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THE JOY OF 6

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Oct 4, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE JOY OF 6

By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

The all-new Mazda 6 is here and it is a breath of fresh air in the hotly contested mid-size sporty sedan segment. The Mazda 6 replaces both the Millennia and 626 and it advances Mazda's priority of providing sports-car exhilaration in all of its products. The new 6s is an affordable, fun-to-drive, stick-shifting sport sedan, one of the best available on the market.

The new Mazda 6s combines aggressive styling, a powerful V6 engine, 5-speed manual front-wheel-drive transmission with agile handling thanks to a refined fully independent suspension riding on 17in. tires/wheels. Inside it is roomier and the buckets seats are more comfortable and supportive. Inside you'll notice new upscale amenities and safety features. There are two Mazda 6 models available, the 6i and 6s. The 6i is powered by a 160hp 2.3liter I-4, delivering 155lb.ft. torque with variable valve timing. It comes with one of the longest lists of standard equipment of any mid-size car. Included in the base model Mazda 6i with manual transmission are 16in. tires/wheels, large 4-wheel disc brakes, and air-conditioning, along with power windows/door locks/mirrors. Also standard are a tilt/telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel, (with audio/cruise control buttons), leather shift knob and boot, dual stainless steel exhaust system with oval chrome tailpipes, large front and rear stabilizer bars, dual front 'smart' airbags, color keyed door handles/mirrors, AM-FM stereo with built in CD player, dual 12volt outlets, one-touch folding 60/40 split rear seatbacks, keyless entry and electric trunk release round out the standard features available on the Mazda 6i for a base price of just $18,500.00.

The Mazda 6s comes with a powerful 220hp 3.0liter delivering 220hp and 192lb.ft. of torque, also with variable valve timing, and all the Mazda 6i's features plus ABS, traction control, 8-way power driver's seats, 16in. 5-spoke aluminum wheels and a perimeter alarm system. The optional 'Sport Package' option that came on my test vehicle includes performance features such as 17in. alloy wheels/performance tires, fog lamps, side sill extensions and a neat rear spoiler. Add the 'Comfort/Leather/Moonroof package, also on my test vehicle, making the all-new flagship Mazda really unique and more appealing to the consumer who wants a mid-size sedan with exhilarating performance. The loaded 6s that I tested was priced at just $25,445.00.

The all-new steel unitized frame is many times stiffer than before and makes a solid foundation for adding all the new styling, engineering and interior detailing. The aggressive looking sheet metal is highlighted with a chiseled hood line, steeply raked windshield, a new interpretation of the Mazda grille and very slim multi-element head and tail lamps behind clear lenses. The lower bumper has a big center air-intake with smaller side intakes. The new 6s has a sporty profile with strong, angular beltline, low skirting with the flared fenders nicely stuffed with 17X7in. tires/wheels. Dual exhaust tips and an integrated rear deck spoiler give a hint at what lies under the skin. Lift the hood and check out the 3.0liter all-aluminum, DOHC, 60-degree V6 engine that uses Mazda's variable-length induction runners, variable intake-valve heads, roller-finger cam followers with hydraulic tappets, and magnesium valve covers making this engine very powerful and quick revving. This engine runs on 87octane-unleaded fuel to save you money. The 5-speed manual front-wheel drive transmission easily handles the 220hp and provides lots of rev power to quickly scale the red-line area of the tachometer and blast you down the road. The shifter is quick and very accurate but the linkage felt a bit spongy and could be firmer. The moderate-effort clutch engagement felt right making the driveline flexible enough to cruise comfortably on the highway, enjoy some spirited driving on curving roads, or to take care of your daily errands and driving needs around town in traffic.

The Mazda 6 suspension is one of the best in its class as I never really experience any understeer or oversteer when I pushed to the limit. It feels light and sure-footed with quick reflexes when called upon. Up front are upper and lower control arms, MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. The rear features a multi-link setup with coil springs, gas charged shocks, and anti-roll bar. The power-assisted rack & pinion steering system is a perfect match for this race-tuned suspension with great on-center and feel for the road. The big steel disc brakes safely slow the Mazda 6s down from speed and ABS insures that you control the direction of the car during severe situations. Up front are 11.1in. vented rotors with dual piston calipers while the rear brake rotors measure 11.0in. and clamped with a single piston caliper. Helping to give you a great comfortable ride with the added ability to travel really fast on the straight-aways, then be able to slice through curving roads with little tire squeal are big sporty, 5-spoke, 17X7in. aluminum alloy wheels wrapped by Michelin 215/50R17in. Pilot HX MXM4 performance tires.

Mazda's new 6s can accelerate from 0mph to 60mph in just 6.6sec., cover the 1/4mi. in 15.1sec. at 94mph. Handling is quick and precise in evidence on the 600ft. slalom as the 6s went through at 63.9mph, faster than any other new mid-size sedan priced under $30,000.00. Braking was also excellent as the Mazda 6s slowed from 60mph to 0mph in just 121ft. The newly designed interior is roomier than before and the seats feel more comfortable and supportive. The door open wide to reveal new levels of enjoyment when driving the new 6. The red-light instrument cluster is easy to see and understand with big, silver bezeled, 140mph speedo and 8,000rpm tach and smaller gauges for fuel and coolant temperature. Bright LED readouts warn of system or safety failure. The stick shifter is right were it belongs for easy use. The highlight is the big, alumi-tone center control stack. While I don't like a lot of phony plastic, it works well because all the knobs and dials are big and easy to use. I would like to have the parking brake put on the far side of the center console you it is easier to grasp. You'll find storage in each door, in the flip-up dual-upholder bin, in the glove box, and in a center console with flip up lid. The Bose AM-FM/CD stereo system is great to listen to and comes with 7-premium speakers. Other features inside include thick pile carpeting, floor mats, grab handles above each door, rear flip-down center console with 2-cupholders, map lamps and vario-speed wipers/washers.

You and your passengers are safer than ever with standard front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door, 3-point safety belts for 5-passengers, front air-bags, and optional side and rear curtain airbags. While the all-new Mazda 6 maybe a little late in the game, it delivers an affordable choice with spirited driving characteristics and room for 5 passengers.

COPYRIGHT:2003:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

For more 6 check out www.mazda.com More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: $18,000.00-$25,445.00 Engine type: 3.0 liter DOHC, all-aluminum 90-degree V6 Horsepower: 220 at 6,300rpm Torque: 192lb.ft. at 5,000rpm Drive cofiguration: front engine/front wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual Suspension: Front - MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear - Multi-link, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels/Tires: 17X7in. aluminum alloy/ 215/50R17in. Michelin Pilot Performance tires Brakes: front-11.1in. vented discs, twin piston caliper. Rear-11.0in. solid disc with single piston caliper. ABS/EBD optional Overall length: 186.8in. Overall width: 70.1in . Overall height: 56.7in. Curb weight: 3,243lbs. EPA mileage: 20mpg/city/27mpg/highway 0-60mph: 6.67sec.

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