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(Contributing Editor: Peter Stamatis)
Three+ years ago “Drive…He Said” heaped restrained praise:
“There, we said it. In spite of the [meh] interior styling, [flimsy trim and spartan appointments], 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$$#$ could live happily with the 2014 Mazda6 Sport.“ ChicagoNow “Drive…He Said” August, 2013.
If the maker of Zoom, Zoom, Zoom wants to spoil our A$$#$ a little, who are we to stop them? ChicagoNow “Drive…He Said” April, 2017.
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WHAT: 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring mid-size family sport sedan. Code name: GL. Mid-cycle refresh of GJ1 3rd generation.
One & Only Power: transverse 2.5L Atkinson cycle VVT DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 184 hp/ 185 lb-ft + 6-spd. locking torque converter automatic planetary transmission.
WHAT (A) STYLING (DIFFERENCE): Mr. Olympia’s muscle-fendered & rear quartered volume mid-size sedan = KODO+; Chrome-work on pentagonal grille and front fascia foglamp recesses gets bolder; Rear lower valance features simulated diffuser; Buff body distracts attention from squat greenhouse; Sharply raked backlight + short, “duck-tail”rear deck-lid = Fastback Look;
WHY: Sedans describe “Aesthetic Taste” better than their Crossover spawns, DRIVING [While Coddled] MATTERS.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late fall 2016
WHERE: Mazda new car dealers
WHERE MADE: Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan
HOW STRONG: More prominent Sport Mode throttle / shift point switch now begs engagement: upon a “One, One-Thousand, Two count” goose that high-compression gas 2.5L DOHC spits out some I-4 fire with throaty noises all the way to its 6500 heaven; Despite lagging 2.0L turbo competition, the 6-speed slushbox locks-up like a banker before lunch, holding tall ratio gears 1-5 until 5000 rpm before the hand-off and will throttle blip rev-match in Sport Mode;
HOW LIMBER: Electric assist steering rack is nearly too quick, but delivers abundant road feel; Atypical stiffer bushings & springs quell roll & dive; Dampers are tuned for tauter reflexes at speed, allowing a Euro-compliant ride, with only occasional jarring;
“Track-Worthy”: G-vectoring = Cuts power, enhancing front wheel load and grip upon entering turns or corners, restoring the power to the throttle position while exiting the turn; Forgiveness of hard braking well into a hairpin, and stab worthy reaction of 4-wheel brake discs despite initially “Timid as a teen on a first date” pedal travel.
HOW FAR: Expect 32 miles-per-gallon; i-ELOOP = capacitor to generator “mild hybrid” = extra 1 mpg
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: “Placebo-effect?” Extra dash + door panel trim = what was already a snug mid-size sedan “Snugger.”Front sport seats could stand more cushion length; Row 2: fastback silhouette imparts the added caveat to 6’+ footers: “Mind thine heads;”
HOW USEFUL: √ Trunk fits 2 full size and two carry-ons; √ Retracting-shade style center-console dual cup-holder cover; √ 2 x USB ports √ 2 x 12V power ports; -1 Bose speaker housings take bite out of door pocket storage; -1 Tall load lift-over; -1 3 paper grocery bags short of what competition will hold
HOW SAFE: IIHS 2016 Top Pick Plus winner: √ 8 airbags ; Driver assist technology: i-ActiveSense = √ Rear camera w/ park grid-lines; √ Blind Spot & Lane change warning; √ Rear Cross traffic & Lane Departure warning; √ Automatic HID high-beam headlamps; √ Adaptive Cruise Control; √ Forward collision warning & Vehicle collision avoidance full braking; -1 Lane Keep assist = “Nudge Only” ≠ “Hand’s Off the Wheel”;
HOW FRIENDLY: √ Torso hugging heated front bucket seats & heated 2nd Row seats; √ Heated tilt & extending leather-wrapped steering wheel; √ Triple channel door seals and thicker glass have improved cabin muting; √ White-on-black analog TFT triple gauge cluster; √ Multi-function display now polychromic, but still sparse on info.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ HUD traffic sign indicator; √ Metal-trimmed rotary dial Command infotainment screen controller flanked by primary, preferred switches & audio volume dial;
Details Done Right: √ Perforated Nappa leather / contrasting piping & cross stitched seating surfaces w/ metallic controls √ Seat matching soft touch dash & door panels inserts w/ titanium colored accents; √ Mouse-fur lined glove box w/ metallic latch release; √ Among more intuitive automatic climate controls;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Gauge cluster blue thermometer substitutes for graduated engine coolant read-out; -1 2nd Row heated seat controls inaccessible when center position occupied; -1 Front center armrest a bit too aft;
HOW “APP” -LICABLE:√ MazdaConnect 7″-inch LCD media display is same in-elegant corporate fixed dashtop mounted unit found in $19K Mazdas; Touch functionality de-activated when in motion;
$1000 Question: WHEN will Android Auto and Apple Car Play app licensing get worked out? BECAUSE: GPS Navigation POI searches are limited and voice recognition needs work; Pandora, Aha & Stitcher sync separately to corresponding smart phone apps; +1 Bose Centerpoint 360 watt audio w/ active noise cancellation = one of a handful of Dr. Amar’s systems with soundstage depth and presence;
HOW MUCH: $34,530 , 2017 Mazda6 i Grand Touring, fully optioned
WHAT’S MISSING: Less on-center steering correction; More elegant infotainment display housing;
ANY COMPETITION: Honda Accord Sport SE: +1 rear seat pitch, Android Auto/ Apple CP
BOTTOM LINE: Turns as many heads as a Tesla Model S; A turbo-charger away from being a legitimate sporty executive sedan challenger.
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