The current generation Mazda 6 has always been a handsome car. Now Mazda has given it the heart transplant it so badly needed.
Mazda has big ambitions. No longer do they want you to believe they’re just flogging anonymous, if fun to drive, econoboxes for the cash-conscious consumer. Instead, the company is moving discernibly upmarket, first with the redesigned CX-9 and CX-5 crossovers, and now this. It’s the refreshed 2018 Mazda 6, and it stands as proof that some minor tweaks (and one major change) can make a big difference. Not just with the styling, but also with the addition of a turbocharged, 2.5-liter heart. On top of that, the material quality in this Mazda’s updated flagship sedan give it some serious staying power in an otherwise shrinking segment.
Let’s start off with that new heart. For this model year, Mazda has taken the engine out of a CX-9 and stuck it in their largest current sedan. Instead of making 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque – as the company’s naturally aspirated 2.5-liter does – this one makes 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. However, there is a catch: it’s only available on three trim levels of the new Mazda 6. If you elect to buy the Sport or Touring models, you don’t get the turbo.
What else has changed?
The 2018 Mazda 6 also gets that mild exterior update, with a new grille, new headlights and taillights. Inside, there’s new a partially TFT gauge cluster. The speedometer is now digital, while the tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges are still analog. More importantly, however, are the addition of two new trim levels. In the old days, you had one of three choices with the Mazda 6. There was the base model Sport, the mid-range Touring, then the top-spec Grand Touring. Those trim levels remain, but now there is Grand Touring Reserve – between Touring and Grand Touring – and Signature, the Mazda 6’s new top trim level.
Given the upscale materials and matured styling inside and out, as well as the new turbocharged engine, you’d expect Mazda’s mid-size sedan to cost a lot more. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that it isn’t. Prices for the base Sport start at $23,890 – just $5 more than the outgoing 2017 model. So what exactly do you get for your money?
The Mazda 6 gets a boost to compete with its rivals
Even though Mazda’s entire lineup under the Kodo (“Soul of Motion”) design language is by no means ugly, it wasn’t necessarily fast either. With the old model’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine pushing out just 184 horsepower through a six-speed transmission, the car was lagging behind its competition. Even the 1.5-liter turbocharged Honda Accord puts out more power than that these days. However, the 250 horsepower, 310 lb-ft torque 2.5-liter turbo goes a long way to address that issue.
However, there is just one catch. As in the CX-9, you only get that full 250 horsepower when you’re running on premium fuel. You can run the 2018 Mazda 6 on regular unleaded, but then the horsepower figure drops to 227. Torque remains the same regardless of fuel. In this Signature model, that engine comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and you don’t get a choice in the matter. Mazda still sells this car with a six-speed manual transmission, but it’s only available on the Sport trim. In any other trim level, you have to have the automatic. The 2018 Mazda 6 returns 23 city/31 highway/26 combined MPG with its turbocharged engine.
(Sort of) feeling the Gs
Mazda’s G Vectoring Control comes standard across the range, regardless of trim level. It’s a subtle change that shifts the car’s weight and adjusts power delivery as you turn into a corner. Here’s how it works: as you enter the corner, the system reduces power, shifting the cornering load to the front wheels. As you exit the corner, it shifts that load back to the rear wheels to improve overall stability. In turn, the ride felt controlled and planted to the road as we blasted it up and down the twisting canyons outside Boulder, Colorado. What’s really remarkable about the system is that it just works. It’s subtle, so you don’t really feel it working most of the time and there’s no visual indicator that it’s working. Overall, it does work, though: the car’s handling is pin sharp.
Quality is top-notch, but there’s a catch
The 2018 Mazda 6 Signature comes fully loaded for $36,140. For that, you get heated and ventilated front seats w/ driver’s seat memory, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, for a start. There’s also dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, autonomous emergency braking, a 360-degree camera system and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. On the infotainment front, Mazda includes a 7.0-inch infotainment display with USB and bluetooth connectivity. However, Mazda does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at time of writing.
While the equipment is all there, it’s not all roses inside the 2018 Mazda 6. One issue lies with its infotainment system. Apart from its lack of CarPlay or Android Auto support, the system is showing its age. It’s slow, not incredibly intuitive, and it does occasionally crash, requiring a reset. The rear-view camera and 360-degree camera system are amazingly low resolution. It’s so blurry, in fact, that it’s tough to really see what’s going on around you, which defeats the purpose of having the system. Interestingly, however, you can turn the cameras on at any speed, even when cruising on the highway.
In almost every respect, the 2018 Mazda 6 is a solid contender. Particularly with the power bump, the car is great to drive. Turbo lag is minimal, and the power boost makes overtaking a breeze. The exterior looks better than ever, and the use of materials are superb given the car’s sub-$40,000 price. Mazda fitted more technology to pitch their midsize sedan against titanic competition from Toyota and Honda, but the infotainment system and 360-degree camera system fall short of what its rivals offer.
Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more on the 2018 Mazda 6 coming soon. Check back for more news, views, and real-world reviews!
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Mazda 6 Signature
|Price as Tested:||$36,140|
|Engine:||2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Transversely mounted front-engine, front-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||250 hp @ 5,000 RPM (93 octane)
227 hp @ 5,000 RPM (87 octane)
|Torque:||310 lb-ft @ 2,000 RPM|
|Suspension:||Front: Independent MacPherson strutRear: Independent multi-link|
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (ventilated front)|
|Tires:||Falken Ziex ZE001 P225/45 R19 all-seasons|
|Fuel capacity:||16.4 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined MPG|
|Cargo Volume:||14.8 cubic feet|
|Turning Circle:||36.7 feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,305 pounds|