2016 MAZDA6 Touring Roadtrip Review By Steve Purdy
2016 MAZDA6 TOURING
Review and Road Trip to DC
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
It is not just coincidental that my pretty wife and I made a week-long
trip to Alexandria, VA (essentially Washington DC) nearly six years ago in
a Mazda6. (See that road trip story HEREAnd now we are
headed to DC again in a new 2016 Mazda6, this time with our regular
traveling companions Rick and Kim. The commonality is our Mazda PR team
came through with a car at the last minute for both trips. Rick, by the
way, is a history buff and we’ll explore some of Washington’s
highlights as well as do another road trip story on this good-looking car.
The Mazda6 is a front-wheel drive, mid-size, main-stream,
5-passenger sedan competing in one of the most crowded segments of the auto
industry – think Malibu, Fusion, Camry, Accord, Sonata and many more.
Just to keep up in this super-competitive group a car must be constantly
adding content, enhancing efficiency and holding prices nearly steady not
to mention keeping up with design and styling trends. So, let’s see
how this one stacks up.
Our test car is a “Touring” model (middle of three trim
levels) in Soul Red ($300 paint option) with a Sand color leatherette
interior. It starts at $23,995. The entry level “Sport” starts
at $21,495 and the top-of-the-line “Grand Touring” starts at
$30,195. The Touring model comes very well equipped including standard
19-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust, leatherette sport seats, 6-waypower
driver’s seat, blind spot monitoring, push button start, dual-zone
climate control and lots more stuff. We have the optional Touring and
Technology Package, which includes navigation, the Bose Audio Package with
sunroof and a few other extras for a total bottom line on the sticker of
The Mazda6 has earned some impressive credentials like the IIHS Top
Safety Pick Plus (when equipped with the Smart city Brake Support system)
and Car and Driver’s “10 Best.” Mazda includes what they
call Skyactiv technology to this, and just about all their cars now.
Skyactiv includes comprehensive application of efficiency features to
maximize fuel economy while maintaining driveability and the sporty
character for which the brand is known.
Under the hood we find a high-tech, 2.5-liter, normally-aspirated,
4-cylinder making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque mated to a
6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that will hold lower gears
when you need a bit more spirited acceleration. A V6 engine is not offered
but kudos to Mazda for still offering a six-speed manual transmission for
those who like to be more involved in the driving experience. Wish we had
that one. The EPA estimates Our Mazda6 will do 38 mpg on the highway, 26 in
the city and 31 mpg combined using regular fuel. We’ll have plenty of
miles to see if we can match those numbers.
We’ll spend at least 9 hours on the road for the drive to DC
so comfort is important. Up front I found the six-way power driver’s
seat firm and well bolstered. It took a bit of squirming and adjustment to
accommodate my larger-than-most backside but once adjusted properly I was
comfortable the whole way. The smallish 7-inch navigation/multifunction
screen is mostly intuitive and easily managed with a control knob on the
console. Materials, fit and finish inside are excellent with lots of
aluminum trim and good quality black plastics, a generous amount of
stitching and contrasting leatherette door panels and seats. Our rear seat
passengers thought it comfortable back there as well particularly with the
two vents behind the console to keep them cool on that 90-degree day and a
nice armrest in the middle with cup holders. And, the Mazda6 was quiet
enough inside that conversation was easy. The remarkably deep (rear bumper
to rear seat back) trunk provided more space than we needed – 14.8
cubic-feet - for a week’s luggage and some groceries. (We’re
staying at a condo with a kitchen.)
The drive was easy notwithstanding the dozens of cops hawking us
across the Ohio Turnpike. We probably could have glowed in the dark from
the radar waves as we passed into Pennsylvania. It was Sunday of Labor Day
weekend so traffic was light. Even as we approached DC in late afternoon
onto the dreaded I-495 traffic did not congeal even once. Our only
automotive complaint was the relative difficulty of ingress and egress both
front and rear for those of us that are full-size or bigger. The lower
roofline is great for looks but makes us duck rather tightly. And, I
thought the B-pillar was an inch or so too far forward making it even
harder, for me at least, getting in the driver’s door. That will not
be a problem for average size drivers.
