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#826 of 2226 Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring
Aug 16, 2008 (2:34 pm)
So we took out a Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring.
Well approaching the car it looks far better than pictures would indicate. There's a strong family resemblance to the RX8 and Mazda3. The front and sides seem nicely sculpted. The raked windshield and high beltline with tall trunk creates a nice illusion of forward motion. The trunk is probably the 6's best angle as there's a nice combination of shapes colliding to create an interesting view. The car looks almost expensive but not quite so it's questionable if the chrome adds or detracts from the appearance. It's a mature brother to the Mazda3, but downright plain beside the RX8 (unfair as most everything looks plain by a RX8). The massive number of scratches decorating this brand new car makes me think either the delivery people were careless or the dealer doesn't know how to detail. Anyway, is the Mazda6 posing or is it legitimately nice?
Inside the interior's comfy, roomy and feels almost european. Pull open the lightish doors and you're greeted by soft-touch plastics on the upperside of the door. The actual door handle on the interior, sadly, is covered by an ultra-cheap gray plastic. Why give the area you touch daily such an economy-car feel?
Slide onto the soft front seats and you've got a nice cockpit layed out. The small, meaty steering wheel with tilt and telescope feels pretty darn solid, pushing a sense that this might be a driver's car. The wheel's adorned with a variety of buttons and switches - too many and they all feel brittle. Beyond the wheel the view of the tach and speedo is nice...sadly with this an automatic transmission vehicle the tach's sort of a joke.
The center stack's decked out like the Accord. In other words there's a gazillion buttons and switches and it's all so very overdone with an eye toward appearing important but really with no concept of keeping things simple. Buttons seems to exist for everything on the dash - too much clutter. What's up with the stereo controls? Really, do we need so many buttons for what really amounts to a few basic needs: on/off, mode, up/down, volume up/down. The rotary HVAC seemed to function fine and intuitively, while the car's AC blew comfortably throughout the drive. The lack of rear AC vents is a big oversight though. At the top of the center stack you'll also see Mazda's now ubiquitous info center. This was great on the 3. At this point it's just silly on this car. Traveling across the dash there's a line of some kind of weird tacky plastic wood. This same plasto-wood adorns the center console. Overall the dash layout feels busy and poorly planned.
Before pressing the start button - illogically placed on the bottom of the center stack - I adjusted my seat. It's a big, soft seat. The creamy-white leather on the test car with 40 miles on it already had a variety of black marks. Wow this stuff will not age well. The seat controls reside at the back portion of the lower left of the seat - apparently the psychotic idiots from VWAG got at this car as seat controls seemed a low priority for the 6.
After making some adjustments to the seats a few things became clear. The steering wheel's mix tilt/telescope and size is fantastic! The seats have no thigh or back support. It's just a flat, soft seat. No amount of adjustments could change this. Overall it was clear the seats were not designed for aggressive driving.
Firing up the six you hear...nothing. This is a GT, and no we don't want to hear the engine bark to life. I eased the car into drive and then accelerated. Woosh. The car moves silently and with easy authority. Without pressing hard the giant V6 swiftly and easily propels this car. Throughout the drive the 6 seemed to have ample power on hand. At WOT throttle the car just rocked back and moved as if a giant hand were pressing us like a matchbox car.
The 6 speed automatic mostly shifts seamlessly. No, this isn't stupid-smooth like the DSG's easy shifting but for the most part it seemed the 6 was well sorted. Why this car lacks a freeway cruising gear is a mystery though. The first 5 speeds can be arranged to give the car some aggressive driving while that 6th gear could be ultra-tall for relaxed freeway. In typical Mazda fashion, the gearing isn't sorted correctly. Almost come to a stop, hit the gas and the 6 speed can't decide what to do. The car will buck and then launch forward. Automatics still have a ways to go...
Overall, while underway the Mazda6's suspension soaks up the road with aplomb. We drove a pockmarked, crazy awful road and the 18s absorbed everything. Nothing gets through to the cabin. The car's quiet and smooth. Road noise was really muted, we could carry on a conversation with backseat passengers easily. Heck, the AC made more noise than the engine or road.
Sadly, that really soft suspension also meant that steering feel was vague and turn-in felt more like my Grandpa's old Park Avenue. I drive this same crazed pocked-marked, s-filled road on my way home from work daily. In my wife's A3, my Cooper and my BMWs this road is straight up fun. Even without going hard this can be a fun road. In the new Mazda6 this road felt like it was far too challenging for the car's nose-heavy design and soft suspension. Understeer is the name of the game and every corner required far more input and weight adjustment than I would like to excerise at such simple speeds. If the corner caution sign said 30, then 40-45 was really pressing the 6. 50 could be found but this required really pushing the chassis/tire/suspension combo far more than I liked.
By the time we reached one of my favorite feeder roads to Interstate 8 I knew the Mazda6 was no longer a fun, euro-like little car. This thing had been thoroughly Accorded. That banked 30 mph corner I take at 60 in my Cooper and BMW would be a challenge for the 6 at even 45. The front kept plowing, the rear refusing to come around with out more judicious use of the brakes.
The freeway drive was quiet and serene. At that point I no longer cared. The tach did show an engine running way too high at 80 mph though...again, what's wrong with Mazda's gearing?
