The mid-size sedan can be considered the bread-and-butter vehicle of the automotive industry. It’s not too big, not too small, but just right. With seating for five passengers, it’s more practical than a sports car but not overly bulky when compared to large SUVs. Pricing is well within the value-minded reach of the majority of the car-buying public and fuel economy will not raise the ire of Mother Nature. The vehicle is nearly perfect but for one catch: it is automotive vanilla.
Over the years, as practical and precise as the mid-size sedan has become for consumers as their go-to daily-driving, people-moving, stuff-packing do-it-all-on-wheels, its personality has fallen by the wayside. Design has become mundane, dynamics have become slushy and “mid-size sedan” has become synonymous with dull, run-of-the-mill, routine ho-hum. For everything the mid-size sedan offers, what it lacks is desire. And then there is the all-new 2014 Mazda6.
Fuel efficient? Check. Competitively priced? Check. Dynamic handling? Check. Style? Check. Fun? Uh huh. Real? Absolutely. As the second production vehicle to feature the full suite of SKYACTIV® technologies, the 2014 Mazda6 should not be confused with mythical creatures like the griffin, jackalope, Bigfoot or a freewheeling Pegasus. On sale now, this third-generation Mazda6 will feature even more all-new groundbreaking Mazda-engineered technology. i-ELOOP, the world’s first capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system to power all the vehicle’s electrical systems, makes its global debut, along with the SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine and the front collision-detecting Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system make their first appearance in North America. A mid-size sedan, yes. Vanilla? Mazda engineers aren’t familiar with bland.
Developed solely by Mazda, SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is the umbrella term for a host of performance-oriented, fuel-saving engine, transmission, body and chassis components. Introduced in the 2012 Mazda3 compact car, and fully-incorporated into the 2013 CX-5 compact SUV, the redesigned 2014 Mazda6 is the next vehicle in the brand’s lineup to feature the great-in-theory technology that indeed offers real-world results.
Beneath its broad hood is a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine that produces 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm. This 13:1 race-car-high compression ratio gasoline engine offers eight percent more horsepower and nearly 11 percent more torque than the MZR 2.5-liter gasoline engine it replaces. Standard equipment for all three trim levels – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – the SKYACTIV-G 2.5L can be paired with a choice of transmissions in the SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual or SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic. Fuel economy also receives a numbers boost.
The entry-level Sport trim comes equipped with a SKYACTIV-MT transmission as standard and offers an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 25 city/37 highway/29 combined miles per gallon (mpg). When compared to the previous generation Mazda6 Sport with a six-speed manual, the 2014 Mazda6 Sport sees a 19 percent mpg increase in the city and 23 percent mpg increase on the highway. When paired with the optional SKYACTIV-Drive automatic, city mpg increases by nearly 24 percent to 26 mpg and highway figures increase by nearly 27 percent to a segment-best 38 mpg. The EPA-rated combined fuel economy is 30 mpg. Touring and Grand Touring models feature the SKYACTIV-Drive transmission as standard equipment.
Set to be offered in the second half of 2013, the SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine will make Mazda the only Japanese manufacturer to offer a clean diesel technology option in the North American marketplace. Expected to offer a high amount of torque as well as cleaner combustion, the SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter is 10 percent lighter than the current MZR 2.2-liter diesel engine sold in other global markets. Other improvements include a reduction in internal engine friction and improved fuel economy. This is achieved by using a new two-stage turbocharger to deliver a smooth and steady response across the engine range (up to 5,200 rpm). Also, with an ultra-low compression ratio of 14:1, the SKYACTIV-D diesel engine burns cleaner and discharges fewer nitrogen oxides to produce virtually no soot, thus requiring no additional NOx aftertreatments, which is typical of conventional diesel engines. Final specifications and fuel economy will be available closer to its on-sale date.
