Drive Review: 2017 Mazda6 Grand Touring

Selling sedans isn’t as easy as it once was, especially in the mid-size class.  Crossovers are replacing these former stalwarts in driveways across America at a fast clip.  For shoppers looking for a sedan, that might sound like a bad thing, but it has actually forced automakers into making even better cars to compete in the shrinking segment.  One of the best mid-sizers around is the Mazda6.  We wrote about the previous model year Mazda6 and were impressed by almost everything.  The 2017 model keeps all the good stuff and adds a lot more.

On the exterior, no one would be blamed for missing the sole change; a redesigned side mirror with integrated turn signal.  The color, Machine Gray Metallic, is also new, replacing Meteor Gray Mica on the list of available hues.  A sophisticated appearance and 19-inch wheels are still standard.

The interior gets more of the love from all the updates.  New across all Mazda6 trims is a new steering wheel design and stitching, seat back pocket design (because we know how important those seat back pockets are), and (something that is important) enhanced sound insulation through added materials, thicker glass, and tighter body gaps.  New to the GT trim is traffic sign recognition, Mazda radar cruise control with close proximity warning, lane keep assist, high beam control, smart brake support with collision warning, full-color active driving display (HUD), enhanced gauge quality with full-color TFT display, and memory function for the seat and HUD.  The Premium Package, which was fitted to our tester, also gets new content including rear seat heaters, steering wheel heater, contrast piping for the Nappa leather seats, interior LED accent lighting, black headliner, and now i-ELOOP is included as part of the package.  All these changes add up to a very pleasant driving experience.  We did note that the traffic sign recognition needs a little more work, as it would display speed limits that didn’t pertain to passenger cars or weren’t accurate; for example, while cruising on the interstate there might be different speed limits for trucks or buses, but the system displayed whichever it saw most recently.  Perhaps this could be better integrated with GPS data for more accurate read-outs.  The fact that this is the biggest complaint about the interior says everything about how good it is.

Perhaps the largest change to the 2017 Mazda6 (standard on all trims) is in the software, where engineers developed G-Vectoring Control (GVC).  Without getting too wrapped up in the specifics, the system uses sensors to track steering angle and throttle input (among other things) to affect engine timing, thus reducing engine torque at an instant’s notice that creates an engine braking effect.  Mazda says it makes the driver feel even more connected to the car because of the added responsiveness and stability.  In driving the car, it goes largely unnoticed.  That’s not a slight on the system, but a nod to the software engineers that made it so seamless.

The 2.5L four-cylinder goes unchanged, producing 184-hp and 185 lb-ft of torque and applying it through a six-speed automatic transmission.  The engine can feel a little gritty at low RPM but smooths out when cruising.  The i-ELOOP can also be felt at a stop when it kicks in and out, changing the RPM by about 250.  However, the transmission is one of the best; with smooth shifts and a willingness to downshift that is refreshing in this everything-in-the-name-of-fuel-economy world we live in, it always seems to be in the right gear.  Due to new EPA fuel economy calculations (effective on all 2017 model year vehicles), the ratings do fall compared to the 2016 model to 27 city/35 highway/30 combined.

There is no shortage of competition or options in the mid-size sedan segment, but it is clear that Mazda is near the front of the pack in terms of features, refinement, and driving enjoyment.

Photo Credit: Joe Fischer

Randy Milanowski

Randy Milanowski

Randy has had a passion for the automobile for as long as he can remember. He lives in the Chicagoland area with his wife, pets, and project cars.

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