Going & Stopping
Mazda wisely offers the Mazda6ís four- and six-cylinder engines with a manual transmission and the option of an automatic. The manual, though its gear ratios differ slightly with the engine choice, is a five-speed in both cases. The four-cylinder comes with a four-speed automatic where the V-6 mates to a five-speed. Both automatics include a clutchless-manual mode for drivers who want to shift for themselves.
Trim Level i s
Type 2.3-liter inline-4 3.0-liter V-6
Horsepower 160 @ 6,000 rpm 220 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (lbs.-ft.) 155 @ 4,000 rpm 192 @ 5,000 rpm
Redline 6,500 rpm 6,500 rpm
Required Fuel regular unleaded
(87 octane) regular unleaded
The 2.3-liter four-cylinder is an all-new Mazda engine. The 3.0-liter V-6 sees a lot of duty in other Mazdas and Fords, but this is the first version to offer continuously variable valve timing, on the intake valves. Also employed on the four-cylinder, this technology improves efficiency and emissions at all engine speeds and helps even out torque across the rev range.
My Mazda6 had the V-6 and manual transmission. The V-6 engineís torque peak is very high up the rev range: 5,000 rpm, just 1,500 rpm shy of the upper limit, as reflected in the table above. Though the peak isnít sharp ó the engine tugs reasonably firmly at lower rpm ó I absolutely had to work the shifter when I really wanted to move out quickly. When it comes time to power out of a turn, the lower reaches of the tachometer are wanting. This immediately makes me suspicious of how the car will perform with an automatic, which I hope to test soon. The reason is that automatics tend not to kick down as readily as I like, and with the torque peak at 5,000 rpm, kick down is what the transmission would have to do to make use of the high-rev power.
I have the same concern about the four-cylinder with the automatic, because its torque peak also is relatively high and its transmission has one less gear. In my experience, less-powerful engines do better with more gears, so the situation is a bit flopped here.
My test vehicle had a decent amount of power, and the gear ratios seemed well chosen. The clutch pedal has a good feel and is relatively forgiving. Mazda says it based the shifter on that of the Miata, which explains its relatively short stick and short throws. I had no beef with it in theory, but there was clearly something wonky with the shifter in my test vehicle. Third gear was tough to get into ó it felt like the lever had to go up and to the left. I canít imagine this is the design, so Iím dismissing it as a defect or the result of abuse by another driver. If you know differently, send me a Yo, Joe! e-mail.
The Mazda6ís specs compare reasonably well to the competitionís. Its four-cylinder matches that of the Honda Accord sedan in horsepower, though the Accord has slightly more torque: 161 pounds-feet at 4,500 rpm. Likewise, the Accordís optional V-6 has more torque, 212 pounds-feet at 5,000 rpm, as well as 20 hp more, 240 total. Currently, the Accord doesnít offer a manual transmission with the V-6. Comparing power ratings alone doesnít tell you much, though the curb weight of these vehicles is comparable, and thatís the most significant other factor in acceleration. Still, if you want to know not just how quickly different models accelerate but the characteristics, then you must test-drive them yourself.
By riding my carís manual gears close to the redline before shifting, I was able to sprint from zero to 60 mph in about 7 seconds, perhaps a hair less. Iíd expect the automatic to be slightly slower, which is almost always the case. It also will get slightly lower fuel economy if EPA estimates are correct.
EPA-ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY
(city / highway, mpg)
2.3-liter inline-4 3.0-liter V-6
Manual Transmission 25 / 32 20 / 27
Automatic Transmission 23 / 29 19 / 27
In terms of emissions, the Mazda6 i scores 7 out of 10 (with 10 being the best) in the EPAís Green Vehicle Ratings. The s trim level scores 6 in the national version and 7 for cars sold in more restricted states like California and the Northeast (where an additional $100 charge applies). These ratings are competitive with most cars in the segment. The Honda Accord is the exception, scoring at least 8 in all versions.
Though the Mazda6 platform is designed to accept all-wheel drive, which is available in Europe, front-wheel is the only current offering in the United States. This could change if demand dictates. Traction control comes with the ABS, which is standard on the s trim level and a $400 stand-alone option on the i. The ABS also includes electronic brake-force distribution. Though the ABS has a wheel-rotation sensor at each wheel, it is a three-channel system, which means the rear wheels share a channel. This is a theoretical disadvantage to a four-channel system, but I experienced no ill behavior in my test vehicleís standard four-wheel disc brakes. Had I not read the specs, I never would have known the system had three rather than four channels.
The brakes perform well in normal driving, with decent pedal feel and linearity.
(Photo)The 3.0-liter V-6 is seen in other Mazdas and Fords, but this is the first version with variable valve timing and 220 hp.
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.....