But before the diesel hits the dealerships, diesel fans can see the Mazda6 and SKYACTIV-D in action on the race track. Starting with their debut at this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, three Mazda6 race cars competed in the new GRAND-AM Rolex Series GX class. Built by SpeedSource Race Engineering, these race cars were the first diesel-powered vehicles to compete in the 51-year history of the premier motorsports endurance race in the United States. Equipped with a turbocharged SKYACTIV-D 2.2L, the diesel racing engine remained 63 percent OEM stock yet has a blistering output of 400 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 445 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. For more information on this racing series and all of Mazda’s motorsports activities, visit Mazda Motorsports on Facebook.
Design ingenuity is mysteriously absent among non-luxury mid-size sedans. As if afraid to offend, most segment offerings reflect a straight-and-narrow approach, seemingly forgetting how fun the twists and turns can be. With the KODO “Soul of Motion” design language, first expressed on the SHINARI Concept, the 2014 Mazda6 matches nearly every sinuous sheet metal curve of its conceptual twin the TAKERI Concept. From its elongated cab-rearward stance, muscular fenders and sweeping character lines, saying the vehicle’s profile is handsome seems like an understatement.
Featuring the new familial five-point chrome “signature wing,” Mazda6’s front grille implies a commanding presence without being overwhelming. To further exude a fluid design form, the chrome strikes beyond the grille to continue into the eagle-eye shaped headlamps. Nestled within its black horizontal lines and flanked by piano black top-line trim is the Mazda badge – confident and prominent. The lower front fascia evokes a strong chin with accompanying fog lights (when equipped) ensconced within deep set eye lids.
Starting from the substantial hood and continuing along the prominent front fenders is a pronounced character crease, curving and twisting itself across the A-pillar as another sweeping stroke of the metal emerges to proceed toward the rear. Eventually a third crease surfaces to readjust the muscular tone into the stylized tail lamps before beautifully blending into the “signature wing”-matching chrome piece of the trunk lid.
This shapely sophistication cleverly masks a utilitarian purpose to the vehicle’s powerful proportions. With a coefficient of drag as low as 0.26 (Grand Touring only), the 2014 Mazda6 is the sleekest of the mid-size sedan segment.
The 2014 Mazda6 is built on the longest wheelbase among its direct competitors at 111.4 inches and features one of the slimmer waistlines at 72.4 inches in width. Its sculptured, lean body with an overall length of 191.5 inches rests upon 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with P225/55R17-sized all-season tires, standard for Sport models. Touring and Grand Touring vehicles receive 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels outfitted with P225/45R19 Dunlop® SP Sport 5000 all-seasons.
The exterior’s fluidity seamlessly flows into the interior’s pronounced structure. A driver-oriented cabin features intuitive functions matched with a multitude of well-placed operational controls. Repetitive function controls offer consumers a variety of options based on their operational preferences, whether it be via voice control, touch screen, button pushing or knob turning, such as the all-new commander-switch feature situated within the center console (when equipped).
The contoured dash is uncluttered yet still striking, with warm textures of dark satin (when paired with black seat trim) and Bordeaux (when paired with almond-colored leather). Additional high-quality surfaces abound in the form of soft-touch surfaces, such as cloth or leather features along the door panels. The dark satin finish also appears on knobs and switches, making controls easier to locate as well as adding a distinctive design element.
The instrument cluster offers meter lighting that makes the gauges readably clear in bright daylight as well as minimize eye strain in the darkness. The three-spoke racing-inspired leather-wrapped steering wheel appeals to enthusiasts and offers standard functional features such as a tilt-and-telescopic adjustable column with steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls.
Passenger comfort is ample with 38.4 inches of headroom (37.4 inches when equipped with a moonroof) for the front row and 37.1 inches of headroom for those in the rear. Rear legroom is among the segment’s roomiest at 38.7 inches with the driver and front passenger enjoying a comfortable 42.2 inches. Supportive, sport-bolstered front bucket seats and the spacious rear bench are available in three fabrics, each with two color options: black or sand cloth (Sport), black or sand leatherette (Touring) and black or almond genuine leather (Grand Touring). A 60/40-split fold-down feature is standard for the rear seats. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seats are standard on all but the Sport model, which is equipped with a six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat.
