The world of midsize sedans is going down the turbocharged path. Mazda, for the most part, has stuck to its guns with its SkyActiv technology for the majority of its models. That, though, changes for the 2018 Mazda6. But the automaker has stuck to what made the midsize offering so popular in the beginning with its gorgeous Kodo design blueprint and athletic handling. The Mazda6, as with other Mazda vehicles, is as sporty as ever, but has benefited from some new luxury features along the way.
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2018 Mazda Mazda6 Overview
What's New for 2018
A lot has changed for the 2018 Mazda6, but we'll try to keep thing simple. The midsize sedan has been refreshed for the new year, bringing an upgraded engine, a new chassis, a refreshed interior, and a slightly altered design. There's also a new range-topping Signature trim in the lineup.
The major news is the addition of a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four that's borrowed from the CX-9 midsize SUV. The naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine, though, also gets an update with cylinder deactivation technology. Mazda has also fitted the Mazda6 with new tech features, including a 360-degree view monitor, a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge display, a new eight-inch infotainment display, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, and a head-up display.
Choosing Your Mazda Mazda6
The new addition of the turbocharged engine complicates things, but not by much. The vehicle is now available with two engines, both of which are 2.5-liter four-cylinders. One is naturally aspirated and puts out 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The other is turbocharged and generates 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. If you’re okay with spending some more money at the pumps for premium 93-octane fuel, power output for the turbocharged motor increases to 250 hp.
The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine can be paired to a six-speed manual transmission, but only in the base trim. Everything else, including the turbocharged offering, gets a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Mazda6 is exclusively sold with front-wheel drive.
The most fuel-efficient model, the 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine with the automatic transmission, can get up to 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Opting for the manual gearbox brings those figures down by two in both the city and on the highway. The turbocharged engine lags behind with a rating of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The Mazda6 is available in five trims:
We’ve been waiting a long time for Mazda to put a turbocharged engine into the Mazda6 and the specs behind the new engine don’t disappoint. We were hoping to see Mazda offer a manual transmission option on the new engine, but we get it, people don’t like to shift gears themselves anymore. The Grand Touring trim is the cheapest way to get the new engine, but the trim also comes with a good mix of upscale amenities and safety features to be the sweet spot in the lineup.
2018 Mazda Mazda6 Review
With updated styling touches and a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine borrowed from the CX-9, the 2018 Mazda6 retains its slick design, upscale interior, and lofty position in the mid-size class. But the new turbo-four is mated exclusively to an automatic transmission, while the clumsy infotainment system still lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The 2018 Mazda6 starts at $22,845 for the base Sport trim with a six-speed manual transmission. At the opposite end of the spectrum are models like our tester: the new top trim Signature model. It's replete with heated and cooled Nappa leather seats, Bose sound, navigation, a head-up display, and Japanese Sen Wood trim. Finished in an optional Machine Grey hue and equipped with a cargo mat and stainless scuff plates, it had a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $36,140.
For 2018, two engines are offered. Sport owners can pair a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder to either a slick six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while the Touring trim is limited to the automatic. Grand Touring, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature models feature the 250-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder – also found in the CX-9 – matched with a six-speed automatic.
Moving further upmarket for 2018, the Sport trim receives new LED headlights and front and rear turn signals, dual zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an eight-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth audio and phone capability, keyless push-button start, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and low speed automatic emergency braking. All trims but the Sport are mono-spec, with the Sport's i-Activesense Package for automatic-equipped models adding rain-sensing wipers and Mazda's suite of active safety features.
We'd pick the Grand Touring trim because it marks the entry model for the turbo-four. Upgrades include larger 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors (driver's auto dimming), rain-sensing windshield wipers, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, steering wheel paddle shifters, a Bose sound system, navigation, satellite radio, heated front seats, forward collision warning, automatic high beams, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and advanced low-speed automatic emergency braking.
