It’s hard to find anything in life that gives more value than it requires in payment. That’s especially true with new cars and their ever-increasing prices.
However, Mazda bucks the trend by offering a taste of high-class living on a middle-class income. The heavily redesigned 2018 Mazda6 in range-topping Signature trim is unquestionable proof.
Turbo power is here. Finally
The first thing you need to know about the updated Mazda6 is that it’s now offered with a turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. Mazda is known for their Zoom Zoom branding, and thanks to the optional 2.5-liter turbo four, the 6 doesn’t disappoint. The Skyactive engine makes 227 horsepower on 87 octane and an impressive 250 horsepower on 93. Torque is even more surprising, with 310 pound-feet available at only 2,000 rpm regardless of the octane rating. Maximum horsepower is available at 5,000 rpm.
The result is a sprint to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. Highway overtaking is even better, with Car & Driver recording a 30 to 50 mph jump in just 3.2 seconds. Mazda has somehow dialed out turbo lag; in fact, if you don’t know that there’s a turbo under the bonnet, you could easily mistake the 2.5-liter unit for a naturally aspirated one.
Mazda’s engineers did their homework on controlling torque steer as well. The leather-wrapped steering wheel barely gives any indication all 310 pound-feet are twisting through the front wheels. A smart, six-speed automatic caps the powertrain. Its gearing is well spaced and its shifts are quick. Paddles and a +/- gate on the shifter allow for manual control. Sport mode keeps the revs high and allows faster gear changes, while the engine has a sharper throttle response.
Handling and braking are equal parts of the Zoom Zoom mantra and the 6 has those locked down. The 225-wide all-season tires are its Achilles heel when pushed extremely hard, but otherwise, the 6 turns with a crisp response and remains flat through corners. The brakes are very responsive and give confidence to the driver.
When not bombing over a curvy back road, the 6 returns a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride. The EPA estimates fuel consumption at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Those looking for better economy should stick with the base, non-turbo 2.5-liter engine. It returns 26/35/29 mpg while delivering 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. This engine also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission in the Sport trim.
The powertrain isn’t the only highlight of the facelift, as Mazda gave the 6 a body massage, reworking and slightly remolding the exterior for 2018. The result is a stunningly beautify sedan with balanced proportions and an air of aggression. Just look at that grille and front fenders. No lines clash or end awkwardly, but rather seamlessly meld into a cohesive mass of forward-leaning momentum.
Sculpted and detailed taillights replace the comparatively dull units from last year, too. Dual, chrome-tipped exhaust pipes hint at the turbocharged mill under the hood. The 6 even rolls on 10-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels in a gunmetal gray finish that matches the grille insert.
Smaller bits of chrome help add character to the 6’s body. These include the chrome accents along the front bumper’s lower edge, the window surround, and the horizontal bar connecting the taillights.
Impressive Interior Accommodations
Open the solid-feeling driver’s door, and the Mazda6 Signature’s brown, black and chrome interior instantly impresses. The overall appearance is reserved and well designed. There’s even suede trim on the dashboard. The interior is devoid of the numerous buttons and overdone aesthetics that plague many premium sedans and overwhelm non-tech savvy drivers.
Rather, the 6’s interior is inviting and mature, yet somehow offers all the right controls for everything. There is no need to fumble through the infotainment system to adjust the heated and cooled seats, either, like say, in the 2018 Lexus LC500h we recently tested. Instead, you just press the clearly marked buttons on the HVAC control panel.
The Signature trim boasts a configurable gauge cluster with a 7.0-inch center TFT screen. There aren’t too many menu pages; just info about the adaptive cruise control, two trip computers, and a full needle for the speedometer. The head-up display shows a digital speedometer, along with traffic sign recognition and speed limit signs. A digital fuel gauge even displays the remaining mileage.
An 8.0-inch, tablet-style infotainment screen protrudes from the center dash. No, despite its looks, it doesn’t retract. It does, however, offer control via touch and the main control buttons on the center console. The screen’s graphics are pretty good, though not class-leading. The software is easy to navigate and use while driving. GPS navigation, SiriusXM, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity are present, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing. Still, there’s very little that detracts from the user’s experience. Mazda’s put together a solid system.
The Japanese automaker didn’t devote all its attention to the front occupants, either. The rear seats offer an impressive ride with plenty of leg and headroom. HVAC vents and heated seats keep passengers comfy, while a folding center armrest includes cup holders and two USB ports. The 6’s interior space somehow exceed what the exterior dimensions suggest. Grown adults won’t complain about an all-day road trip back here. What’s more, the trunk is large enough for four adults’ weekend luggage and covered hinges keep things from getting smashed.
Enthusiasts have their fancies tickled with the 6’s greasy bits and eye-catching aesthetics, but Mazda didn’t forget about the safety conscious folks either. The Mazda6 Signature comes standard with all the modern active safety systems required to achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award (though the 2018 hasn’t been evaluated as of this writing).
These safety features are bundled under Mazda’s i-ActiveSense system and include Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go function, Smart Brake Support, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, High Beam Control, Adaptive Headlights with LED bulbs and a 360-degree camera system.
Many of these features are available throughout the 6’s trim range at an extra cost. The passive safety systems, namely twin front airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and front side-impact airbags, are standard across the board.
The 2018 Mazda6 is an impressive sedan with a wide range of features, tech gadgets, and powertrain offerings. It’s surprising, then, to see Mazda price it so aggressively. The base Sport starts at $21,950 with its six-speed manual transmission and naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Stepping up to the six-speed automatic adjusts the price to $23,000. Above the Sport are the Touring ($25,700), Grand Touring ($29,200), Grand Touring Reserve ($31,700), and the Signature ($34,750).
The Signature trim comes with all the bells and whistles save for three extra-cost paint options and minor accessories like all-weather floor mats and cargo nets for the trunk. Our test car came with the $595 Soul Red paint, $75 cargo mat and $125 scuff plates. Add in the (unavoidable) $890 delivery charge, and the total package came to $36,435. That’s a very solid price for a seductive sedan with the equipment you’d expect on a car costing 10 grand more.
The value proposition dramatically increases when comparing that price to those of popular crossovers and SUVs. Get past the want of sitting high in traffic and you can have a fully loaded Mazda6 for the same price as an entry or mid-level crossover. Sure, it all boils down to personal preference, but it’s impossible to miss the 6’s champagne offering on a beer budget.