We’re staying at the Wyndham Resort at National Harbor.
Unfortunately, that requires us to navigate through one of the most
convoluted and complex double freeway interchanges I’ve ever
encountered, looking like two plates of spaghetti, one on each side of the
river, on the Mazda’s navigation map. It took most of the week to
learn its nuances as I-495, with local and express lanes in each direction,
and I-295 intersecting with an untold number of integrated surface roads.
National Harbor is a luxury resort development on the Potomac just south of
the freeway where a huge Ferris wheel and large tour boats dominate the
harbor itself. The accompanying village has a variety of resorts, condos, a
Gaylord convention center, lots of upscale shopping and a couple dozen
eateries. It even has a small Harley-Davidson store for apparel and
accessories, not bikes.
Our history lessons began at Mt. Vernon, just a few miles downstream
on the other side of the river. It’s been a long time since
I’ve thought much about U.S. history so a visit to George
Washington’s home was in order. With the help of the Mazda’s
navigation system and my iPhone map together we managed to get across the
Potomac and southbound unscathed. The road runs along about eight miles of
the river lined with parklands. Cyclists and joggers seemed unfazed by the
heat of the day. And it was hot!
The visitors’ center at Mt. Vernon includes a beautiful
gallery and an educational center telling stories of Washington’s
life and the Revolution. On the grounds as well are Washington’s tomb
and a variety of gardens and outbuildings that flesh out the stories told
inside. Then, just a few miles further down the road we found a recreation
of Washington’s mill and distillery. Did you know that, after he left
the presidency, George became the largest producer of whisky in the
country? We were disappointed not to find samples at the distillery.
The next couple of days were spent driving into the city to browse
some of the Smithsonian collections at the Museums of Natural History and
American History along with a visit to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
where we watched them make $20 bills. The entire Mall between the Capitol
Building and the Washington Monument was torn up to replace the soil and
sod so that it could be more resistant to the heavy use it gets year
around. We also took in the Memorials of Thomas Jefferson, FDR and Martin
Luther King, all of which surround the Tidal Basin where we found rare free
parking. The main problem there was that from the parking area south of the
Jefferson Memorial to the National Mall was well over a mile and it was
well over 90-degrees and humid each day making for a brutal walk in the hot
sun. That kind of weather is not uncommon this time of year in DC so you
might think about that when scheduling your visit.
The other problem was getting out of town headed back south to the
resort. With construction everywhere and convoluted traffic patterns
designed by a sadist we ended up headed the wrong way on I-395 and when we
got off to go back the other way we had to circle though a maze of
illogical street patterns to finally find a reentrance to the highway. My
pretty wife hates it when I cuss, but I couldn’t help it. Even the
Mazda’s decent navigation maps and my iPhone map were not enough to
guide us through that trauma.
Getting outa town at the end of our stay was not so easy. It took
nearly an hour to go the 20 miles or so north to outbound I-270, but once
past that glom it was smooth sailing all the way home. Even across Ohio we
saw but two cops.
So, what did we think of the Mazda6 as a traveling car? We all gave
it high marks.
Comfort, convenience and ambiance are as good as some more expensive
cars. The quiet cabin and rear seat HVAC vents kept our rear seat
passengers happy. Sporty driving dynamics, handling and overall performance
kept me happy at the wheel. Gas mileage averaged just under 34 mpg no
matter if we were on the highway or in the city. We used the Sport mode
often in hilly areas and passing situations.
The navigation system’s maps are better than some with more
detail at certain zoom factors, although it just went blank a couple of
times. And, when you have the headlights on during the day (like for going
though the tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike) you cannot read the HVAC
screen. Otherwise we found no fault with this car.
The Mazda6 does a fine job as a mid-size sedan and its sporty
character gives it a bit of an advantage in my view. With pricing as
reasonable as any you should put this one on your shopping list.
It is a truly admirable road trip car.
©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights
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