Redesigned Mazda 6 takes the great leap forward |

Redesigned Mazda 6 takes the great leap forward

Andy Stonehouse

Spending a day in the Pacific Northwest checking out the updated offerings of the all-new Mazda 6 was an interesting experience, to say the least.

Not only did Mazda executives offer a frank overview of how, in the past, the four-door 6 had never quite achieved the success they’d hoped for ” a situation they hope to change with the larger and sportier car ” but it was pleasant to check out two Seattle-area locales that hold a special place in my heart.

These included, to my delight, a night at the Edgewater Hotel, a waterfront locale famous for hosting the Beatles (and rather infamous for hosting Led Zeppelin … Wikipedia that combination, if you dare), as well as a circuitous driving route that culminated at the Salish Lodge, a mountain resort that was featured for exterior shots in “Twin Peaks.”

As for the Mazda itself, we got a pretty clear picture of what the company was trying very hard not to do in re-launching its sedan.

In an internal video Mazda produced to describe the target clientele for the new 6, a central thrust was aspirational former hipsters, now family people, who require more space for the kids, but still want something affordably flashy.

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The new vehicle also had to address a few important issues, the biggest being the less-than-impressive quality marks for the former car, which incorporated much of the architecture of the not-so-exciting Ford Fusion. Since 2002, many similarly sized Camrys, Accords and Altimas sold five times better than the 6. Even the new Chevy Malibu had been kicking the Mazda’s butt.

To that end, the new Mazda 6 takes care of business. The quality is there, the pair of engine options (a 170-horsepower inline four and a 272-horsepower 3.7 liter V6, currently used in the CX9 crossover) offers some great ways to address the competition and the vehicle has definitely made some major improvements. Mazda also brought 100 engineers from its Japanese factories to help supervise at the Michigan plant where the 6 is assembled, and the results seem to show.

With the economy now officially in the toilet, Mazda reps also had an interesting market in mind for the new 6: BMW and Audi enthusiasts who can no longer afford their expensive car payments and are looking for a sporty alternative that won’t kill their bank account.

In its highest-profile iteration, the new 6 comes loaded with all of the good stuff: 18-inch alloy wheels, a blind spot monitoring system (also borrowed from the CX9), a 10-speaker, 333-watt Bose Surround Sound audio system, Bluetooth and more.

Leather seating and a pushbutton keyless starter are also nice details.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the new Mazda 6 is one that’s a more pervasive issue across the entire industry ” design. Squint your eyes when you look at the 6 from the rear aspect and … well, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it apart from an Accord or an Altima.

In an effort to include contemporary styling and fully aerodynamic finishes in this entire generation of CD-category cars, the results are an entire range of automobiles that are, sadly, nearly identical.

Mazda 6 does its best with a long and distinctive nose, attractive exhaust ports and a tall, aerodynamically functional trunk lid; the rest of the vehicle’s general looks and shape are, for the most part, very much like the competition. Not unpleasant, just not incredibly different.

On the road, the feel is quite impressive, especially in the more powerful 3.7 liter V6 variation. The ride is smooth, inputs are crisp and the whole package has a nice feel; things are also large and comfortable enough to match the competition. All-wheel drive will not, unfortunately, be offered; pricing ranges from a $19,000 entry point for the four-cylinder version up to $28,300 for a tricked-out V6.

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