2009 Mazda Mazda6 Long-Term Road Test

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: I Don't Want to Use the Word "Vanilla"

December 01, 2009

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In the early years of this century, I never could understand why some people would dismiss all family sedans as vanilla cars. The Altima (2002 --) had just gotten fun; the Passat (1998-2005) and Legacy (2005-2009) were as good as they'd ever been before or since; and the Mazda 6 (2003-2008) was the entertaining new 626 replacement.

In 2009, though, I find myself looking around and wondering where the fun sedans went. The Subaru and the VW bore me now -- they're bigger, heavier and less engaging. I still like the Altima's total package, but it hasn't really moved on dynamically -- it's just quick thanks to its 3.5-liter V6 and CVT.

And the 2009 Mazda 6. I haven't wanted to like this car, because it doesn't do anything particularly interesting. But over the long weekend, I decided it has the best ride quality in the midsize sedan class. It's not the softest ride. But it always, always composed. And it is never, never harsh. I never complain. My passengers never complain.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 21,128 miles

P.S. When I returned to the 6 after four rounds of karting, it felt perfectly natural to start driving the Mazda again. But I did wish the seat heating continued all the way up the seat-back cushion (instead of stopping the lumbar zone) to soothe my bruised back.

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2009 Mazda 6: Just Right

October 26, 2009

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There are many roads in L.A. that are fun to drive. Twisty, elevated roads with spectacular views.

However, most of our driving time is spent stuck on the freeway inching along with thousands of other commuters.

That is when the interior features of a car become so important.

Crawling my way home Friday night after a long work week, I became friends with our Mazda 6. It's not that I didn't like it before. But we got to know each other a little better.

I appreciate its easy-to-use audio system, its satellite radio, its seat heaters, its comfortable power-adjustable driver seat.

But most of all I enjoyed its pedal action. It's not too tippy like the BMW 7 Series. It's not too hesitant like the Suzuki SX4. It's just right. (I sound like Goldilocks.) And the brakes are the same. They have the right amount of feel. You never have a jerky stop. You never fear you're not going to stop. It's just right.

And when the heavens shine upon the freeway and a path finally clears for you, it has enough zoom to get you going. It's not the quickest car on the road, but it's not the slowest.

It's just right.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 19,599 miles

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Racing Engine

July 16, 2009

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Is there anyone who doesn't dream of putting a racing engine under the hood?

The pumped-up exotic sports cars you see on the street are just the latest expression of an impulse that you can trace clear back to 1916, when Louis Chevrolet formed Frontenac with his brothers to build overhead valve conversions for Henry Ford's inline-4. Since then it's been a point of pride to say that your car had a competition-bred thoroughbred engine under the hood.

Who would have guessed that our 2009 Mazda 6 would be among them?

Yes, the Mazda 6 is just like the Bugatti Type 35, Ferrari 250GT SWB and even the Porsche 911 GT3, because it's got a competition-proven engine. Mazda's 16-valve, DOHC, 2.5-liter MZR inline-4 might seem modest with its output of 170 hp, yet it's the basis of the turbocharged 500-hp engine that powers the Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 that competes in the LMP 2 class of the American Le Mans Series.

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: More Elegant Than I Remember

July 13, 2009

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Several thousand miles have gone by since I last drove our long-term 2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring. As I adjusted the power driver seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel this afternoon, I realized I was happy to get back into the Mazda.

The cabin materials in this car are of respectable quality for this price ($30,340), and the overall effect of our 6's sand-colored seats, black carpeting/dash and red/blue lighting is a fairly upscale ambiance. I also find the driving position in this big sedan more natural and comfortable than just about any other moderately priced midsize sedan on the market.

So, when I pulled up to this Santa Monica, California, taco truck (west side of 11th, just north of Olympic), we decided not to eat our mariscos tostada inside the Mazda 6.

When I wandered across the street to take this photo, I finally found an angle of this sedan that I like -- the 2009 Mazda 6 looks great in profile. I still think its front and rear fascias are way overdone, though.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 15,350 miles

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Weekend in the Mountains

July 13, 2009

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Took the Mazda 6 for a family road trip to Running Springs over the weekend. It's about an hour and a half drive each way with an elevation gain of about 6,000 feet, and we also made day trips to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. Found the firm seats to be quite effective for this duration, but I can see why Josh Jacquot tired of them after 900 miles.

