The Turbocharged Move Upmarket of An Old Favorite

2018 Mazda6 Signature
2018 Mazda6 Signature – All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Mazda6

Since the day it returned to its "Zoom-Zoom" roots, I loved the Mazda6.

Three generations of this car showed me the kind of gumption Mazda had – and, sometimes, with the help of Ford – to demonstrate that a mid-sized sedan can be sporty and exciting while providing the right amount of space, content, and performance an enthusiast-driven family wanted.

There were some highlights along the way. The Mazdaspeed6 was iconic in the way it delivered big turbo power with an all-wheel-drive system. The third generation 6 brought a new combination of Skyactiv and KODO towards delivering a touring sedan within its class. Through every generation, I looked forward to taking my turn in one to regain that feeling I had when I took over my brother's 1979 626 coupe back in my collegiate days.

Yet, we wanted more from Mazda's premier product. We were promised a diesel that we never got in the last generation. We also wanted a bit more space for families or colleagues to tote around. While on the subject of the diesel, we really wanted more power and excitement that befitted Mazda's heritage, even under the guise of Skyactiv.

2018 Mazda6 Signature

Of course, there is a plot twist. Through the recent experience of the CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs, there is a campaign to elevate Mazda towards the luxury end of the marketplace. While the CX-5 and CX-9 showed these upmarket aspirations, the fact that a premium brand buyer would want a more enthusiast-oriented sedan than an SUV. The numbers show otherwise, but you can always argue on the side of desire than necessity, right?

A year ago, we got a glimpse at the new Mazda6. And, we lapped it up! It took a progressive evolutionary approach in overall execution, with a dash of luxury and performance. Or, was it more than a dash?

The one thing that can be addressed here is how the Mazda6 continues to evolve into a sedan that speaks beyond its lines. It may look familiar to many eyes, but there had been some evolution in terms of the grille, headlamps, roofline, and rear deck. You will find a bit more chrome and shinier bits than before. The lines are sharper and bolder – that includes the grille shape, the narrower headlamps and taillight assemblies.

Still, it fulfills its original mission perfectly – to a be a sportier mid-sized sedan for the enthusiast with a family. However, its upmarket aspirations created a new spin on this car by elevating the details on the Signature trim. One person thought that the Mazda6 looked like an Infiniti Q60. That sounds like a compliment to me. It also shows how much the Mazda is being considered premium when it starts being compared to other higher level vehicles.

2018 Mazda6 Signature

Having the Signature affirms the aspirations Mazda is looking to accomplish. It is absolutely the poshest interior ever crafted by the company. Posher than the crushed velour in the 1976 Cosmo? Posher then the Millenia or a 929?

The answer is "yes" to all of the above! The quality of leather in the seats – contrasted by the Chestnut upholstery to the black and silver trims all around it – is almost to the level of a soft Italian hide. They are also very comfortable – and supportive. The driver and front passenger have great space, while rear seat passengers have decent rear seat space. Taller passengers may have to negotiate the rakish roofline.

Trunk space is generous and nicely laid out. You can load 14.7 cubic feet of stuff behind the rear seats – and, yes, they do fold down for longer items.

The instrument binnacle gets more TFT screen usage for the Mazda6. The speedometer now features a series of screens inside of it for trip and vehicle functions and data. There are now two mini gauges on each side of the speedometer – one to monitor fuel range, the other for MPG. The tachometer, temperature and gas gauges flank each side of the new screen.

Mazda Connect drives the screen sitting on top of the instrument panel. The knob on the console controls the screen with several buttons right by it for specific functions. You can use the steering wheel controls for volume and pre-set/track changes. New to this system is the connectivity of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which truly augments the Mazda Connect System. Bose supplies 11 speakers throughout the cabin using their Centerpoint surround sound technology.

2018 Mazda6 Signature

Normal Mazda6 models get the familiar 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder with. This Signature model gets something added to this solid engine – boost! By adding a turbocharger to this engine, power is up to 250 horsepower with 310 pound-feet of torque. This engine also appears as standard on the CX-9, which I am also very familiar with.

In the Mazda6, the turbo simply changes everything. It has more passing power, it gets up to speed with ease and it loves fall weather. As with the CX-9, to get the maximum benefit of the turbo's performance, you can fill it up with Premium fuel. Speaking of fuel, the Mazda6 with the SKYACTIV-G Turbo turned an average of 25.9 MPG.

The Mazda 6 Signature may be posh on the inside, but it acts like a Mazda on the road. The ride quality is terrific on smoother surfaces, but the suspension system works hard to absorb through the rougher sections. Where you find Mazda’s sweet spot is how it handles through the corners and the occasional evasive maneuver. It does so with confidence and some swagger. It cuts through the corners precisely and flat. It also responds to every move you see to avoid trouble on the road.

Which brings me to the steering system. Though it feels a bit on the light side in Normal mode, you can weigh down the wheel by switching it to Sport. Mainly, Sport mode is designed for longer gear holds and more aggressive shifts. It also helped to gain some control over tighter corners. The turning radius is good with a solid response from the thick-rimmed steering wheel. The brakes are good with excellent pedal feel and response. They also showed superb stops in normal and panic situations.

2018 Mazda6 Signature

If you are looking for driver's assistance features, the Mazda6 Signature has you covered. I like its adaptive cruise control system, where it does slow down when the car in front does so. It adjusts well to various traffic conditions.

The aspirational Mazda6 starts off with great value in the Sport model equipped with a manual transmission. Base price for that model is $21,950. My Signature tester came with a sticker price of $36,435 – about the base price of the Mazda6’s more luxurious and premium-branded competitors.

The Mazda6 may have moved forward from its "Zoom-Zoom" revival. It has emerged as the enthusiast's choice for family mid-sized sedans. Now, it has higher ambitions upwards in the marketplace. Has it achieved that? Not entirely.

Let me talk you through the Mazda6 lineup to explain my answer. For those looking for an affordable, sporty mid-sized sedan, you can still get that in the Mazda6 Sport and Touring models. If you want a quick, superb handling sedan – a step up to the Mazda6 Grand Touring is a step in the right direction. However, if you want a glimpse at where Mazda wants to go – one drive in the Signature model is indeed where the brand wants to be.

2018 Mazda6 Signature

If we strip down to the bare essentials and concentrate on the car itself, then the newest Mazda6 is a magnificent automobile. This new generation model brought more focus on performance and driving dynamics than before. The Signature model is not just the icing on the cake – it is an added layer that speaks to Mazda’s future.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Mazda North American Operations

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