Mazdaspeed6 delivers high performance and eye-catching design |

Mazdaspeed6 delivers high performance and eye-catching design

Andy Stonehouse
special to the daily
Special to the Daily/Mary Eshbaugh Hayes The Mazdaspeed6 hugging a turn.

Graciously substantial, uncategorically speedy and tremendously light on its feet, the 274 horsepower Mazdaspeed6 is one hell of a car – fast, flashy, comfortable and nicely styled.

Generating power like nobody’s business from a non-laggy 2.3 liter four-cylinder turbo, the screaming Mazda offers up killer performance both on the highway and in the twisty stretches.

You’ll be astounded by the sudden bursts of juice – available without much coaxing – and with ample room for you and four passengers in nicely appointed surroundings, you’ll be able to scare the pants off your friends and family in style. There are a couple of quibbles with the machine, so we’ll get those off our chest first. Steering, as you may notice, is a tad heavy and draggy (perhaps a side-effect of the active torque split all-wheel drive system) and is a bit of a hindrance when attempting to do some light-fingered, high-speed cornering. The big, high-performance 215/45R18 Potenzas may also have a bit to do with that. You’ll also hear some rather substantial road noise from the whole package. We drove the car a day after a heavy dousing of traction sand on the streets and were a bit concerned by the big noise in the wheel wells; regular day-to-day use proved the Mazdaspeed6 to be a reasonably noisy vehicle.

However, if it’s luscious engine noise and exhaust notes that you’re seeking, you may be willing to overlook the road rumble and accentuate the acceleration-powered audio notes, which are pretty fearsome indeed.

Back to the purely positive. Styling is super-cool, with brilliant five-spoke wheels, a smooth cabin line set off by long doors that open to the very floor of the cabin, plus an aggressive nose with just a slit of glass over the HID headlamps. There’s also a big breathing mesh guard over the rad (useful for sucking all that air to keep the machine cool as you work the upper speed limits) plus a set of tastefully prominent fog lamps. Aerodynamically cut close to the ground, the front fascia is still tall enough to survive parking lots and low curbs.

In the back, a wide air dam sits over the top of the trunk plate, with circular, mirror-image brake and turn signals set inside the trunk itself, brightened up with loads of chrome. A huge rear bumper is home to two inset chrome-tipped exhaust port vents (they’re not actually attached to the exhaust pipes) which tended to collect a substantial amount of carbon after some enthusiastic driving. The ports are a nice effect, nonetheless.

Access to the cabin is via a keyless remote system that looks like a credit card and allows you to automatically open the doors when you approach the car. You need not insert the fob to get the car rolling; a permanent ignition stub does the starting work after communicating with the remote, which you can keep in your pocket. Don’t pack too many items in your pocket with the remote as you may accidentally set off the panic button and have the car’s alarm honking (as I did).

Speaking of the alarm, it’s also set a tad on the sensitive side, as even scraping snow off the Mazdaspeed6 set it off.

The Mazda’s interior details are incredibly clean and precise, set off by a two-tone black and white leather scheme on the seats and door panels. Supportive, sporty seating felt very comfortable and held me in place during the twisty bits; the seats are heated as well, although I only discovered the switches by accident, hidden as they were next to the central armrest.

Aluminum-faced sport pedals and rocker panel covers, chrome-rimmed instruments (with red electroluminescent lighting) and chrome edges on the center stack and curved floor column added to the attractive appeal.

A sporty, full-sized steering wheel felt good in my hands and provided both redundant fingertip controls and good views of the instruments (especially that 180 mph speedometer).

It was a challenge at first to master the three dial air conditioning and heat system, with temperatures and air flow direction indicated in the same LED line as the stereo system; once we figured it out we got excellent air flow, with three pointable vents on the center stack alone.

The six-CD changer and seven-speaker Bose audio system rocked the house and was satellite-radio capable.

I liked the softly articulated emergency brake (no clicking as you engage it, just a smooth motion). The six-speed transmission did require a bit of poking to get right but could be relied upon for clean and efficient gear changes. A large sunroof and nicely sized side mirrors added up to contribute to a clean, efficient design. Package it all together and you have an ultra-powerful, good-looking and very fast machine that was only a little difficult to get into the corners. Otherwise, loads of laughs and quite the showpiece for Mazda engineering and design.

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