2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
One of the most engaging midsize sedans. At the premium Grand Touring level, it’s a worthy alternative to a more-expensive luxury-brand sedan
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
The current generation dates to model year 2014, but continuous updating keeps it ahead of the competition. 2016 saw a redesigned instrument panel, while further interior enhancements and higher levels of standard equipment across the line are new this year. Trim levels are standard Mazda: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. 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. The Sport is available with a six-speed stick; optional there and the only choice above that is a six-speed automatic. No V6? No problem — while competitors offer V-sixes, the bulk of sales are four-cylinder cars. The Mazda6 might give up a bit in acceleration compared to a V6, but it won’t take second place in the driving experience or ability to safely and comfortably deal with any road. “Balance” is the word here.
I first met the current Mazda6 back in 2013, with opportunities to drive a stick-shift Sport on the street and around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS). With vast elevation changes, tricky turns, and a distinct shortage of straight and level roadway, MRLS is a challenging track that rewards handling. It’s also Mazda USA’s test track, so no surprise that all Mazdas work very well there. The Mazda6 certainly did. More recently, I’ve driven Grand Tourings for weekly reviews. The automatic is not really a drawback for the driving experience, and even though it’s priced near the top end of the middle-class midsize sedan market, it’s still a very good value as it has more in common with entry-luxury cars than mass-market transportation appliances. This week’s example came with the GT Premium Package, meaning fancier interior trim, Nappa leather seating surfaces, and heat for both the steering wheel rim and outboard rear cushions in addition to the fronts, plus the i-ELOOP energy regeneration system, which stores energy recovered during deceleration in a capacitor to lessen the load on the alternator a bit during subsequent driving for a slight improvement in fuel economy. That didn’t seem to make much difference compared to earlier examples without it, but then every drive is different. And in a Mazda6, every drive will be above expectations.
APPEARANCE: Long, sleek, and fluidly flowing, the Mazda6 is distinctly Mazda, with its rounded five-point grille emphasized by a chrome strip underneath, prominent fenders and a long, purposefully-sculpted hood. "Cab-forward" not spoken here, even though the Mazda 6 has a transverse 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. There are minor changes to the outside mirrors for 2017.
SAFETY: The Mazda 6 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. All trim levels have a backup camera. At Touring and above, the Blind-Spot Monitoring System with cross-traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support System are standard. The Grand Touring gets standard Smart Brake Support System with Collision Warning and Lane Keep Assist, and radar cruise control as standard equipment.
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-$35,000 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 Mazda 6'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 good 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 an automatic 2015 Grand Touring. This time, 27 mpg, with minimal highway. Every tank varies, and direct comparison is dubious because of changes in traffic and road conditions, but figure 30 mpg as a realistic average. 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. The six-speed automatic has standard and sport modes, with manual shifting via paddles behind the steering wheel spokes. D is fine. Sport holds gears longer so improves acceleration a bit. Manual shifting is typical for a torque-converter automatic, a bit slow. And never really necessary.
CONCLUSIONS: In any trim, the Mazda6 is one of the most engaging midsize sedans. At the premium Grand Touring level, it’s a worthy alternative to a more-expensive luxury-brand sedan.
2017 Mazda Mazda6 Grand Touring
Base Price $ 30,695
Price As Tested $ 34,530
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 3305 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 18.0
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
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 27 / 35 / 27
0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
GT Premium Package — includes: iEloop regenerative engine braking system, active grille shutters, shifter LED accent lighting, bright-finish interior trim, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, heater rear seats and steering wheel, black headliner $ 2,500
Cargo Mat $ 75
Gray Paint $ 300
Door Sill Trim Plates $ 125
Destination Charge $ 835