For the 2014 model year, Mazda6 features all-new infotainment and connectivity options. A 5.8-inch in-dash touch screen commands the center console stack and features intuitive phone, audio and navigation functions (when equipped). Streamlined steering wheel controls also enable a more straightforward operation of the infotainment system.
Other available features include Bluetooth® phone and audio connectivity as well as iPod® audio playback in which iPod information can be accessed via the touch screen. USB and auxiliary jack connection ports are standard and located within the center console storage bin. An AM/FM/CD/MP3/-compatible head unit paired with a six-speaker sound system is standard for Sport and Touring models while Grand Touring models feature an 11-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound System with AudioPilot® as standard equipment.
When a smartphone is connected, Short Message Service (SMS) messages can be received and shown on the touch screen monitor. The system can then articulate the messages as well as allow users to send replies using fixed phrases. A new speech recognition system also allows users to repeat and shuffle audio tracks as well as search and select folders.
HD Radio™ Technology and Pandora® are both new audio options for the 2014 Mazda6. HD Radio is a subscription-free digital AM and FM broadcast radio service that provides crystal-clear sound, on-screen station information as well as additional programming choices via HD2 and HD3 channels. Pandora offers personalized stations based on the input of a single “seed” (i.e. favorite artist, song or genre) and continually customizes its playlist using musicological “DNA” and listener feedback.
An in-dash TomTom technology-based navigation system is available for Touring models and is standard on Grand Touring. The system features premium North American maps, advanced lane guidance, instinctive voice recognition and real-time traffic alerts. The navigation module communicates with the head unit via a USB interface and utilizes an SD card for storing map data. The SD card feature allows consumers the flexibility to input customized route maps and regularly update mapping content via any personal computer.
Starting at $20,880 MSRP, the 2014 Mazda6 is as aggressive in pricing as its sport-tuned suspension is dynamically engaging. Only a slight increase of $155 from the previous model year, Mazda’s redesigned mid-size sedan offers an attractive, more affordable starting point for consumers than the best-selling vehicles in the segment. And without the vanilla-bean aftertaste.
Equipped with a SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter gasoline engine and SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual, entry-level i Sport models offer high-level features starting with the largest standard wheels amongst its competitors with 17-inch aluminum alloys, power side view mirrors, automatic headlight shutoff as well as exterior body-color cues in the shark-fin antenna, door handles, outside mirrors and front and rear bumpers.
The well-appointed interior offers push-button start, cloth seats, power windows with a driver’s side one-touch auto up/down feature, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise control functions, air conditioning with a pollen filter, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD radio compatible for MP3/Sirius® Satellite Radio reception, 60/40-split fold-down rear seats as well as auxiliary and USB connection ports as standard equipment.
When equipped with the optional SKYACTIV-Drive automatic, the i Sport model receives additional features including Bluetooth® phone/audio connectivity, a 5.8-inch color touch screen display, a rearview camera, HD Radio™ Technology, Pandora®, Radio Broadcast Data System program information, SMS text message receipt/delivery, E911 automatic emergency notification and audio menu voice command. Pricing increases by $1,615 to $22,495 MSRP.
The mid-level i Touring trim ($24,495 MSRP) sits on larger 19-inch alloy wheels and includes all the features of the i Sport model (when equipped with an automatic transmission) as well as dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents, leatherette-trimmed seats, a six-way power driver’s seat and a commander switch as an additional 5.8-inch screen control feature. An optional Technology Package ($2,000 MSRP) adds a TomTom technology-based in-dash navigation system, 11-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® Surround Sound System with AudioPilot®, Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry System, automatic on/off headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink®, an auto-dimming driver’s side outside mirror, heated outside mirrors and the all-new Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system.
