Some say the sedan is dead, that the SUV/Crossover buried it.
We say poppycock. (Actually, no one says poppycock anymore, but it keeps us out of trouble with the language nannies).
Proof? Look at the aggressive tack we’re seeing right now, with an all-new sporty Toyota Camry, an all-new Honda Accord with available detuned Civic Type R motor, and all-new Nissan Altima with a world’s first Variable displacement turbo engine. Sedans are back and they’re mad as heck.
With all this new sheetmetal on sale, it’s got to be tough for a not-so-new sedan like the Mazda 6 to keep up. Luckily, they’ve got some rabbits – and horses – up their sleeves.
Sleek and Subtle
It’s already one of the most handsome sedans on the market, with a sleek, swoopy body that could easily have penned in Italy. So thankfully, Mazda kept the ego in check, and kept changes subtle.
To keep the 6 looking fresh, it gets standard LED headlights with integrated fogs, a new mesh grille, front and rear LED turn lamps, and stepping it up on our Signature tester, a gunmetal-finish grille, and aggressively-designed 19 inch alloys.
Our tester looked especially tasty in Snowflake White Pearl Mica, but for those who want the latest and greatest, there’s a new Soul Red Crystal. One surprise – there’s no badge to tell the world that you’re running the all-new 2.5-liter turbo engine. Good for keeping a low profile, but maybe a missed opportunity for a little sizzle.
And with an all-new Camry, Accord and Altima swimming like young sharks in the water, maybe a little sizzle would have gone a long way.
Intimate and Inviting
Mazda decided, like it has in other models including the CX-5, to up the refinement, quality, and luxury of the interior. And like our CX-5 which we found positively Audi-ish, the 6 feels like it’s moved a class above into premium Euro territory.
It’s a massive re-do – only the steering wheel and small trim pieces were carried over. Like the CX, there’s a long horizontal dash with a new 8” tablet-like display in the center. Gauges are large, with a new, reconfigurable 7” TFT display, and are straightforward in the typical Mazda way. Climate control is easy to use, and a large knob between the seats helps you access info-tainment with a smaller satellite knob dedicated to volume.
Mazda really went the extra mile to add tech to keep up with Honda and Toyotas – there are also additional Mazda 6 firsts, like a 360-degree view monitor and full-speed Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go. And finally, the 6 joins the party and gets available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Fully redesigned front seats are more supportive and a bit wider, and new for 2019, heated and ventilated. Those in back also get redesigned seats for more comfort.
Our Signature model gets some special bling to impress your friends, including Deep Chestnut Nappa leather whose color is inspired by the aged wood in ancient Japanese temples. Along the dash center, doors and seats, UltraSuede (not to be confused with Ultra-Swede) is adorned with a subtle gold tint, using a similar technique to that which is used to make ornate kimonos.
A fitting final touch, the interior wears Sen Wood accents, a type of wood often used in taiko drums and Japanese furniture. We’re impressed – this is the kind of stuff we saw recently in our $100,000 plus Lexus LS 500h.
Refined and relaxed
But the big wow we’re looking for is the “T” on the new turbocharged SKYAVCTIV 2.5T engine. The stats have us drooling – 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque as just 2,000 rpm. While this 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine comes from the CX-9, this is the zoom-zoom company, so it must be a scorcher, right?
Ummm, no. With the refinement in design and step up in luxury, it seems that Mazda has decided that the 6 is more of a powerful wafter, in the European tradition than a 4-door Miata. Once you get over that, it’s a lovely combination – acceleration is notably strong off the line with a quiet whoosh, and passing and high-speed cruising is effortless. The 6-speed automatic is quick and smooth, and the Signature’s paddle shifters and console-mounted Sport Mode raise the participation. Even so, we managed over 20 mpg in daily lead-foot driving.
The lasting impression is how silent the 6 2.5T is. Mazda revamped the mission of its sedan, with special emphasis on making it a quiet and composed cruiser. Massive amounts of sound deadening, chassis reinforcements and body tuning and aerodynamic design are all employed.
Along with a firm but never harsh chassis, this feels like BMWs of a class above.
Handling seems to have also been tuned for composure rather than competition. it has fine grip with the big 19-inch wheels and tires, but it didn’t seem particularly interested in searching out a mountain road.
The turbo model has gained 200 lbs., and it feels like much of that weight is over the nose. You won’t notice it tackling on- and off-ramps where it’s confident and capable. But if you start to throw it around, it lacks enthusiasm.
With the premiums sedan mission, the Mazda6 feels well-equipped with the latest driving tech, including Smart City Brake Support, Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist and Adaptive Front-lighting System.
While it’s a little thing, we really appreciated the Windshield heads-up display. Full-color and with a neat little feature that reads road signs and keeps you appraised of speed limits it’s very handy. Especially since the 6 is so quiet and powerful, it’s easy to find yourself moving very quickly.
Did they turbo the price, too?
Not really. Part of the good news is that all Mazda6 models enjoy the majority of the improvements that take it upscale. You start with the Mazd6 Sport at $22,845, with the familiar 187 hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and……drum roll please! A 6-speed manual. Yes, Mazda does still believe in the drive! Step up to the Touring (with mandatory automatic) and you’ll get 19” alloys, moonroof, upgraded safety equipment and more. At $25,700 it’s an excellent value.
If you want the turbo motor, the first stop is the Grand Touring at $29,200. The ladder builds to Grand Touring Reserve at $31,700, and ends like our tester at the Mazda 6 Signature for $34,750. To that, we add the Snowflake White Pearl ($200). With no other options available, and $895 for destination, our tester rang the bell at $35,845.
For competitors, a comparable Camry XSE V6 comes in at $38,505. The Accord Touring 2.0T, an amazingly close $35,800. For giggles, we ran the numbers on an Audi A4 Prestige 2.0TFSI S Tronic – yours for $49,900! So, we’d say the Mazda is an excellent value (as is the Accord). Maybe not the beast the V6 Camry is, but more of a bargain European competitor.
Upgraded in every way, the Mazda 6 2.5T Signature offers impressive new levels of refinement, composure, and power.
An excellent and tasteful alternative to the all-new Camry and Accord.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.