The New Mazda 6: Big on Show But Short on Go

Mazda 6
Source: Mazda

After the third generation Mazda 6’s fresh face and luxurious styling debuted in 2014, consumers believed the next great midsize sedan had arrived.

Though the Mazda’s styling has been universally well received, its performance certainly leaves a lot to be desired. With its SkyActiv four-cylinder engine putting out a meager 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, its total lack of grunt certainly diminishes the vehicle’s intended premium feel.

But its 2.5-liter four isn’t what makes the 6 an outlier — it’s the complete lack of an alternative. As far as horsepower ratings go for its base spec competitors, the Mazda 6 is more-or-less middle of the pack.  The Toyota Camry makes a measly 178 horsepower, and Ford Fusion’s base 175 is even worse. Even the newly designed 2016 Honda Accord only makes around 185 horsepower. But unlike its competition, Mazda isn’t offering an alternative powertrain option for those who want their new Mazda 6 to perform as good as it looks. Until a resolution is reached, the Mazda 6 will fail to appeal to the segment’s entire spectrum of shoppers.

In this day and age, buyers’ standards have never been higher when shopping for a midsize sedan. Handsome looks, sufficient fuel economy and the latest technology are a must. A quick glance at the spec sheet will show you that the Mazda 6 checks these three boxes with ease.

But Mazda should know that buyers don’t make purchasing decisions after thumbing through pages of a sales brochure. The test drive is the ultimate selling point — as buyers typically fall in love with a car from behind the wheel.

Mazda 6
Source: Mazda

Herein lies the problem. Any anticipation built up from the Mazda’s enticing list of features is immediately lost as you get into the throttle. Even with its enthusiast-oriented six-speed manual, accelerating to 60 miles per hour takes a lengthy 7.9 seconds, and the quarter mile crawls by in 16.1 seconds. Unfortunately, the majority of buyers who opt for the automatic transmission should expect acceleration times to be even slower.

In this day and age, those numbers aren’t exactly inspiring. Of course, it’s safe to say that buyers aren’t looking at the Mazda 6 to take to the drag strip. So perhaps quarter-mile times don’t mean anything to you. But having sufficient power in times of need and the capability to safely pass other cars on the road should be a top priority. The Mazda 6’s 184 horsepower might have been OK in the early 1990s, but in 2015 its output is simply not enough. In fact, I’d make the argument that it’s time for automotive manufacturers to set a baseline of 200 horsepower for their midsize sedans and move up from there. But that’s another story for another day.

Like almost every other midsize sedan in its class, Mazda needs offer consumers multiple powertrain options. Like the Accord and Camry, the Mazda 6 would greatly benefit from an extra pair of cylinders. A V6 also happens to be top powertrain choice of our senior editor, who found the SkyActiv four-cylinder lacking and arguably the weakest component of the car.

Mazda 6
Source: Mazda

While the V6 is certainly a viable option, a turbocharged four-cylinder is an intriguing choice. As one of the few midsize sedans on the market with an available manual transmission, the Mazda 6 could already be loosely classified as an enthusiast’s car. Coupled with its lithe 3,124 pound curb weight and well-bolstered bucket seats that would be right at home in the Miata, a boosted four-banger would certainly round out the package.

Stricter emissions standards and better fuel economy demands have already led many auto manufacturers to stop making V6 engines for select models altogether. Fortunately, their absence hasn’t been noticed as much due to the increased efficiency and performance potential of turbocharged four-cylinder engines.

Buick and Chevrolet have successfully made the transition in the Regal and Malibu. As a matter of fact, they’re faster and more fuel-efficient than the brands’ outgoing V6 models. Even Ford, Hyundai and Kia have found success with turbo four-cylinders in its midsize sedans. With a large number of manufacturers already producing their own variants of the potent powertrain, it doesn’t look like its popularity is about to diminish anytime soon, especially with the news that the Camry and Accord will be getting turbo fours in the near future.

It’s time for Mazda to follow suit and be the next manufacturer to ride the wave before it’s too late. The company has already shown that it’s no stranger to forced induction with the Mazdaspeed6. As the current generation Mazda 6 is set to begin its third year of production, a more powerful engine will certainly be necessary if Mazda hopes to have continued success with the model.

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