In an era where some midsize sedans have styling that calls to mind kabuki masks, while others are disappearing altogether, the Mazda6 remains the choice of those who love to drive, and who find the thought of autonomous cars nauseating. After all, when a car is as enjoyable to drive as the Mazda6, why would you leave driving to a computer?
Artfully rendered and skillfully engineered, the Mazda6 maintains its attractive allure this year, receiving new standard LED lighting, revised interior materials a new front grille design, revised wheels and a cabin makeover.
What's unchanged is this car's incredible good looks, with a naturally flowing beltline and rakish greenhouse. The new grille adds an additional dash of sportiness, and is framed by an elegant accent of chrome trim. It looks racy, and it has the goods to back up its exquisite appearance.
Credit the new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which is the same engine found in the Mazda CX-9 crossover. Rated at 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, it mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is available, but comes only with the naturally-aspirated version of the same engine that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.
Step on the throttle and you'll find generous amounts of power, although initial acceleration could be a little stronger. The transmission shifts smoothly, unobtrusively firing off the shifts that keep this car cooking. Handling is quite good for a front driver, with little body lean and no torque steer.
There's a selectable Sport mode, but since it only changes the transmission's shift points, its usefulness is trivial. Besides, the standard tuning works extremely well; this thing is a hoot to drive. The retuned chassis and suspension provide a ride that's firm and fairly absorbent, although the largest bumps crash through uncomfortably. The cabin is fairly quiet, with only the worst road surfaces producing too much racket.
Inside, Mazda fully redesigned the seats to better absorb vibrations. Better yet, they can be equipped with seat heaters and ventilation up front, and heated seats in the rear. The cabin is spacious, with generous front seat legroom and a decent amount in the rear. Of course, if there's not enough space, there's always the generously sized trunk.
The instrument panel is new as well, designed in a sleek minimalistic idiom that seems above its station. Opt for the top trim level and you'll be treated to wood, suede and leather accents, which merely gilds the lily, transforming this sublime ride into one that's affordably premium.
Available in ascending Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature trim levels, the Mazda6 benefits from a large 8-inch touchscreen that houses Mazda Connect, the brand's infotainment system. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to use, and pairing a mobile phone is easy and quick. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available.
Like many new rides, the Mazda6 comes with an impressive number of driving assistance aids, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are standard on all but Sport models, where they're part of an optional $625 package.
There are newer competitors in the midsize sedan segment, but few offer the sophisticated mix of adept handling, ample power, reasonable fuel economy and the latest in tech all wrapped in a beguilingly beautiful package.
It's so good, you'll want to call the Mazda6 the Mazda Sex.
Base prices: $21,950-$
Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 23/31
Wheelbase: 111.4 inches
Length: 191.5 inches
Cargo capacity: 14.7 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,560 pounds