Boasting a unique 2.3-liter direct-injection turbo-charged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission and a high-tech Active Torque-Split All-Wheel Drive system, it’s got all the performance and passion of a specialist rally replica, but with the refinement of a luxury sedan. There’s no need to buy earplugs and hire a chiropractor every time you go for a drive.
By Kevin “Crash” Corrigan
Don’t believe all that you hear, the life of an auto journalist is not all fast cars and exotic locations. Yes, very occasionally we get to drive the latest wild ride from the super car manufacturers but much more often than that, we’re in your normal everyday vehicles. It was with this in my mind that I arrived at Mazda’s head office to pick up my car for the week, another four door family offering from the Mazda stable. Yes! A nice Mazda6 that’s been fitted with a four cylinder engine, well at least it will be economical.
This is where I usually say that “they handed me the keys” but they didn’t, what they gave me was my very own Mazda credit card or at least that’s what it looked like. After realizing that it didn’t have a magnetic strip or any numbers printed on it I pushed everything on the card that resembled a button expecting to see a key flick out from it but-nothing. I walked off in the direction of the car park thinking “are we really becoming a keyless society”?
Approaching the vehicle I was suitably impressed, Mazda has a unique way of giving all its products a certain sporty look; even this sensible four door model carried 18 inch alloy wheels and a cute little trunk lid spoiler. Now it’s probably not going to give the young tuner guys heart palpitations but for a guy like me sporting a slight middle age spread, it couldn’t hurt my street credibility.
The interior followed along similar lines, black leather bucket seats; leather bound 3 spoke steering wheel and a dashboard that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a two seater roadster. I turned the key and started it up, actually I didn’t, I turned a little knob where the key should have been. The vehicle sports a six speed gearbox. That’s impressive, but then again I guess the more gears that you have, the more you’re going to get out of that 2.3 liter 4 cylinder. After driving about a block or two, it was time to join the highway, so I pushed the accelerator pedal and aimed for a suitable gap in the northbound traffic.
Holy Shamolley!!....what have I got here, a Speed6? It’s more like a speed fix! To call this car a wolf in sheep’s clothing just doesn’t do justice to the vehicle! Imagine that the wolf has just shoved a kilo of white powder up his nose and now you’re starting to get the idea.
As I live in the countryside north of the city, I started to search out the twisty back roads where I could put the car through its paces. The vehicle was totally in its elements and let me quickly run through the reasons why.
The 2.3 liter 4 cylinder DOHC 16 valve engine with a direct injection turbo system produces 274 horses, all of this is then coupled to a slick six speed manual gearbox. It has independent coil sprung suspension all round with stabilizer bars back and front. It also boasts a dynamic stability control system and anti-lock brakes with EBFD. Oh! And did I mention that the speed 6 is equipped with Mazda’s multi-mode active torque split all wheel drive system and carries a limited slip differential?
The Speed6 just loves winding roads; it is also rather partial to a bit of gravel now and then so on country roads it’s a blast! I have tried to put a handle on what the Speed6 is truly like but I think that the best way that I could describe it would be a Subaru WRX without all the boy racer bits.
Of course the vehicle also has its civilized side with plenty of room for the family, reasonable trunk space and a whole host of the usual safety features. It also carries a 6-disc in-dash CD changer with Bose audio system and 7 speakers. This I tried for a few minutes and found extremely pleasant, but not quite as pleasing to the ears as the vehicle’s exhaust growl.
All in all, I truly enjoyed my week in the Speed6.
I’ve tried the so called “hot Hatchbacks” and they’re nice but I tend to like a car with a real trunk and a door for everyone. If I were in the market for a new car, I think that I’d forget the “hot hatch” and go for the “flaming four door”!
Price as tested $38,795 (includes leather package, keyless entry, moon roof $2,800)
Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy is applied to every aspect of the MAZDASPEED 6 from a subtly aggressive bodykit to a cabin that’s been created especially for the sporting driver.
But the MAZDASPEED 6 is not just about speed. As befits a top-of-the-line model, the MAZDASPEED 6 offers a host of creature comforts that the “rally replicas” could only hope for, such as comfortable and supportive seats with optionally available leather trim, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with an optional BOSE audio system featuring a six-disc CD changer, standard xenon headlights, and optionally available moonroof and DVD-based navigation system.
“The MAZDASPEED name is synonymous with amazing agility and road holding and the MAZDASPEED 6 doesn’t disappoint,” says Kevin Mori, MAZDASPEED 6 vehicle line manager for Mazda North American Operations. “What’s all the more remarkable is that, unlike some rival rally-replica all-wheel drive sedans the MAZDSPEED 6 also achieves superb ride and refinement.”
The MAZDASPEED banner incorporates factory-built vehicles that offer the highest-possible performance, yet are true to their donor vehicles; factory-developed and -warranted street and racing performance parts and accessories; and MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, the company’s racing division.
Mazda has always been a powerplant pioneer. The 13B RENESIS rotary unit in the sensational RX-8 is the world’s only production rotary engine and now the MAZDASPEED 6 launches with a boundary-breaking engine of its own.
The all-aluminum 2.3-liter in-line four-cylinder, 16-valve engine in the MAZDASPEED 6 is one of the first direct-injection, turbocharged, gasoline engines available in North America. Mazda uses the moniker Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) to describe the engine. And this is just the first of a number of planned applications for this powerplant.
By introducing direct injection to a gasoline turbo application, Mazda circumvented the usual drawback of turbocharging - poor low- and mid-range torque - while meeting strict exhaust emission regulations. Both fuel mixture loading efficiency and torque are increased by injecting fuel directly into the combustion chamber. As a result, the turbocharger delivers much of its 15.6 psi of boost from approximately 2,500 rpm. The single-scroll turbocharger maintains exhaust temperature, allowing for reduced thermal capacity of the exhaust system, which, in turn, minimizes harmful emissions and allows the MAZDASPEED 6 to meet both LEV-II state and Bin 5-A Federal regulations.
The 2.3-liter DISI engine produces 274 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at just 3,000 rpm. With the turbo spinning so eagerly, there’s torque on tap at very low revs, giving the MAZDASPEED 6 amazing in-gear acceleration. And the benefits of the DISI technology, coupled with a fast-spinning turbocharger, further support the original promise of MAZDASPEED 6 being true to the original MAZDA 6 concept.
Other enhanced components in the engine include steel connecting rods and crankshaft, increased diameters of connecting rod pins, optimized rod shape and the introduction of full floating pistons. Each and every moving part is stronger, more rigid and more durable. Literally hundreds of part numbers were changed from the standard MZR non-turbo engine in developing this powerplant.
Mazda engineers specified a six-speed manual transmission as it was deemed to be the best mix of proper gear-spacing, ease of use and outright performance. No automatic is available, as the engineering team felt that a proper sports sedan should be equipped with a manual transmission, to fully involve the driver in the experience.