While we get S-plan pricing, there's little chance I will return for the Mazda6 when I buy in a few months. As my wife pointed out on the drive home after the test drive - the car simply wasn't lively enough to be a daily driver. Yes it's roomy, looks pretty nice, the interior's nice and the engine's crazy smooth but the chassis/suspension/tire combo of the car makes me think I wouldn't pay more than 18-19k for the car. Anything more and I begin to think about a used 2006 e90 BMW. or a new GTI 4 door or Jetta Wagon TDI. I'd rather drop 20-22k on a used Bimmer and have a car that will be far more fun to drive day in and day out. Or spend 23-25k on new VWs and get a more rewarding european drive and much better gas mileage,
#827 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [blueguydotcom]
Aug 16, 2008 (2:41 pm)
Thanks for the thorough review. Hard to believe that on a $30k+ car there is no lumbar support adjustment!
#828 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [blueguydotcom]
Aug 16, 2008 (4:10 pm)
The tach was running way too high at 80 mph? What was it running?
I had it at 70 mph and about 2000 rpm, which is relatively low compared with other contemporary cars I've driven. Can't imagine it was much higher at 80 mph. "Way too high" seems like an exaggeration. But then, maybe I'm out of touch with the cars the Mazda6 competes against. Maybe they're much lower in their rpms on the highway. Don't know. Do you?
#829 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [backy]
Aug 16, 2008 (4:12 pm)
Actually, there is a lumbar support adjustment on the driver's seat, though I can't say that it accomplishes much one way or the other. It's a manual knob you turn, on the side of the seat bottom.
#830 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [austinman7]
Aug 16, 2008 (4:35 pm)
Yeah there's lumbar but that wouldn't really influence the side bolsters or the seat bottom support.
As for RPMs I seem to recall thinking the engine was running high at 80. I really would love for someone to explain why this V6 only gets 25 mpg with a 6 speed auto.
#831 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [blueguydotcom]
Aug 16, 2008 (4:52 pm)
OK, from your review it seemed there wasn't any lumbar adjustment. Looks like there is one, but it doesn't provide sufficient back support. Again, pretty surprising on a $30k car, since I own a $13k car with an excellent driver's seat including an effective lumbar adjustment. Why can't carmakers get the simple details right? It's not rocket science.
#832 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [backy]
Aug 16, 2008 (5:00 pm)
I couldn't agree more (about all cars should have lumbar support adjustment). I have a perfectly nice '04 Accord LX without lumbar adjustment. The lumbar support is far too agressive for me, so I have to hang a thin pad at the top of the seat back to even the support out from top to bottom. Ridiculous.
Just out of curiosity, what is your $13K car with lumbar adjustment? Maybe I'll buy one of those.
#833 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [austinman7]
Aug 16, 2008 (5:15 pm)
Well, you can't anymore (new anyway)--'04 Elantra GT with two (count 'em) height adjusters and lumbar support. New ones don't have as nice a seat (of course). Mazda used to use the same kind of dual height adjuster (e.g. Protege, MPV)--they don't anymore either. "OK, we got this right---now let's take it away!"
#834 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [blueguydotcom]
Aug 16, 2008 (7:36 pm)
I got a chance to spend about 10 min behind the wheels of a i Touring version (4-cyl) today. I also sat in a GT and the GT's fit and finish is top notch and seems a big step from the sport, especially the chrome finishes on the knobs and that beautiful finish on the center console that are in the GT model. Didn't get to check out the audio system.
But more importantly noticed two things that were disappointing. First was, whenever I started the car from stop, a vibration (almost a mild shudder) went thru the gas pedal and I could feel that also on the steering wheel. Not sure if it's because of the 4-cyl or if this is specific to the vehicle that I drove. Other than this, the car was peppy enough for most situations.
But the second one was that the steering was too light and almost dead in the center - a small input slightly to either side from the center had no effect. I was surprised at this because I feel even my CX-9 has a better weighted, responsive steering. I expected the 6 to do much better in this area - I always thought if Mazda could make my huge/heavy 7 seater give such good feedback it would be able to do much better with the 6 but apparently not.
I'm going to test drive the 's' version just to see if the 18-inch wheels would make a difference, but I'm not too hopeful on that.
Other than my CX-9 and this 2009 6, I haven't driven any other Mazda. May be I was expecting a little too much from a car in this class, but my CX-9 and all the reviews of the past 6 made me think that the 2009 6 would be much more fun that what it turned out to be.
#835 of 2226 Re: Drove the 2009 Mazda6 V6 Grand Touring [blueguydotcom]
Aug 16, 2008 (7:43 pm)
Thanks for the review.
You seem to come away a bit negative and disappointed.
I can't help but wonder… A3, mini, BMX(3?)… I am not sure you are really comparing the 6 to anything in the segment… or suggesting any 'real' alternative. These are all 15 -24" smaller… as are all the 'used' options you suggest.
It just strikes me that expectations on performance and price criteria were unrealistic.
I am attracted to this car and am torn between a 6 and a Legacy GT. Mostly for the obvious lack of AWD and MT.
I don't believe there is a sport sedan in the segment… maybe the Legacy after a suspension tune for $600 and some tires.
The 6 is not, nor should it be viewed as a sport sedan, but rather a sedan with sporting appeal. Just MHO.