Here's what it looks like:
- Model: 2018 Mazda Mazda6 Grand Touring
- Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 250 hp / 310 lb-ft (227 hp with regular fuel)
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 23 City / 31 Hwy23 City / 31 Hwy
- Options: None
- Base Price:$30,095 (including an $895 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $30,095
The big news for 2018 is the new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that offers plenty of punch off the line as well as effortless passing at highway speeds. In Sport mode, the transmission holds gears longer and downshifts energetically. The base 2.5-liter normally-aspirated engine is no slouch, either, although this year Mazda chose to drop its i-Eloop regenerative engine braking system from the lineup in favor of the first wide application of cylinder deactivation in a four-pot – to the tune of an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 29 combined on automatic-equipped models. We managed a vehicle-measured 28.2 mpg in combined, spirited, city and highway driving.
Moreover, the Mazda6's combination of light weight (3,200 pounds in base trim), excellent steering feel, and balanced, sporty ride make it the most entertaining sedan in the mid-size class, while the engine management system (G-Vectoring Control) is a boon not only to confidence during cornering, but also to straight-line acceleration and stability. The result is a ride that's compliant and well damped. Potholes and other road imperfections are handled with ease. The steering is direct with great feedback to the driver, while braking is also excellent with very short stops and a pedal that's easy to modulate. Point the Mazda6 into a corner and it tracks flawlessly with no body lean.
At freeway speeds, the Mazda6 feels extremely stable and is unaffected by crosswinds or grooved pavement. The combination of suspension tuning and precise steering means you always know exactly where you are on the road. There's also plenty of power under the hood, making merging into traffic and passing effortless.
But all is not perfect, as the base engine can feel gruff, the turbo-four is only available with an automatic, while the Mazda's firm, sporty ride – even on the Sport model's more forgiving 17-inch wheels – isn't for everyone, and may turn off drivers accustomed to something softer and plusher.
Despite assaults from newer competitors, the Mazda6's design remains at the top of the mid-size class. For 2018, the front fascia was cleaned up with a new grille pattern and bolder wing-shaped chrome trim. The fog lights are now integrated into the headlights, LED headlights and taillights are now standard on all models, while the flat black lower trim on the rear fascia has been tossed, with the entire fascia now body-colored.
Inside, Mazda has added more soft-touch materials, with Nappa leather, synthetic suede, and Japanese Sen wood included in the repertoire of upscale trims. Pricier models also receive a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster, while an eight-inch touchscreen is standard across the board.
Occupants in the spectacularly comfortable new front seats will find plenty of knee, leg, and head room. The cooling function on Signature models that sucks heat away rather than blowing cool air on your backside works better than advertised, while the trunk's wide maw, larger-than-average pass-through, and split and fold back seats add to its cargo-hauling versatility. With the rear seats flipped forward, we were easily able to load a 52cm road bike without having to remove the wheels.
Although Mazda continues to add sound-deadening materials to its flagship sedan, interior sound levels surprisingly still aren't class leading. And while the infotainment system shows both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on the applications menu list, even after pairing an iPhone and plugging it into a USB port, we were unable to activate this feature (Mazda has noted in the past that it'll be available sometime in the future). The infotainment system's controller unit is also both cumbersome to use and distracting. Finally, the most luxurious models come with a sizeable price premium, while the rearview camera image is grainy with poor resolution.
The Best and Worst Things
Mazda's interior treatments are now the best in their respective segments, and the Mazda6 is no different. In particular, the Signature's supple Nappa leather offers a class-above feel.
Conversely, Mazda's infotainment system continues to frustrate. Setting station presets requires multiple menu steps, while using the controller, itself, is cumbersome at best, and distracting at worst.
Right For? Wrong For?
With a stunning design and stellar handling, the Mazda6 will surely attract style-conscious enthusiasts.
At the same time, Mazda's outdated infotainment system is sure to exasperate tech-savvy buyers.
The Bottom Line
As we've previously noted, Mazda's flagship sedan isn't for everyone (even though we adore it). Its sporty ride is far from plush, the infotainment system is difficult to use, and the slick new turbo isn't available with a manual transmission. But like everything else the brand offers, the 2018 Mazda6 is a top choice in its class thanks to its stunning exterior, agile handling, and pair of entertaining and fuel efficient engines.
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