The good-looking gray ghost in my old garage at Chateau Box rarely made any noise.
It never clanked and banged around or moaned at the moon. It didn’t even scare my globally warmed, Chihuahua-sized mice away, but then, the 2017 Mazda 6 – my alluring ghost – has long been pretty silent in the mid-size sedan segment, a shimmering vision few people seem to have seen.
It deserves better.
Inside and out, the 6 is simply the best-looking, best-driving mid-sizer on the market and might well be the best overall car in that sprawling group. However, most of the people I encountered last week had no clue what the shapely sedan was.
A few mistook it for some sort of German sports sedan or possibly an Acura – though, of course, that assumed Acura had finally figured out how to design a sedan.
I just don’t get it – or the fact that Mazda sold only 45,500 models of the 6 last year, one-ninth the number of Camrys that Toyota peddled.
Infused with Mazda’s “Kodo” design theme, my metallic-gray Grand Touring model flashed proportions and style that made it feel $10,000 more expensive than its $34,530 window-sticker.
Up front, a bold, flat grille was flanked by angry wrap-around headlamps and topped by a long, slightly raised hood – lines you would expect to find on a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, not a mid-sized front-driver.
A fairly subtle character line sort of squared off the top of the front fender, while two other lines brought some tautness to the mostly flat sides. Meanwhile, a sleek top and raked-back windshield and rear window added more distinctive spice to the sporty mix.
One of my favorite touches was a tiny, tasteful lip spoiler on the short trunk – a great less-is-more element.
While I’ve grown extremely tired of dark wheels, the glossy, gray spoked 17-inch wheels on the 6 looked pretty darn good wrapped in 225/45 tires.
Now if we could just get Mazda to breathe some more life into the 2.5-liter four beneath the hood, the 6’s one weak link, I thought.
Rated at 184-horsepower, the so-called SkyActiv powertrain remains smooth and relatively refined, but it also is still soft, requiring a spirited stab of the throttle to awaken.
When Mazda initially began touting the SkyActiv engines a few years ago, they sounded highly promising: stout, high-compression engines that appeared to be thoroughly engineered.
Despite a sky-high 13:1 compression, though, every SkyActiv engine I have driven has felt sleepy in real-world city driving, mustering little zip off idle.
C’mon, Mazda. You’ve got a great package in the 6; put some sizzle in there. That said, the 2.5 winds up pretty nicely and if pushed hard, will shove the 3,400-pound sedan to 60 in a respectable 7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Its six-speed automatic also answered my many challenges, clicking off tight, quick high-rpm shifts. The car just never felt 7-second fast – though the little engine does carry a commendable fuel-economy rating of 27 miles per gallon in town and 35 on the highway.
Fortunately, the 6 moves with confidence and composure, turning into curves and corners with a decent degree of athleticism for a front-wheel-drive sedan. Although the body leaned a bit in corners, the car kept its balance, snapping quickly back into shape as soon as it emerged from curves.
Moreover, the ride felt German firm and polished, absorbing bumps with long-legged assurance, and the steering – usually a numb tiller in mainstream sedans -- was quick and well-weighted, delivering good road feel for a grocery-getter.
Even more impressive, I thought, was the 6’s fine black-and-white interior, which seemed far more high-dollar than I had expected in a $34,530 sedan. Pliable black plastic formed the dashboard, for example, which curved slightly onto the white mid-dash.
A notched area in the mid-dash housed a 7-inch touch-screen that seemed smaller because it was not surrounded by some large, garish center-stack. Buttons and knobs controlled the climate and stereo systems – not touchpads or some computer mouse.
The pliable black plastic also was used on the door-tops, while the centers and armrests were white (or parchment, as Mazda called them.) Likewise, the 6’s sleek white Nappa leather seats were sectioned and featured decent bolsters for good support.
Headroom in back was excellent and legroom was good for my, uh, slightly below-average frame. (No one has ever called me Stretch, I am sad to report.)
I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better overall mid-size sedan. The Ford Fusion offers more performance and the Honda Accord can match the 6’s refinement, but none of the other sedans in the segment can top the Mazda’s sophisticated mix of styling, elegance, handling and value.
In my book, the 6 is 40 to 50 horsepower short of greatness. I sure hope it completes that chapter.
2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring
- What I liked most: The combination of great style with fine handling, ride and steering.
- What I would change: Add a turbocharger to the soft 2.5-liter engine
- MSRP: Base price, $30,595. As equipped, $34,530
- Fuel economy: 27 miles per gallon city/35 highway/30 combined
- Official color: Machine gray metallic
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,276 miles
- Weight: 3,363 pounds
- Length-width-height: 192.7 inches long/72.4 inches wide/57.1 inches tall
- Fuel-tank capacity: 16.4 gallons
- Towing capacity: Not specified by manufacturer
- 2017 Mazda 6 in a few words: Hardly anyone realizes how good it is
- Warranty: 3-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper/5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain
- Final assembly location: Hofu, Japan
- Manufacturer’s website: Mazda
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