SCBS is an added safety component designed to assist a driver in avoiding front collisions when traveling at low speeds of less than 19 miles per hour. When the imbedded laser sensor detects an obtrusive object and the system calculates there may be a high risk for collision, the brake pedal travel is reduced in order to hasten braking. Should the driver fail to perform an avoidance maneuver, the SCBS system will activate an automatic braking function. While the system will not eliminate accidents, its intent is to minimize them and reduce the severity of a crash.
Considered the high-level trim offering, the i Grand Touring includes all the equipment features of the i Touring with Technology Package. Starting at $29,495 MSRP, additional standard niceties include unique 19-inch platinum silver 10-spoke alloy wheels, a power moonroof, a rear lip spoiler, bi-xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights with auto leveling, leather-trimmed sport seats with heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a four-way power front passenger seat, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and Sirius® Satellite Radio with a four-month complimentary subscription. Two package options are available for the i Grand Touring.
For an additional $900 MSRP, the MRCC/FOW Package adds Mazda Radar Cruise Control (MRCC) and Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW). The Advanced Package, available beginning the second half of 2013, adds the MRCC/FOW Package as well as a Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), High Beam Control (HBC) and the Mazda-developed i-ELOOP. Pricing for this package is not yet available.
With its name derived from “Intelligent Energy Loop,” i-ELOOP is the world’s first capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system to provide power all the electrical mechanisms in a vehicle. Other capacitor-based systems have been used to provide electricity to a single vehicle component or motor. As part of a growing number of fuel-saving technologies, regenerative braking systems use an electric motor or alternator to generate electricity as the vehicle decelerates, thereby recovering a portion of the vehicle’s kinetic energy to power electrical components. Such systems used in hybrid vehicles typically require a bulky electric motor and a heavy battery.
Compared to systems utilized in hybrid vehicles, i-ELOOP avoids the need for a dedicated electrical motor and battery, making the system more efficient, compact and lighter than traditional systems. Also, capacitors have the ability to charge and discharge rapidly and are resistant to deterioration despite prolonged use.
In real-world driving conditions, which can feature frequent acceleration and braking, i-ELOOP is estimated to improve overall fuel economy depending on road conditions and driving habits.
The SKYACTIV-D 2.2-liter clean diesel engine will be offered on 2014 Mazda6 vehicles also during the second half of the year. Final specifications and packaging of the diesel engine and trim combinations will be announced closer to its on-sale date.
SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is more than fuel efficiency, performance and lightweight materials but about improved safety as well. SKYACTIV vehicles are without compromise and the SKYACTIV-Body and SKYACTIV-Chassis of the 2014 Mazda6 ensure the vehicle structure is not only reinforced and quiet but also rigid and able to protect occupants during impact. Drivers will feel secure in a vehicle that reacts as precisely and predictably as they react – steering and braking controls are linear, adjusting to small inputs with small actions and large actions to large inputs.
Re-examining the suspension and steering systems, the lightweight construction of the SKYACTIV-Chassis includes a front strut suspension and a multi-link rear format along with an assortment of design changes. While structures and sub-assemblies may seem familiar, every individual component was examined to ensure it provides the greatest efficiency, lightest weight and offers the appropriate levels of driver involvement.
The SKYACTIV-Body is comprised of 58 percent high-tensile steel, creating a lighter, stronger body with superior handling. This new body contributed to a 97-pound weight loss when compared to a previous generation Mazda6 equipped with an automatic transmission.
Standard safety features for all 2014 Mazda6 models include six airbags (front, side and full side-curtain), whiplash-reducing front headrests, power-assisted ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, daytime running lights, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), a Traction Control System (TCS), hill launch assist, a fold-away brake pedal assembly, a trunk entrapment release system, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), three-point safety belts for all seating positions, front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters as well as Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH).
i Touring models feature a Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) as standard equipment with the Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) system available as an option. i Grand Touring models feature BSM and SCBS systems as standard equipment as well as RCTA and an Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS). Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and High Beam Control (HBC) are available as part of an optional package.