Spunky 6 shows Mazda's new vision
By Mark Rechtin
Automotive News / October 14, 2002
2003 MAZDA6 2002 MAZDA 626
Wheelbase 105.3 in. 105.1 in.
Length 186.8 in. 187.4 in.
Width 70.1 in. 69.3 in.
Height 56.7 in. 55.1 in.
Curb weight 3,042 lbs. 2,864 lbs.
Base engine 2.3-liter I-4 2.0-liter I-4
Power 160 hp @ 6,000 rpm 125 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 155 lbs.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm 127 lbs.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
Top engine 3.0-liter V-6 2.5-liter V-6
Power 220 hp @ 6,300 rpm 165 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 192 lbs.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm 161 lbs.-ft. @ 5,000 rpm
LOS ANGELES - Mazda is preparing to launch what it calls "the best Mazda ever built" into a mid-sized sedan segment crowded with such formidable competitors as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The Mazda6 replaces the dour 626 and the high-tech Millenia, taking both the mainstream and flagship positions for Mazda sedans.
The sedan version will go on sale in December, and production starts next week. Five-door hatchback and wagon variants will arrive in mid-2003.
Although other Mazdas have been launched since the realignment of the automaker's product planning philosophy, the 6 is the first to deliver the template of "stylish, insightful and spirited," said Charlie Hughes, president of Mazda North American Operations.
Mazda engineers say they benchmarked the BMW 3 series for its handling and braking, even though that car is considerably more expensive and is rear-wheel drive. But Hughes said such a comparison was necessary for a car intended to reach the 25 percent of sedan buyers who want something more than a people hauler.
The base inline-four engine is a new Mazda design, built in four locations globally. U.S. vehicles will get the engine built in Chihuahua, Mexico.
It features dual exhaust, sequential valve timing on the intake cam and a balance shaft to reduce secondary vibrations. The latter feature has been removed from some competitors as a cost-saving measure.
The four-cylinder will be offered with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
The V-6 is a variant of the Ford Duratec 3.0 liter with aluminum block and head, and variable valve timing. Made in the United States, it will offer a choice of a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
The four-cylinder model will be called the Mazda6i, and the V-6 version will be tagged the Mazda6s. Executives deflected questions about why the car is called the Mazda6 when it seats five occupants and the bulk of consumers will buy the four-cylinder model.
Mazda's main message will involve the car's handling.
The front suspension is a double-wishbone design with a high upper mount to widen the distribution of cornering load and to increase lateral and camber rigidity, said Ruben Archilla, manager of what Mazda calls its "product excellence team."
The rear suspension uses a trailing arm and three lateral links. Although technically an 18-year-old design, it has been significantly upgraded. Steering is rack-and-pinion, with a quick 2½ turns from lock-to-lock.
Brakes are four-wheel discs with ABS.
Inside, the center console is narrow and finished in faux brushed metal. Controls and instruments glow orange at night.
Strong standard features
Although value is no longer the car's basic message, the Mazda6 will offer a strong list of standard features, including 16-inch wheels, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, AM/FM/CD stereo, keyless locks with ignition immobilizer, and a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise-control buttons.
The Mazda6 will be one of two vehicles built at the AutoAlliance plant in Flat Rock, Mich., near Detroit. The other is presumed to be the next Ford Mustang.
The line is flexible enough to run sedan, wagon and hatchback versions at the same time, said Bill Cumbaa, AutoAlliance assistant general manager.
Mazda's part of the plant can build 120,000 vehicles on straight time, 150,000 with overtime.
$60 million launch
Although Mazda says it is targeting "enthusiasts" with the sedan, the main thrust of its marketing plan will be traditional, focusing on major sporting events and prime-time television.
Mazda will spend an estimated $60 million on the launch, or twice what it did for Tribute sport wagon.
Instead of a quick-but-massive hit of advertising, the launch will run through June.
The ad message will reach out to consumers dissatisfied with practical sedan offerings, said Kristen Simmons, Mazda vice president of marketing.
Simmons said the Mazda6 will be positioned as: "The affordable sports sedan for me is finally here."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....