The real pain for us on this trip was the sluggish response of the four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission team on the way up the mountain. I was constantly pining for turnouts to slink into so the more powerful-engined cars behind me could move on. On the rare occasion that I was stuck behind someone else and a passing lane became available, I'd really have to put my toe to the floor (and then wait, wait, wait) to pass them before the lane ended. But once we got into town and only had minimal elevation gains and losses to deal with, the Mazda 6 was a lovely partner for our small family of three.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 15,347 miles

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2009 Mazda 6: Open Wide

May 04, 2009

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It looks like the Mazda 6 is smiling even with the hood open - maybe it's happy about the adequate inline four it's got. I find the four cylinder engine to be perfectly fine - if this is the new face of making due with less then I can live with it.

There are now just two midsize sedans with a four cylinder engine I actually like. The Mazda 6 and Honda Accord. Is the Mazda's powerful? Not really. Does it drone at times? Yep. Still it's OK. The Mazda 6 is now the kind of car you drive to work and forget for eight hours, then you go home (nice enough inside) and forget about it till morning. The Mazda 6 has lost something compared to the previous version - the new car is fine but not special. Welcome to the Camry side of life Mazda.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Heard It Through the Grapevine

April 21, 2009

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I took a quick trip from Los Angeles to Fresno over the weekend in our long-term 2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring. I've written before that I find our car's 168-hp (not 170, as it's a PZEV), 2.5-liter four-cylinder adequate. But during the drive, I decided I really would not want to own a Mazda 6 with this engine.

Even by four-cylinder standards, this engine is light on low-end torque. Its peak of 166 pound-feet doesn't hit until 4,000 rpm and it feels like a steep climb to get there. Scaling the southbound stretch of the Interstate 5 "Grapevine," the tach was pegged at 4,000 rpm in my quest to keep a 75-to-80-mph pace.

It's not that I mind revving this high, mind you. But whereas the Honda Accord's 2.4-liter engine is comfortable and free-revving at these heights, Mazda's 2.5-liter is noisy and somewhat strained. This is not an athletic-feeling engine and not in keeping with the car's or the brand's sporty image.

The upside to this experience was the five-speed automatic transmission. This automatic is quick with downshifts and, as long as you're steady on throttle, it holds those gears for as long as needed. When I was cruising at 4,000, it was holding onto third gear.

And other than the mediocre engine performance, the Mazda 6 was a fine road trip car. All 6s, four-cylinder and V6, have an 18.5-gallon fuel tank -- thus providing incredible range in the four-cylinder car. I put in 13.640 gallons after 347.9 miles of driving (for 25.5 mpg), but I easily could have stretched that past 400.

Wind and road noise levels in the cabin are not exactly calming, but they're average for the midsize sedan class. And both my boyfriend and I found the front seats comfortable and supportive for three hours of driving.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,951 miles

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Four-Cylinder Engine is Adequate

March 05, 2009

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Last night, I put about 100 freeway miles on our 2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring, climbing a few grades and initiating a few decisive passing maneuvers. And now I'm convinced that the car's 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine is an adequate power source for this midsize sedan.

Ours is a PZEV, of course, so it's rated at 168 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 166 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm (versus 170 hp and 167 lb-ft on non-PZEVs). Like most fours in this class, the 2.5-liter makes useful torque at relatively low rpm and it lasts into the mid-range, so getting around town and merging onto the freeway is pain-free.

Climbing grades (in this case, the I-5 Grapevine) forces the engine to reach for high rpm -- well, not too high, as redline comes early at 6,200 rpm. I don't dislike the way the engine sounds at these speeds, but I don't delight in it. Given the choice, I'd rather have the current-generation Accord's 2.4-liter engine as my soundtrack. The engine isn't exactly comfortable at 6,000 rpm, either, but nor does it feel strained.

In general, I was happy with the responsiveness of our Mazda 6 i's five-speed automatic transmission, but on the Grapevine, it took extra prodding to get it to drop to 3rd in "D," so that manual mode would be useful. I do like the 0.692 top overdrive gear, because it has the engine at 2,500 rpm at 70 mph and only 3,000 rpm at 80 mph.

Overall, this is a powertrain I could live with in a personal car, especially considering the impressive cruising range -- this a 400-mile car, easy-peasy. The only time the Mazda 6 i feels kinda slow is under full throttle coming down an entrance ramp. And really, I think it would have no difficulty keeping up with the four-cylinder Accord, Camry and Malibu we tested last year. First choice is still the Passat 2.0T, though.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,070 miles

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2009 Mazda 6 i: Manual Shift Control

February 13, 2009

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I've found myself using manual shift control on our automatic-equipped 2009 Mazda 6 more than I typically do in other similarly-configured cars. There are three reasons for this: 1) The shift pattern is pull back for upshifts and push forward for downshifts, which is the way it should be -- end of story; 2) The manual gate is towards the driver, so the shift lever feels comfortable and natural to use (too many car companies don't seem to grasp this concept); 3) While acceleration is adequate with the 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine, keeping the transmission in manual mode gives more control over those ponies and grants the bonus of engine braking, as well.

