2007 Mazdaspeed 6 review

So you’re in the market for a fast, fun, four door sedan that won’t break the bank. You like technologically advanced designs, so you’re imagining a turbo engine, AWD chassis, and manual transmission. At the same time, you don’t like to see yourself coming and going so the rarer the better. For a while, the only transportation to meet these criteria was the Subaru WRX STi and the Mitsubishi EVO. While they met all of the above criteria, they also packed one extra feature at no extra charge – styling that screams “LOOK AT ME!” as you roll down the road. The ironing-board style spoilers, loud exhaust, and intakes galore guaranteed you would be seen by every motorist and cop wherever your travels took you. But perhaps those are a little too……extroverted for your tastes. Maybe there are other ways you choose to express your immaturity than through the look of your car. Or maybe you have a spouse who furrows (presumably) her eyebrows upon looking at one of those fantastic pieces of automotive engineering in a way that no amount of reasoning could ever overcome. Always trying to be a bit different than everyone else, Mazda came up with the Mazdaspeed 6. It takes all of the above features, and puts them in a body that barely looks different than their standard 6 sedan. Many might in fact mistake this for mainstream transportation. But should they?

Like the two mentioned above, the Mazdaspeed 6 brings 4 cylinder turbo power into the ring, powering all four wheels with control provided by a 6-speed manual transmission. The outside is attractive, if slightly understated. There is a bulge in the hood to make room for the intercooler that now sits atop of the engine. Peek between the spokes of the unique rims and you’ll notice stronger brakes than stock to halt your warp speed runs. What you can’t see is the suspension components, but rest assured they’ve been given a thorough reworking by Mazda’s engineers to handle the newfound sportiness that resides within.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the interior. Never a strong suit of the normal 6 anyway, the ‘speed 6 doesn’t offer much in the way of upgrades. The seating is fine, and the driving position is adequate as well, but the materials leave a lot to be desired. Cheap plastic adorns most surfaces, but that’s not really different that the STi or EVO either. You need to understand that you’re buying the mechanical parts of the car, and not luxury items. Gauges are sport themed with a red-on-black color scheme, and the pedals are made cool by being metal instead of all rubber. Leather seats and a power sunroof are notable options that you may or may not find if you choose to search for one.

Fire up the powerplant and the exhaust note seems underwhelming. Step off the clutch into first gear (careful, it’s tricky) and away you go. The 2.3 turbo motor likes to rev quickly. Torque is actually abundant before the turbo comes on full steam at about 3000 RPM. After that it will pull hard, but tapers off the closer you get to the almost 7k redline. It’s not slow, but you might be expecting more. Too bad for you if you choose to explore the upper ranges because the turbo motor offers absolutely no aural incentive to do so. It sounds bland, lacking any trace of excitement. The sound is very industrial. One indicator of a sports machine is the noise it makes. While many different sports cars make many different noises, in almost all cases they’re exciting to listen to as you flog them. Not this one. And, like most of these AWD turbo cars, a transmission-killing launch is required to duplicate magazine test numbers. On the plus side, with the strong revving motor, passing power is always on tap, even in 6th gear.

The suspension is definitely buttoned down. While not harsh, it’s definitely more on the sport side of things as you would rightly expect. Just as with the styling, it rides softer than a STi but in no way could be called cushy. No one will ever mistake this ride for a Lexus. Bend the chassis into a turn and there is surprisingly little body lean. Steering is quick – just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock. This makes the Mazdaspeed feel quite responsive and gives its pilot a lot of confidence when pretending the road is Laguna Seca. The AWD and sticky tires give amazing amounts of grip, far more than can reasonably be used up on a public road.

If you’ve seen my review of the STi (here), then you already know what that car is about, even in Limited trim. It’s all racecar all the time. While it’s true to its appearance, it may not be your cup of tea on the daily grind. The Mazdaspeed feels like it’s deliberately trying to be a toned down STi. While it’s not as focused on hardcore performance as a STi, it doesn’t offer much else to compensate. The interior materials are just as questionable as its immediate competition, which is something you realistically start to look at if the mechanicals aren’t as engaging. I guess the best way to say it is that the ‘speed 6 feels more like the ultimate version of the Mazda 6 as opposed to a true competitor to its Japanese rally car rivals. You don’t get the same sense of purpose in the Mazdaspeed 6 that you do in the STi. In the 6 you can’t tell exactly what it’s trying to be. If a car is going to be a plain vanilla commuter, then it should be good at doing that. If it’s going to be a performance machine, then it should be good at doing that. And that’s exactly what is missing in the 6. It’s not a hardcore performance machine, and it’s not a well executed commuter car either. There are a number of everyday cars that perform that function well and at the same time interject enough fun for a driving enthusiast to not feel like they’re stuck in a penalty box. The ‘speed 6 is somewhere in a no-man’s-land in between those two extremes, and fails to do either particularly well. You’ll pay all the penalties of a performance car (ride, gas mileage, and so forth) without reaping the benefits of a true, focused sports machine (blazing power and an exciting engine note notably). While the Mazdaspeed is certainly not the only car to commit this sin, the fact is that it is a limited production car that Mazda wants to sell you as something special.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

Photos property of Mazda

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