Finally, the Mazda6 gains the turbo kick it deserves.
The Mazda6 has never lacked for awesomeness. At least concerning its style.
A long-missing ingredient was always a more powerful engine, one to supplement the standard powertrain, which delivers 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This year, the new engine is in place. Or rather, the current engine has a turbocharged option.
Yes, the big news this year is the addition of a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Even bigger news would be an all-wheel-drive system on top of that. Alas, all-wheel drive isn’t even an option. For now, you have a choice of two performance flavors and five trims. Read on and we’ll take a closer look at the updated model.
2018 Mazda6: Overview
Mazda offers the 2018 Mazda6 in five trims: Sport ($23,000), Touring ($25,700), Grand Touring ($29,200), Grand Touring Reserve ($31,700) and Signature ($34,750). Add $895 for destination ($940 in Alaska).
The changes this year — beyond the newly available turbo engine — include tweaks to the exterior, a new dashboard design and improved cabin materials. Other changes for this third-generation Mazda6 include safety and technology updates.
A Matter of Style
The Mazda6 has long offered an evocative canvas. In the opinion of this writer, it is the most handsome one in the segment. The front fascia has a look that punches above the segment with its revised gaping grille and ornate “eyes.” Sweeping curves caress the body. Strong shoulders offer a glimpse of the power that now goes with the new engine. The rear deck is pulled up and has its share of creases and curves.
Inside, the Mazda6 has a new dashboard design to show for it. Specifically, you will find a seven-inch reconfigurable display. Mazda also redesigned the seats, adding high-density, vibration absorbing urethane foam. Upgraded materials include Nappa leather, ultra suede and Japanese sen wood. My test Signature model had the suede trim, which liberally covered the lower dash and door inlays. Again, this sedan punches above its weight.
Safety and Technology
The standard audio system with the 2018 Mazda6 is a six-speaker audio system, an 8-inch color screen and a rearview camera. Bluetooth, USB audio input and an auxiliary jack are also included.
Mazda supplies a control knob for its interface and it took time for me to get used to it. Essentially, you will access what you want, such as the audio system, by clicking on the command dial and finding your preferred station. It is more of a distraction than it should be.
Available equipment includes an 11-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio and a navigation system.
On the safety front, you will find standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Upgrades include a smart braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and a 360-degree surround view monitor.
Under the Hood: A Closer Look at the Turbo
As expected, the Mazda6 sent my way had the turbo engine. The Sport and Touring models come with the naturally aspirated version, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox on the base model. Everywhere else is a six-speed automatic. Despite not offering a manual with the turbo, Mazda does add steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The turbo powering the Mazda6 is the same one found under the hood of the Mazda CX-9. Mazda calls it a Dynamic Pressure Turbo system, which combines characteristics of twin-scroll and variable-geometry turbos in a small package.
The system mitigates turbo lag by restricting exhaust flow at a low RPM, enabling air or gas to move rapidly through the engine compartments. Thus, air travels to the turbocharger immediately, spooling up the same faster than with a standard turbo.
With a turbo under the hood, the Mazda6 is transformed from a mild player into a wild beast. Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the power improvement is quite noticeable. Specifically, with premium fuel powering this model, it makes 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Further, it still can safely take regular gasoline, although your horsepower drops to 227, while the torque performance stays the same.
Think about this for a moment: Even with regular grade (87 octane), the turbocharged Mazda6 gains a 21-percent boost in horsepower (227 v. 187), but a whopping 66-percent boost in torque (310 v. 186), regardless of the fuel used. So, there is no need to pay extra for premium gasoline, which typically costs as much as 50 cents more per gallon to gain a net 33-percent boost in horsepower. By the way, torque is measured by the power that kicks in when you’re passing.
On the Road: Turbo Mazda6
As for what the turbocharged Mazda6 does on the road, it takes an already smart handling model and amplifies it. But there is one important caveat here: there is so much power sent to the front wheels that torque steer is a real thing. And despite torque vectoring technology included and designed to limit it.
To wit, while stopped at a traffic light and anticipating making a sharp (60-degree angle) turn, I learned just how much this model swings when pulling out of a corner. As I stepped on the gas, built up some speed and turned the steering wheel to the left, the rear wheels swung to the right. It wasn’t wholly unanticipated as I figured that this would happen.
One way to avoid the problem is by applying a light touch to the accelerator until the road evens out. That’s no fun, especially if you’re on a curvy highway entrance ramp and need to pick up speed as the lanes merge. With all-wheel drive, the rear wheels would have kicked in, stabilizing the sedan.
We got Mazda to respond to our earlier cries for a more powerful engine. Now take those cries and turn them into pleas for all-wheel drive.
Parting Thoughts: 2018 Mazda6
The world is shifting to crossovers and that means the Mazda6’s new engine arrives as consumer attention is elsewhere. Although it isn’t likely to create a net increase in sales, the new engine may very well stem the tide away from midsize sedans. Or at least this one. I’m not going to state, “too little, too late,” as some of my colleagues have opined, but there is truth in that statement.
For everyone else, the Mazda6 takes what is already a very good sedan and makes it better with the turbo option. Perhaps the only thing holding me back from giving it an unreservedly top score is a lack of an all-wheel-drive option. It is a curious omission, especially since all-wheel drive has always been an option in markets such as Japan and Europe.
2018 Mazda6 Specifications
|Base Sticker Price||$21,950 (plus $895 destination fee)|
|Price as tested||$36,435 (Signature)|
|Standard Engine||2.5-liter, inline-four|
|Horsepower||187 @ 6,000 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||186 @ 4,000 RPMs|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual or automatic|
|Optional Engine||2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-four|
|Horsepower||227/250 @ 6,500 RPMs|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||310 @ 2,000 RPMs|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,326 to 3,560|
|Headroom (f,r — inches)||37.4, 37.1|
|Legroom (f,r — inches)||42.2, 38.7|
|Shoulder room (f,r — inches)||55.9, 55.1|
|Hip room (f,r — inches)||53.5, 53.5|
|Storage (cubic feet)||14.7|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||N/A|
|Fuel (Premium preferred with turbo)||regular|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||14.2|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway)||26/35 (2.5L FWD); 23/31 (turbo)|
|Manufacturing Plant||Hiroshima, Japan|
This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.