midsize cars you can do that right here on TheAutoChannel.com. For more information and detailed specifications on the 2014 Mazda6 go to www.mazdausa.com. Details on winter tires can be found at www.bridgestonetire.com.

Also, download the free TheAutoChannel smartphone app. The “My Test Drives” app for both the iPad and iPhone is available for free on The Auto Channel app found in the Apple App Store. The Auto Channel's free "My Test Drives" app gives serious car shoppers the help they need to make test drive evaluations accurate, effective and meaningful.

The Mazda6 has garnered a number of accolades including an IIHS Top Safety Pick, named to Car and Driver’s 10 Best Cars List, and named a finalist in the World Car Design of the Year and also for the AutoGuide Car of the Year.

Check back with us in late Spring 2014 for the introduction of the SkyActiv –D Diesel engine Mazda6 that has garnered a long list of race wins this past season.

© Larry Nutson