2009 Mazda6 i Grand Touring: Performance and Fuel Update
December 22, 2008
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?
Some of you have been asking for our initial track-test results, a driving impression, and a fuel economy update. I hear you and humbly obey...
As you know from the car's intro, instead of the headline-grabbing 272-hp V6 Mazda6s, we chose the 170-hp 4-cylinder Mazda6i because it's more relevant to the uncertainty of the economy (though you wouldn't know it from the price of gas right now -- I just paid $1.95/gal this morning -- what the heck?) and it competes better with its nemeses, the hyper-popular 4-cylinder Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The EPA has rated the 4-cylinder model with the 5-speed automatic like ours at 22-mpg in the city, and an impressive 30-mpg on the highway.
Thus far, our car has piled on 3,143 miles, and during that time, it has earned an average of 24.2 mpg; the least-frugal fill-up showed 19.5 mpg (but that included track testing) and Jay's still got the record by eking out 29.1 mpg during his road trip. We're not bashful drivers, so those figures are pretty impressive. Good fuel economy doesn't mean a car has to suck.
Here are the track-test results with driver comments:
Mazda6i Grand Touring Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 5A) - 2,569 miles
3,383 lbs (61% front /39% rear)
Michelin Energy MxV4 S8 (32 psi/32 psi)
215/55R17 93V (front and rear)
0-60 = 9.1 sec (8.8 with 1 ft. rollout)
1/4 mi = 16.8 sec @ 83.3 mph
Some wheelspin is good, and in the case of the Mazda6i, more is better. That shouldn't be a surprise, though, with a 3,383-pound car that has 167-lb-ft of torque, it needs revs to make power. That said, a 9-sec zero-to-sixty is nothing to be ashamed of. Too bad the engine sounds so overburdened doing it.
60-0 = 125 ft
A nice firm pedal and rapid-fire ABS controller keep things consistently confident. Moderate dive but no wiggle or shudder.
Skidpad = 0.84g
(ESP off) Impressive grip and a surprisingly neutral chassis with a hint of oversteer on the limit if you step off the throttle abruptly. It's easy to steer the car with the throttle alone. Steering is talkative but not heavy.
Slalom = 63.2 mph
Excellent turn-in and yaw response, but as the tires' limits approach, the rear of the car begins to step out. The chassis is lively which means it'll actually oversteer (unusual for a front-driver), but we wouldn't want to discourage this kind of enthusiast-style suspension tuning. More tire (like on the Mazda6s V6) would settle it down a bit.
That covers the testing, but what about the driving impressions? Because the engine has to work relatively hard to maintain pace with the unpredictable L.A. traffic patterns, I found myself using the manual gate for the transmission quite often--both in bummer-to-bummer traffic and for passing. Huge bonus to Mazda for knowing that an upshift is a pull and a downshift is a push on the lever.
Even if the engine noise is a little "over" present at times, there's very little road- or wind-noise. The suspension lands on the good side sporty/soft equation without being intrusive, and I prefer it to those of the Altima (which often feels brittle and stiff-legged) and Camry (that's pillowy and floaty). Even with the enthusiast tuning, the Mazda's ability to envelop road irregularities is very good.
I love the intelligent key and push-button start. The sleek, little lozenge never has to come out of my pocket, but I still find myself going for a starter on the steering column instead of at the base of the center stack.
Speaking of steering, I also love the redundant controls on the steering wheel, and again, bonus points for having them lit at night, but only the buttons themselves light up and not the labels associated with them. For instance, I couldn't remember how to turn on and set the cruise control and couldn't tell which toggle switches did what in the dark.
That said, I really like the Mazda6. The styling alone sets it apart from all the Accords and Camrys out there, and the fact that even the 4-cylider model drives with something approaching sport-sedan enthusiasm is reason enough to consider one.
Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 3,144 miles