Mazda’s venerable champion in the midsize sedan category is hands-down the most stylish of the bunch. We get a chance to see if the newly turbocharged Mazda6 can back up its dynamic new look.

As the host of Carcadia at Route 66, San Gabriel Valley’s cars and coffee with the most variety on tap (IMHO) — I hear the same story from enthusiasts of all stripes. “I used to have (insert sports car) then the kids came and then I had to get a (station wagon/minivan/SUV).”

Sedans, especially of the Teutonic kind flipped that logic on its head. Throw an AMG, M, or S in front of your sedan nomenclature and all of the sudden your commutes to the PTA meeting are infused with a little of the gusto you had in your 20s. The Japanese eventually embraced this niche with their own performance brands and the Koreans have followed suit.

For my money, I think the Mazda6 is hands-down the strongest contender for the enthusiast-turned-parent purse strings.

That’s a bold statement in a field with models that outsell the Mazda6 by huge multiples (here’s looking at you Camry, Accord, Maxima). But a week behind the wheel of the latest Mazda6 only cemented my respect for the design and engineering renaissance going on at Mazda right now. I always root for the underdog, especially when I think they have a great product.

I’m Too Sexy for My Sedan

I recall a few years ago running into a friend who works at Mazda and sharing that I felt like their designs were now awesome, and that the last time I was that excited was 10+ years ago. Later that day I realized I may have offended him with the “Wow, you lost a lot of weight” kind of compliment.

But to improve you have to acknowledge where you’ve been, and being one of many brands owned by the corporate overlords in Dearborn didn’t do that much to improve the product in my opinion. That has definitely changed as Mazda regained more and more of its independence.

Today the Mazda KODO design language infuses beauty and I’ll just say it — sexiness — across the product line-up, from the CX-9 to the Miata to the Mazda3 and Mazda6. If someone asks me for my recommendation on a vehicle I now find myself always including Mazda. Much of that has to do with my appreciation for the exterior design.

 

 

 

I am befuddled by the design choices certain Japanese OEMs make when it comes to exterior styling, particularly on the fronts of their vehicles. As a car lover, the front of your vehicle is the face to me. I don’t know who goes into a focus group asking for a Predator face or a face that resembles a chrome eagle’s beak fighting its way out of an engine bay. And how about a design language that evolves tastefully over time (ahem…see the 911) versus one that looks like Wikipedia is glitching out when you look up a model’s history.

Not so with the Mazda6. I liked the 2017.5 Mazda6 and I really love the new 2018. It’s gotten even more athletic thanks to more exaggerated sculpting. And the face is downright a chiseled, tasteful work of art. Compare that to any of its direct competitors and tell me you disagree.

 

Turbo Boost!

We’ve all driven cars that look cool but can’t back up their good looks. That’s not the case with the Mazda6, especially in turbocharged trim. With 250 horses on tap, up from 184hp in the previous model, I was excited to race Civic Type R’s while blasting Depeche Mode and relive the early aughts. I must admit the boy-racer in me was a bit disappointed. That’s clearly not what Mazda was going for in boosting the Mazda6.

Instead, what we get is a more powerful, quicker, and yet still balanced and refined driving experience. The turbo gave me more confidence on on-ramps and in passing, but for the most part the buffer 2019 Mazda6 is all about cruising. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth and the gearing fairly intuitive and predictable.

Where things get really fun is in the twisties, after school drop-off (of course). Here, with a lighter payload and no parental guilt to hold me back, I found myself saying “Zoom-Zoom!” even though my right brain reminded me that was 32 (and counting) taglines ago.

Take excellent chassis and suspension set-up and in just enough power, and voila – you have a mid-size sedan that doubles as a time-machine for aging dads with bad backs, if only for a few blissful moments on the soul-crushing slogfest that is L.A. commuting.

If you like to row your own gears, the Sport and Touring trims are the way to go – though you will be stuck with the NA engine and only 187 horsepower. Step up to the Grand Touring Trim and above and you unlock the 2.5-liter turbo.

First Class Interior

The Mazda6 is offered in five trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. MSRP ranges from $22,845 for the Sport all the way up to $35,645 for the top-of-the-line Signature. That is a significant bump in price, no doubt. However after a week in the Mazda6 Signature I’d definitely forgo a year’s worth of eating out for lunch in order to be coddled on my long commute.

After debuting the Signature trim on the CX-9, the product planners have decided to bestow the “Mazda Experience” on the Mazda6 next. What is the Mazda Experience? Simply put, it’s delivering more bang for the buck and surprising owners by combining a design aesthetic and quality materials that could easily be found on more expensive luxury vehicles.

There’s no faux wood here. The Mazda6 Signature features Japanese Sen wood, which is used in Taiko drums. Bolstered seats are made from Deep Chestnut-colored Nappa leather and gilded UltraSuede accents. They are heated and ventilated and provide ample support in highway cruising and spirited driving.

If there was anything I longed for on the interior it was a bigger monitor than the 8″ center display but that seems nit-picky especially when there is a 7″ TFT display behind the steering wheel. The good news in the infotainment department is the addition of CarPlay and Android Auto.

Zoom-Zoom, All Grown Up

Summing it up, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Mazda6 Signature. As a die-hard enthusiast who loves to drive, it’s hard not to have a soft spot for a company that is sticking to its guns and producing vehicles designed to instil driving pleasure regardless of sales volume. Rather than pandering to the mainstream market, Mazda continues to punch above its weight class in terms of design and luxury with vehicles like this.

I hope more people catch on that they have more choices than they think. If I didn’t already have too many cars diverting resources from things like college funds, I’d strongly consider adding a sporty and luxurious sedan like the Mazda6 into the stable to infuse some more driving pleasure in my daily commute.

For more information on the Mazda6 Signature, visit the Mazda website.

2019 Mazda6 Signature 2.5T

Engine & Drivetrain:

SKYACTIV®31-G 2.5T Dynamic Pressue Turbo DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT

Horspower: 250 hp @ 5,000 rpm

Redline 6,300 rpm

EPA Estimated Fuel Economy:

Automatic transmission (city/hwy/combined)2 23 / 31 / 26

Exterior Dimensions:

Wheelbase (in) 111.4
Track, front (in) 62.8
Track, rear (in) 62.4
Length, without license plate holder (in) 192.7
Width (in) 72.4
Height (in) 57.1

Wheels & Tires:

Wheel size 19 x 7.5 aluminum-alloy with Brilliant Silver finish
Tire size P225/45 R19 all-season tires

Chassis:

Brakes 4-wheel disc, diagonal hydraulic
– Front 11.7-inch vented disc
– Rear 10.9-inch solid disc
– ABS 4-wheel, 4-channel with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist
Power assist Electronic power assist steering (EPAS)
Overall steering ratio 15.5:1
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock 2.81
Turning circle, curb-to-curb (ft) 36.7
Suspension 4-wheel independent
– Front MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar
– Rear Multilink with stabilizer bar