2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring
Gorgeous new interior leads segment in style and sophistication
You could be forgiven for not noticing that the 2016 Mazda6 has been given a mid-cycle refresh, as updates to its exterior styling are quite subtle. In my opinion this is a good thing, however, as it’s already a fabulous looking mid-size sedan and any radical changes for the sake of change might have undermined the original design.
As it is, Mazda has only modified its grille slightly by replacing the thicker topmost horizontal rung with two thinner slats, resulting in six uniform ribs from top to bottom. These are chromed on as-tested top-line Grand Touring trim, while all models get a thicker version of Mazda’s trademark bright metal grille surround wrapping around its lower half before becoming even more pronounced as it blends into the newly redesigned headlamps, these incorporating full LED illumination in Grand Touring trim. Last but hardly least, Grand Touring models get stylish chromed eyelids overtop the fog lamps, which are upgraded to LEDs with this top-tier trim as well. While all of this is good, if you only caught a glimpse of its side profile or rear quarters while it drove past there’d be no clues as to its model year, or the dramatic changes made inside.
If you’ve ever slid behind the wheel of a modern-day Mazda6 you’ll be wowed by the 2016 model’s revisions. The first thing that catches the eye is the freestanding seven-inch tablet-style infotainment display perched atop the dash, standard with all automatic transmission models, which eliminates the previous system’s fully embedded layout. I like the look as it modernizes the interior, and while new to the 6 this system has already proven its worth in other Mazda models, as has the large metal-ringed rotating HMI Controller dial, the assortment of go-to buttons around its perimeter and the separate volume control knob, all situated within easy reach on the lower console. The new display makes it easier to view without taking eyes from the road, while its graphic interface is attractive and ultra-simple to operate. It gets very effective voice-activated navigation in Grand Touring trim, plus a reverse camera with guidelines adopted from the stock Sport model with its optional autobox. Additional infotainment features with this setup include SMS text message audio delivery and reply, HD Radio, Pandora, and more. The dual-zone automatic climate control system is grandfathered up from second-rung Touring trim, but the big news here is a completely redesigned HVAC interface that looks fabulous and works effectively.
If you noticed this without first seeing the gorgeous swath of stitched and padded leatherette crossing the instrument panel, I’d be concerned, as it’s a classy bit of luxury kit that goes even further to set the top-tier 6 apart from competitors in the class. The premium treatment finishes off the edges of the lower center stack and lower console too, my tester’s done out in chocolate brown for added richness, while the door inserts and armrests get the same brown padded leatherette treatment.
Situated right in front of the driver’s sightlines is a head-up display unit that powers up out of the dash at startup, an item that will be familiar to Mazda3 Grand Touring and new CX-3 Grand Touring owners when fully optioned. As with these other models it can only be had in top-tier Grand Touring trim and then only with the GT Technology package, and is really handy for speed limit reminders and other critical warnings, but I found it especially helpful when trying to find my way via the aforementioned navigation system, as the instructions along with large directional arrows were able to guide me along without causing the need to glance over to the infotainment screen.
Below the head-up display is a primary gauge package that appears identical to the outgoing model’s, which was entirely fine by me as its large backlit dials and effective shroud made for easy reading no matter the exterior lighting conditions. The steering wheel was more or less the same too, except for some metallic appliques, although to be clear the only other carryover instrument panel surfaces were the sliver of dash top just under the windshield, plus the lower dash and glove box lid ahead of the front passenger. As expected in this class the majority of that redesigned dash top as well as the carryover door uppers are made from a high quality synthetic that’s soft to the touch, the 6’s overall refinement good for its mainstream mid-size category and coming very close to some E-segment sedans in the premium class.
I couldn’t help but notice that the new Mazda6 was also quieter around town and on the highway, a feeling that turned to fact when research confirmed Mazda had reduced NVH levels by 25 percent at freeway speeds. As has long been the case, the big sedan is extremely comfortable in all situations, while handling is better than average in this class. Of course my Grand Touring tester’s 19-inch rims on 225/45R19 all-season rubber didn’t hurt matters, these replacing the standard 17-inch alloys on 225/55s, the larger wheels making the most of the 6’s fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension with stabilizer bars at both ends, and speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering giving good feedback while plenty easy to use at low speeds.
