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2009 Mazda6 Review

Sixth Sense

By Shaun Keenan, Oct. 27, 2008

Bigger, better and more powerful than the model it replaces, the all-new 2009 Mazda6 is ready to do battle with bitter rivals Accord, Altima and Camry.

Totally redesigned and built exclusively for the North American market, the 2009 Mazda6 is already in dealerships. Available in several well-equipped models with a choice of four or six cylinders, five- or six-speed, manual or automatic, both new and existing buyers should be pleased with the 6’s more sophisticated packaging and plenty of zoom zoom.

FAST FACTS

1. Wagon has been scrapped.

2. The firewall is the only part the new 6 shares with the outgoing model.

3. Base engine gets more displacement with added torque while V6 powerplant gets a big boost.

MORE POWER FOR BOTH ENGINE CHOICES

The previous generation Mazda6 ('04-08) came with either a 2.3L four-cylinder or 3.0L V-6. For 2009, the former engine has been bored and stroked to 2.5L to produce 170 hp and 167 ft-lbs of torque.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the i SV models with an electronically-controlled five-speed automatic with manual sport mode and two overdrive gears available on the other four-cylinder models. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20/29 mpg and 21/30 mpg (city/highway) for the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models, respectively.

Standard features of the base i SV model include covered 16-inch steel wheels with TPMS, an independent front and rear suspension with stabilizer bars, advanced front and side air bags, side air curtains, ABS with EBD and dynamic stability and traction control systems. Convenience-wise, also included are: power remote mirrors, door locks and windows, A/C with pollen filter, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls for a six-speaker AM/FM/CD MP3 compatible stereo. Carpeted floor mats and cargo mat too!

The i Sport adds an auxiliary audio input jack, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, key-activated remote down windows and remote keyless entry. Moving up to the i Touring brings stuff like 17-inch alloys, eight-way adjustable driver's seat, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter, EL gauges with on-board trip computer and more. You can go one trim higher for more gadgets and stuff if that's your thing.

The other engine is a 3.7L V-6 boasting 272 hp and 269 ft-lbs of torque at 4250 rpm. This is found in the s models – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – along with a new six-speed automatic transmission (the only available on the six-cylinder models). Fuel economy is 17/25 mpg.

Both new powertrains are more powerful and efficient than their outgoing counterparts. Whereas the last generation Mazda6 came in both four-door sedan or nifty five-door hatchback body styles, the latter one has been scratched on the 2009 iteration.

BOLD NEW DESIGN

The exteriors benefit from Mazda’s great-looking Nagare design language, which is characterized by fluid and dynamic lines and details in harmony with the environment. Different exhaust finishers and items like fog lights and LED taillights help differentiate the two models.

A DVD-based satellite navigation system with seven-inch touchscreen display and voice recognition is available separately; however, you have to take the moonroof and 10-speaker Bose audio option and Sirius sat radio compatibility as well. Though you can get the latter pack as a standalone option.

STREET TEST

I drove both four- and six-banger models earlier this year in California's canyon country where neither engine felt underpowered. The independent double wishbone front and E-type multi-link rear suspensions with stabilizer bars are impressive.

Sharing only the firewall from the previous version, the 2009 Mazda6 is larger in all respects. The monocoque unibody is 6.9-inches longer. The increases in wheelbase and overall length and width have not hurt the driving dynamics whatsoever. In fact, if anything, the extra bulk and precise tuning of the KYB dampers has made the new chassis even more compliant and stable. In either engine configuration, the cars are well balanced through fast and tight corners. The 11.8-inch front ventilated brakes and 11-inch solid rear discs standard on both trims performed well during a full-day of auto-journalist-onslaught with no complaints about brake fade.

The ride from inside the comfy cabin is quiet. There are no odd noises, bad vibrations or harshness to complain about. The five-speed manual shifts smoothly into the next gate and the automatics are also well-mannered. I would have preferred the automatics come with paddle shifters. Instead, these trannies provide a manual-shift gate to the left of the stick to control the gearbox.

POSITIVE

Great new look
Impressive Mazda handling
V6 models get sporty Active Adaptive Shift control

NEGATIVE

Nav system only available in a pricey package
No paddle shifters for auto tranny
V6 fuel consumption not quite up to the Accord/Camry standard

As a bonus, the V6 models inherit Mazda’s Active Adaptive Shift (AAS) control from the RX-8. This system can detect when you've found some prime winding road conditions and provides a gear ratio (usually third) with optimum acceleration response for corner exits. It also speeds up downshifts for more stable corner entry and holds gears longer when passing slower vehicles.

THE VERDICT

All in all, the 2009 Mazda6 boasts improvements and quality all-around. Everything from noise and safety levels to better steering, handling, power, efficiency. A more spacious and well-appointed interior help this sport sedan excel in both the premium and sporty directions.

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