Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Mazda Mazda6 I Grand Touring

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 In the midsize sedan segment, the Mazda 6 has always been a bit of an outlier, typically not garnering the attention of consumers as readily as its more popular rivals. That's a shame, because the 2016 Mazda 6 can go tire-to-tire against the segment's best in terms of driving enjoyment, cabin refinement, fuel economy and features availability. Furthermore, the Mazda 6 arguably has one of the most attractive and distinctive designs to go along with its sporty demeanor on the road.

     One of the 6's most impressive qualities is its combination of fuel mileage and performance. Equipped with the available i-Eloop system (optional on the Grand Touring trim), the Mazda 6 earns an EPA-estimated 32 mpg in combined driving, which is right at the top among gasoline-fueled, non-hybrid midsize sedans. Even without i-Eloop, the Mazda rates 31 mpg combined, which is still a great number for a family car. Despite its meager appetite, the 6 manages to be quicker than most four-cylinder-powered rivals. Acceleration is more than adequate whether you're carving through city traffic or getting up to highway speeds. On top of that, the 6 boasts precise steering and relatively nimble handling that make it fun to hustle along on the occasional back road or circular highway on-ramp.

     Though this Mazda is a fantastic choice for driving enthusiasts, the price paid for this level of athleticism is a stiffer ride than you might expect in a midsize family sedan. Bumps and potholes are more noticeable in the 6 than in its more softly sprung competitors, especially if you get the 19-inch wheels. And while the Mazda 6 has one of the best base four-cylinder engines around, there's no option to upgrade to a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder or V6 engine.
      The 2016 Mazda 6 is a five-passenger midsize sedan offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.
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     Standard features on the base manual-transmission Sport include 17-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split rear seat, a multi-information display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod /USB interface and an auxiliary audio jack. If equipped with the optional automatic transmission, the Sport also includes a 7-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera and audio upgrades (voice commands, HD radio, Internet radio apps, text message display function and automatic emergency notification).
     Stepping up to the Touring trim adds 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, premium vinyl (leatherette) upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning vents, a sliding console armrest and a six-way power driver seat. For the 6 Touring with an automatic transmission, there's an option package that adds a sunroof, an upgraded 11-speaker Bose audio system and satellite radio. This package is required if you want to have the Touring Technology package, which adds unique front end styling, adaptive LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, heated side mirrors, heated front seats and a low-speed frontal collision mitigation system with automatic braking.
     The Grand Touring includes all of the above as standard, as well as different 19-inch wheels, LED foglights, a rear spoiler, leather upholstery, a navigation system, a head-up display, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar support), a six-way power passenger seat and driver memory settings.
     Optional for the Grand Touring is the GT Technology package, which includes adaptive cruise control, a frontal collision warning/mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane departure warning system, automatic high-beam control and an energy capture system called i-Eloop ("intelligent energy loop") that improves mpg by storing energy captured during deceleration to a capacitor, which can then power air-conditioning, lighting and accessories for about a minute while the stop-start system shuts the engine down at a stoplight. Rear parking sensors are optional on any Mazda 6.
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 The front-wheel-drive 2016 Mazda 6 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Sport and Touring models can be matched to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (with shift paddles on the steering wheel), while the Grand Touring comes only with the automatic.
     The 6's EPA fuel economy estimates are remarkable. They stand at 31 mpg combined (26 city/38 highway) for the automatic-transmission car and 29 mpg combined (25/37) with the manual. With the Grand Touring's optional i-Eloop feature, fuel economy rises to an impressive 32 mpg combined (28/40).
    Standard safety features for the Mazda 6 include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Standard on all trims other than the manual-transmission Sport are a rearview camera and automatic emergency notification (in the event of a crash), while rear parking sensors are optional across the board. The Touring and Grand Touring trims additionally include blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.
     On automatic-equipped cars, remote door locking is possible via the optional Mazda Mobile Start smartphone app service. Optional on the Touring and standard on the Grand Touring is Mazda's Smart City Brake Support, which is a frontal collision mitigation system that uses an infrared laser sensor at the top of the windshield to detect an imminent collision. It can automatically brake the car to a stop at low speeds if the driver doesn't react. The GT Technology package for the Grand Touring also bundles a forward collision warning system (which uses radar to detect your closing distance on vehicles ahead and then provides visual and audible alerts) with a lane departure warning system. 
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  In government crash tests, the Mazda 6 earned the top overall rating of five stars, with four stars for total frontal impact crash protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The 6 also earned the highest possible rating of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's moderate overlap and small overlap frontal-offset impact tests, as well as a "Good" score for the side-impact, roof strength and whiplash protection (seats and head restraints) tests.
    With plentiful rear legroom, the Mazda 6's rear passengers will feel as if they've been given access to a first-class cabin rather than coach. There's also generous headroom, even for those taller than 6 feet, though the sedan's sloping rear roof line makes the rear windows smaller, resulting in a more claustrophobic feel than you'd get in an Accord or a Camry. There's decent luggage space, as the efficiently shaped trunk offers 14.8 cubic feet of capacity.
     In general, the 6's interior design is clean and functional. Polished aluminum trim accents the cabin, while the Grand Touring's leather upholstery features contrasting stitching. Materials quality and fit and finish are among the best in the class. In previous years, the 6's touchscreen interface was a letdown, suffering from a small screen, substandard navigation map details and occasional inability to get along with Apple products. The new 7-inch screen is considerably better. Its response times are quick, virtual buttons are large and the display is legible and easy to understand. The touchscreen also has a knob-type controller on the center console that provides a secondary way to interact with the screen. Our only complaint is that when the car is moving, the touchscreen functionality is disabled, leaving the controller as the only way to access infotainment functions.  
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 One standout characteristic of the 2016 Mazda 6 is its powertrain. The sedan's 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine produces quick acceleration and is smooth and surprisingly hushed. And although many of today's automatic transmissions quickly upshift to the highest gear possible and are reluctant to downshift (both strategies are used to boost mpg numbers), the Mazda 6's automatic is responsive to gas pedal inputs and never feels flat-footed when you're initiating highway passing maneuvers. Furthermore, Mazda is one of the few automakers that still offers a six-speed manual gearbox, which is fast becoming an endangered species in the midsize sedan class.
     This same light-on-its-feet character carries through when the topic turns to handling. With its communicative, precise steering and sporty chassis tuning, the 2016 Mazda 6 feels sharp-witted and willing when driven around turns. The flip side, however, is that the 6 rides a bit more stiffly than competitors, especially with the 19-inch wheels. Like many Mazdas, the 6 is a car for practical-minded buyers with enthusiast leanings.

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