Even though the new 2009 Mazda 6 lost some "sport" in its move to being bigger and better, something like this shows that Mazda didn't sell its soul completely.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Light steering

January 26, 2009

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In terms of day-to-day usefulness, the newly re-jiggered Mazda 6 is as innocuously functional as your everyday Camry or Accord. It feels solidly built, has plenty of room, and in Grand Touring guise, has plenty of bells and whistles to make you feel special on your daily commute. The styling has some nice lines helping hide the car's length, and it keeps the 6 from earning an anonobox label. All good. But if you've been drawn to Mazdas and the previous-gen 6 in particular by their Zoom-Zoom tuning (my brother bought one), you'll almost certainly be disappointed the first time you put the cane to the new 6.

Our 6 i Grand Touring has been a pleasant surprise in the oft overwrought mid-size sedan class, sporting all the cool options to help you feel rich (nav, powered and heated seats, etc.), but with the slightly more frugal four-cylinder powerplant. If you spend most of your time in any sort of commute, this is a sensible combo. Unless loaded with passengers and luggage or seeking pole in the on-ramp grand prix, the stouter V6 is not constantly missed. The chassis feels both stout and athletic, but the real letdown is a distinct lack of steering feedback.

When lapping the Home Depot or Cotsco parking lot, the steering is fine: light and precise. Unfortunately, it stays light though still precise once up to speed. This is fine when chasing interstate miles, but it flat stinks when charging down a decreasing radius off-ramp. The over-boosted tiller makes fine adjustments tricky, and the lack of feedback through the wheel means you have to wait for audible or other chassis clues to tell you when grip is fading. The lifeless steering makes this chassis feel betrayed.

Of course, if you're Mazda, and you're sick if getting waxed in sales because your car isn't tuned for mainstream tastes, you'd probably make the same tuning tweak. Camry people should love this car, getting all the same practical benefit but with some actual style they've been clamoring for. Accord folk would probably notice the lack of steering feel, but probably feel a little richer and enjoy the slightly better road-noise isolation. That just leaves Mazda's Zoom-Zoom faithful, who've lost a low-priced mid-size sedan with real handling spunk. With the 6 out of the sharp-steering mix, have we lost the only driver's car in the class?

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 4,451 miles

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2009 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring: Zoom-Zoom? Try Boom-Roar.

December 26, 2008

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I experienced a moment of clarity when I stomped on our long-term 2009 Mazda 6's throttle for the first time. "Aha!" I exclaimed. "So that's what a combination vacuum cleaner/weedwhacker would sound like!"

I mean, if this were a Camry, then whatever. I expect a Camry to sound like an appliance. But the 6 is made by the "zoom-zoom" company -- so why does its new 2.5-liter four sound so nasty? Our track driver wasn't impressed either. "Too bad the engine is pretty loud and thrashy all the time," reads the performance test sheet.

I've heard rumblings here and there about how the Mazda 6 i with the six-speed manual might be an appealing car for enthusiasts with families. Nope. Not as long as this engine's under the hood.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 3,150 miles

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2009 Mazda6 i Grand Touring: Performance and Fuel Update

December 22, 2008

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How do you like our Mazda's new paint job? Not really, but I found this photo of Mazda's SEMA car and thought I'd share. Pretty cool, eh?

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2009 Mazda6 i Grand Touring: 800-Mile Roadtrip

December 17, 2008

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After wheeling our long-term 2009 Mazda 6 from LA to Phoenix and back last week, I've garnered enough driving impressions to fill three road tests. I'll be brief, though. Suffice it to say that although the 6 has grown up, Mazda has not succumbed to the vapid JD Power-obessed blandification that some of its competition has in their mainstream midsize offerings.

Most notable are the Mazda's precise steering and firm brake pedal. These two driving interfaces alone really separate the 6 from its CamCordBu competition, allowing the Mazda to wink and nod at car enthusiasts. Think of a grown-up Mazda 3 and you're on the right track.

It makes you wonder why don't other manufacturers execute them like Mazda has in the 6. Right, the JD Power thing. To score well there, you must not offend the whiners with "vibrations" such as actual steering feel or "hard" brakes that respond with confidence-inspiring initial bite and linearity. What you get with fixation on JD Power numbers is a Toyota Camry.

Oh, and since I can tell you're champing at the bit for some highway fuel economy numbers, I'll relent. Cruising at 75-82ish mph, air off, the 6 averaged 29.3 mpg.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 2,541 miles.

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 Mazda Mazda6 in VA is:

$130 per month*
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