All Mazda6 trims get four-wheel discs with ABS and electronic brake-force distribution for strong stopping power, while dynamic stability control and traction control keep things in check when road surfaces turn slippery. Mazda also includes standard Hill Launch Assist (HLA), which is especially useful with the manual, while standard tire pressure monitoring helps maintain the proper contact patch to aid handling, braking and fuel economy. Lastly, the usual number of airbags protects occupants front and rear.
If the 6 has a weakness it’s performance, its Skyactiv-branded DOHC, 16-valve, direct-injected 2.5-liter four-cylinder biased more towards fuel economy than all-out acceleration. The engine makes 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, ample for everyday use and fully capable of getting you up to highway speeds and beyond in adequate fashion, but it’s not going to win any stoplight wars and certainly doesn’t do much to promote Mazda’s enviable go-fast image. The availability of a six-speed manual gearbox for its first two trim levels is admirable, however, although I can think of a few potential buyers who’d enjoy one in the top-line Grand Touring as well. Its optional six-speed automatic is good as well, however, featuring no-cost paddle-shifters and a drive selection switch boasting Sport mode.
Trims in mind, the entry-level Sport, which starts at $21,495 plus freight and dealer fees, gets some impressive standard features, including an electronic parking brake, new this year, plus pushbutton start, power windows with one-touch up/down all-round, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and shift knob, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with Bluetooth hands-free with Audio Profile, automatic volume control, two USB ports, an aux jack, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, height adjustment for the passenger’s seat, air conditioning, cruise control, handy sunglasses storage overhead, a decent sized 14.8 cubic-foot trunk that can be made larger via 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with trunk-mounted release levers, turn signals integrated into body-color mirror housings, LED taillights, and much more.
My Grand Touring tester included many of those Sport features as well as much of what comes with the mid-tier Touring model, including its 19-inch alloys, passive keyless entry system, illuminated vanity mirrors, dual-zone automatic HVAC system, rearview camera, powered driver’s seat, rear HVAC ducts, rear outboard seat heaters, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
Standard with my $30,195 Grand Touring, which along with the revised front bumper garnish and grille (the latter of which comes complete with signature illumination) are unique dark silver finish 19-inch alloys, auto on/off LED headlights with signature lighting, adaptive cornering capability and automatic leveling, LED fog lights, and the rear lip spoiler I commented on earlier, are auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a universal remote, navigation, driver’s seat memory, two additional adjustments to the powered driver’s seat, six-way power for the passenger seat with powered height adjustment, heatable cushions up front, leather upholstery, plus a superb sounding 11-speaker Bose audio system boasting Centerpoint surround-sound and AudioPilot noise compensation, satellite radio, a powered moonroof, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) and more.
My Grand Touring tester also got the high-tech treatment including adaptive cruise control with close proximity warning, auto high-beam assist, lane departure warning, forward obstruction warning, plus Smart Brake Support (SBS), this item and SCBS mentioned a moment ago being capable of applying the brakes automatically to avoid a collision, but unlike most rivals Mazda’s $2,180 GT Technology package includes the active head-up display system noted earlie, plus active grille shutters and i-ELOOP regenerative braking that redirects captured kinetic energy to the electrical system for even greater efficiency.
So equipped the six-speed automatic gains a significant advantage over the non-i-ELOOP setup with a claimed 28 mpg in the city, 40 on the highway and 32 combined compared to 26 city, 38 highway and 31 combined. The six-speed manual trades fuel-efficiency for fun with an EPA rating of 25 city, 37 highway and 29 combined. This said, all Mazda6 fuel economy ratings are excellent, a good reward for any performance penalties.
After a week behind the wheel I must admit to being mostly on side with Mazda’s new efficiency first philosophy, at least when it comes to this big four-door sedan. While there are times I miss the old Ford-sourced 272 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 with its tire spinning 269 lb-ft of torque, I have to transport my mind back to the days when fuel prices were consistently well below two bucks a gallon in order to get a clearer picture of what that powertrain might be like to live with today. The current truth is that I also appreciate paying less for fuel, and in today’s market I know I’m not alone, let alone am I the only one concerned about the effects of my tailpipe emissions, which are much lower thanks to Mazda’s Skyactiv technologies.
Mazda is on the right track with its flagship 6. Along with its efficiency advancements, its styling is class leading while completely original, its new interior wonderfully modernized while one of the most refined in its segment, and its handling and braking dynamics amongst the most sporting, while the model’s modest sales make it a lot more exclusive than other mid-sizers. In my opinion the much-improved 2016 Mazda6 remains a clear winner and worthy of serious consideration.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.