The prevailing winds currently buffeting the automotive industry are winds of change. Electric and hybrid mobility, autonomous driving, new safety technologies, uncertainty regarding diesel engines, toughening emissions standards, etc.: manufacturers have a lot of fast-changing variables to keep track of simultaneously.
Mazda is no different than the rest, even though the Japanese manufacturer has long followed its own maverick path. For example, while Toyota begat Lexus, Honda begat Acura and so on, Mazda, almost alone among mass-market automakers, has not created a stand-alone luxury brand.
And yet, the first word that came to mind when I settled into the Signature edition of the new
2018 Mazda6 was… luxury! My first reflex in fact was to make sure that it was actually a Mazda I was sitting in! The quality of the leather on the seating and of overall construction, the alcantara leather on the doors and a part of the dashboard, the climate control module and buttons, all of it has an upscale feel to it.
Looking at it from the outside, casual observers will be hard-pressed to find much difference between the old and new edition of the Mazda6. A revised front grille, new LED headlights, modified rear lights and a few other details can be gleaned, but they pale in importance when compared with the changes brought under the hood.
Taking the usual 2.5L SKYACTIV engine, Mazda’s engineers made the brilliant decision to boost it with a turbocharger! Power output thus jumps from 187 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque to 250 hp and 310 lb-ft… on condition that you feed the engine premium fuel. That’s a pretty big increase in muscle for this car! It also represents a pretty big increase in what you’ll pay at the pump, of course. If you decide to stick with good old regular gasoline, you’ll lose 23 horses, but keep the same torque to play with.
In everyday driving, you’ll appreciate the intervention of the turbocharger, which ensures lively acceleration without getting so explosive that you’ll leave rubber on the road behind you. Honestly, I find this engine suits the new Mazda6 really well, much better than it does the CX-9 SUV, for example.
The transmission is a 6-speed automatic, and it does exactly what is expected of it. In my opinion, the paddle shifters affixed behind the steering wheel are there as much for decoration as anything else. Not really of much realistic use in improving the driving experience, they’re quickly forgotten.
As for consumption, I was pretty impressed. My average during my road test came in at under 9.0L/100 km in mixed driving – above average for its category.
Mazda has piled in the safety systems by the spade-full in the new Mazda6, especially the Signature edition. Without running through an exhaustive list, you get adaptive cruise control, brake assist, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear transversal traffic detection, lane keep assist and a 360-degree camera (although I found its image to be of pretty feeble quality due its low resolution).
I particularly liked the colour head up display Mazda has included in this version. This feature projects the speed being driven, of course, but also the current speed limit, vehicles in your blind spot and traffic indicators such as stop signs and one-way signs. It is one of the most comprehensive head up displays I’ve come across, and is particularly impressive given the model’s moderate price range.
Inside, as I mentioned up top, luxury is the word! The quality of the finishing is superb throughout, and I found pretty much nothing to find fault with. My tester was red on the outside, contrasted nicely by the white Nappa leather seating – gorgeous, frankly! In addition to the Ultrasuede and contrasting stitching, Sen wood accents are included on the dashboard and on the front and rear doors. Another big new feature for the Signature edition this year: ventilated front seats. About time!
The Signature edition also gets a premium 11-speaker Bose audio system which delivers exceptionally clear sound. I haven’t heard better recently, to be honest! On the other hand, Mazda loses points for the glaring absence of CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. How is it that, in 2018, you can’t connect your smart phone to the interface this way? It seems to me that in today’s automotive world, this is a basic for a top-of-range model, and it might be enough to discourage some potential sedan buyers!
That said, with a price tag of $38,800 for the Signature model with turbo engine, the 2018 Mazda6 is a very attractive proposition, a car that gets the job done and keeps occupants very comfortable doing it. And actually, this top-end edition allows the Mazda6 to creep up pretty close to the German luxury models, while retaining a relatively moderate price point.
Now if Mazda ever decided to boost it with a four-wheel drive system, you could see the Mazda6 make some serious headway with entry-level-luxury car buyers!