You know you are spoiled rotten when you are able to do the following in a car:
1) Slip into a thorax molded, hip hugging seat
2) Grab onto a perfectly sized, fully adjustable steering wheel with thumb detents at 10 and 2 o'clock
3) Depress a pillow-soft clutch pedal which engages and releases swiftly
4) Row a manual gearbox shifter whose positive movement rivals the bolt action in a Weatherby Mark V rifle
5) Keep a right heel positioned at the accelerator only to merely pivot the toe to snap safety belts tight into chests.
...and immediately notice that the convenience of Bluetooth handsfree communications connectivity is MIA. (Though it is available on higher trim models.)
That sums up our initial reaction at "Drive...He Said" upon piloting the redone for 2014 Mazda6. It's the newest gladiator to be dropped into the Coliseum of mid-size front-drive family sedans.
Indeed, that's the svelte one that made our drool cups runneth over at the 2013 Chicago Auto Trade Association Show back in February. With the Kodo front end and influenced-by- Infiniti M rear designs.
We already know that "Skyactiv" script on the rump signifies "Mazda substitute for Gas-Electric Hybrid drive-trains."
Mazda has wisely skipped the less energetic 2.0L mill offered in the Mazda3 . In 2.5-Liter variant the twin-cam Atkinson-cycle gasoline four makes a class competitive 184-horsepressure to Otto-cyle fours in Altima, Camry , Accord, Fusion, Malibu, Sonata / Optima. New to the Skyactiv 2.5L is the longer 4-to-2-to-1 exhaust manifold which reduces cylinder temperatures. A revised piston design ups compression to 14:1. Detonation knock is reduced by retarding timing and including a cooling cavity at the head of each piston. OK, so at idle there is some valve clatter but it's nothing like a Volkswagen Passat TDi.
Our entry Mazda6 Sport had a 6-speed manual transmission. (A 6-speed autobox is optional.) When accessing a good portion of the 185-pound feet of engine spin at 3000 rpm it's handy to skip a gear downshifting. Mazda is winking at automotive writers who like stirring it up themselves but hate to be embarrassed by a missed shift. Something that isn't going to happen with this lighter small secondary splined gearbox, where a common first and reverse gear eliminates the need for a reverse idler shaft.
Whisking up and down the Kennedy Expressway (I-90), here in Chicago on an early Saturday morning, our verdict: it's damn close to the perfect action in the Mazda Miata MX-5 . Great for beginners who want to learn "Stick Shifts."
Clock watchers will snicker that getting to 60 mph in the Mazda6 consumes 8 seconds with a 4.1:1 final drive. Some of the lower compression rivals will see that mark a second sooner. However, the Mazda6 is vastly more entertaining than the others in getting there. And during the walloping we gave it the Mazda6 responded with 30 combined miles-per-gallon in consumption, something the others would die for.
Engineers have imbued the new Mazda6 with "Jinba Ittai", Japanese for a feeling of "oneness between car and driver." On the scales it registers merely 3185 pounds using lots of high tensile steel. Which cannot explain a ball-buster heavy hood.
Normally in this class of car there is chassis lift even in moderately acute corners. Followed by roll. Not in the Mazda6. Instead it hunkers down flat even in quick transitions. Increased front wheel caster angle has produced a helm nearly telepathic to inputs without requiring constant corrections. At the limits hands get the sensation before the nose starts to push. And we are discussing an electric assisted rack, here. The 225/55 Yokohama Advan performance all-season rubber on 17" alloys cling to the road like socks in the clothes-dryer.
Traction control was killed during a hot-lap [on a rainy, cold track] at Wisconsin's "Road America." The Mazda6 begged for more throttle into an apex than we thought prudent in some more powerful all-wheel drive cars. Disc brakes at each corner, with EBD and ABS, modulate easily. On the street, the front struts and rear multi-links transmit sensations of the pavement surface without much harshness.
Our Spoiled A$$#$:
Lest anyone label "Drive...He Said" idolaters, we found the Mazda6 cabin design to be useful yet uninspired. Finally a Mazda steering wheel that doesn't feature the add-on pods for secondary controls. But the radio head-unit display is alarm clock basic in white-on-black LEDs. The traditional analog gauge cluster is pretty plain-Jane. Webbed cloth seating upholstery, high on adhesion, has an industrial look. Subdued is an elevated art form in the Mazda6 with the barest amount of contrasting chrome and gloss-black trim.
Knee room in the back is tight for the segment, and a descending roofline requires a lower head duck. Keeping the pounds off the Mazda6 meant deducting some noise insulation. There is the occasional buzz - from hard trim - and some wind and tire noise. Now, about that rear door seal that came un-hooked....
There, we said it. In spite of the interior styling, we cannot immediately think of another family sedan for $21,000 out the door that wants to shred the road so badly. Our Spoiled A$$#$ could live happily with the 2014 Mazda6 Sport.
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