2009 Mazda 6 Touring
Driving Impressions from Paul Fix
I had the pleasure of driving this Mazda 6 around town, putting only a few miles on it. In fact, it’s the first Mazda I’ve driven in a while so I guess I had a preconceived notion of how a Mazda would perform watching all the SCCA Touring Road Racing events, where the Mazda is so strong. And of course all the Mazda commercials stating, “On any given weekend, there are more Mazda’s on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle.”
But driving around town for less than 15 minutes at a time really didn’t give me the proper feedback to give you readers a proper evaluation. Well, as luck would have it (actually it’s not lucky at all), I was supposed to pick up my wife from the Buffalo airport around 6pm, another 15-minute ride. As the day went on her flight was delayed out of Orlando and then they waited on the tarmack for 2 hours. Finally, landing in Philly, my pick up was getting later and later. As it approached 8:00pm she called me in a panic. Her flight has been cancelled. She was trying to switch planes so she could fly to Rochester, NY. She made it to the flight and, as luck would have it, I now got to drive the 6 for over an hour to go pick her up in Rochester. I figured this is fine, I’ll stretch it’s legs, get used to the seats, some real feedback time. So at approx. 9:00p I was off.
At first, I thought, well, this is going to be like every other 4-door sedan that every other manufacturer puts out. But this Mazda 6 has the sport package and a 6-speed manual gearbox. This has got to kick some butt, for sure the domestic brands will have a tough time compared to this. But how about the entry level Audi, or BMW? I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison, but with sport package I figure this was the segment Mazda is shooting for.
I really had to take a step back, the only car I drive regularly with a manual tranny is my 2007 Saleen with 500 HP.
Back to the Mazda 6, as with every car I sit in; the seating position is key to a great driving experience. I urge you to take the time to position the seat mirrors and steering wheel properly. The last thing I wanted was to just sit in the car and go. So on my hour plus trip to Rochester I felt comfortable, the seats wrapped around nicely I had nice bolster and lumbar support. So I didn’t become uncomfortable, my butt didn’t fall asleep, and my neck and arms were fine.
As I exited the toll booths onto the New York State Thruway system I revved it right to redline and made my shift to second then third before the 180 degree ramp on to the highway. I really wanted to see how it would handle with the sport suspension. Of course, I know how the Saleen Mustang performs around this corner and the Mazda 6 was quite responsive. Not stiff like a sportscar but not soft like a Lincoln Towncar either. “I’m liking this car.” The dash has a very nice set of gauges with orange dials and a faint blue light coming in from around the edges. The speedo and tach were nice – big and easy to see and read with really no interference from the steering wheel.
The navigation is perfectly positioned in the dash so it’s an easy glance to the right to minimize taking your eyes away from the road. As I got comfortable on the highway I could start to play around with the interior options. I liked the center console armrest that actually is spring-loaded to slide forward towards the shifter. Nice on long trips but could retract to make it easy to shift during around the town driving.
The 6 really cruised along nicely, no funny noises, or tracking issues. No wind noise, which confirmed my first impression of very nice fit and finish of the body panels. Cruising along at the state limit of 65 (wink, wink), it was easy to make a lane change, easy to accelerate past a truck or merge into traffic. I really like the blind spot feature. As a car was passing me (I got boxed in behind a truck) I noticed this orange symbol pop up in the side view mirror. It showed my car and a car on the left rear. As he passed me it disappeared. It was my first experience with this (hey our $90,000 Audi doesn’t have this!). At first I thought the mirrors were a bit large but they didn’t impair my vision so it’s probably a good thing, sometimes bigger is better.
As I adjusted the temp and fan controls, I thought, “This is nice the two most adjusted controls are right below the nav system.” A nice big fan in the middle and temp on either side (one for driver and one for passenger) really make it user friendly. A push of the temp button even controls either one or both sides of the car – dual climate control is a must these days. A nice digital display high on the dash with the current cockpit conditions really added to the Touring model.
The nav. system was working nicely and I knew where I was going, so I switched back to Sirius radio to play around with the stereo. The 6 has a very nice Bose speaker system so as I flipped stations it was nice to appreciate the quality. From my favorite station First Wave to the 50’s and 60’s then some Sinatra and Jazz.
Well, another off-ramp to play around with, this time it’s a long sweeper turn switching from right to left then to the toll booths. Down shift to fourth and ‘wow’ nice brakes.
A few minutes later, I was at the airport. Of course she didn’t know what I was driving so as I pulled-up I started looking for the trunk release, excellent location. There were nice sized button right on the dash. No searching around in the door panel or floor for a handle or button, bang it was right there. Nice!
What a huge trunk and I noticed the 60/40 split rear fold down as well, great for fitting large items in when I go to Lowes. And low opening too so you don’t have to lift the luggage up so high to get it in. Mazda did some nice engineering here.
As I go around to let her in the front, we placed more baggage in the rear, the rear doors open nice and wide for easy entrance and exit. So as we take off on our return trip home I start to bring her up to speed on the options of the 6.
The nice start button, the interesting valet key hidden in the remote, now that’s smart. How many times have to needed to give the valet a key but you misplaced it or it’s just a small plastic key in the bottom of the glove box.
From the outside, I like the Mazda’s headlights but not the big front flares. I guess they had to do something different to set it apart from every other 4 door.
Normal bumps I feel on the way to work in my SUV or Mustang really smoothed out in the Mazda 6. Overall this is great really well packaged car for a great price. The car I tested was truly impressive – all this excitement for around $26,000. I agree – ZOOM, ZOOM!
Paul Fix is an accomplished road racer and instructor. He professionally raced for 6 seasons in the Tran Am Road Racing series as well as the American Lemans Series. Co-Owner of Driving Ambitions Performance Driving School, at Watkins Glen International Raceway, in operation for 14 years. Currently owns Fix Motorsports who specialize in concourse restoration of collector cars and is an automotive engineer. Paul has written technical articles and automotive content for over 10 years.