- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2008

When the Mazda6 was introduced in 2003 it was instantly popular because of its nimble handling and precise steering. It never, however, achieved its full potential because it was a bit smaller and offered less power than its perceived competitors.

The midsize car segment is populated with a dozen or more cars - a segment so competitive that from a technology and development standpoint, those cars have become more and more alike. From a distance they look much alike and the list of features reads alike as well. However, design is one area where it’s possible to create an image that clearly defines the brand and product identity.

For the new generation Mazda6, the easy solution might have been to simply make it larger and more powerful. But times and tastes change. Mr. Youich Sato, was assigned the role of chief designer for the 2009 Mazda6. The most notable Mazdas in his portfolio are the second- and third-generation RX-7s and the second-generation MX-5 Miatas.

Rather than simply “blowing up” the original Mazda6 he challenged all of his designers to create a wholly fresh, upscale, premium, yet still sporty appearance for this second generation model.

Mazda designers knew from the start that design trends were moving away from simple, conservative exteriors towards more emotional and distinctive shapes. The cab-forward movement is gone, making way for more emotional themes.

Designed, engineered, developed and manufactured in the U.S., the all-new 2009 Mazda6 uses everything learned in that first-generation car and combines that knowledge with state-of-the-art hardware and truly unique body styling.

Over 2 million U.S. buyers purchase a new midsize automobile each year. Nearly one out of five American buyers believe that an affordable, midsize sedan best fits their needs. As buyers abandon low-mileage trucks and SUVs, the midsize segment is expected to experience strong growth.

Accordingly, the new Mazda6 is aimed at a broader audience with the intention of offering the Mazda brand “Zoom-Zoom” experience to customers unaware of what they’ve been missing. Compared to the original, the new model has a 4.5-inch-longer wheelbase with a wider track. Overall length is increased by 6.1 inches and width is up 2.3 inches. According to Mazda, these new dimensions give the car more leg, shoulder and hip room and more luggage space than the Accord, Altima or Malibu.

One of the most distinctive design features is a front fender reminiscent of the one on today’s sculpture that flows from the front fascia, through the headlamp, over the top of the front-wheel opening, and into the side surface.

The graceful S-curve that flows smoothly from the highest point of the roof to the back end of the deck lid and the rear glass that blends into the deck lid give the Mazda6 a sleek appearance from almost any angle. Powerful wheel arches create an athletic stance and lamps nestle jewel-like within their surrounding surfaces.

There’s more to the Mazda6 than its stunning appearance. To deliver the kind of performance buyers expect, there are two new engines and an assortment of transmission improvements for this 2009 sport sedan.

With 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and peak torque of 167 pounds-feet. at 4,000 rpm, the new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine tops nearly all competitors’ engines. EPA fuel economy is 21 city/30 highway with the automatic and 20 city/29 highway with the manual transmission.

Mazda introduced an all-new 60-degree 3.7-liter V-6 engine, designated MZI, in the 2008 North American Truck of the Year-winning CX-9, and that engine is now available to the 2009 Mazda6.

Specially tuned intake and exhaust systems enhance the power and torque produced. With 272 horsepower available at 6,250 rpm and 269 pounds-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm, the V-6 tops all midsize competitors. EPA fuel economy is 17 city/25 highway with an automatic transmission.

To exploit all the performance of the 2.5-liter engine, the Mazda6 has a standard close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. Those who prefer an automatic can opt for a five-speed automatic. A new six-speed automatic is standard in the V-6. Both automatics provide a manual-shift gate to the left of the automatic-mode positions. Each gear is held until the driver commands an upshift.

While the basic chassis layout is similar to the successful first-generation Mazda6, there are scores of detail changes. Every last bushing, bar and spring is new.

Zoom-Zoom is bred, not born. Instilling athletic handling, linear and responsive steering, confident braking, and well-controlled ride qualities in the Mazda6 required astute design and painstaking development.

The 2009 Mazda6 is available now. Prices start at $18,550 for the I-4 and $24,130 for the V-6.

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