The sharp-looking family of Mazda6 mid-size sedans comes with a choice of two different engines, and even though these two engines give the car quite a different performance feel, they're both fun to drive. Mazda6 'I' models come with a 170-horsepower, 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, mated to a close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox (base Sport models only) or a 5-speed automatic transmission. These models have adequate power with the automatic transmission, though driving enthusiasts will find more fun with the neat-shifting manual.
Otherwise, those who want more power can opt for the Mazda6 's', which includes a 272-hp, 3.7L V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. With this top-of-the-line powertrain, the Mazda6 is strong and smooth, with a very responsive feel and lots of reserve power for passing and quick takeoffs. The automatic transmissions feature adaptive shift control--to hold revs when in a corner, for example--as well as manual control.
The Mazda6 also offers good handling for a mid-size sedan, with a rather firmly tuned but absorbent four-wheel independent suspension, as well as hydraulic-boost steering that's nicely weighted and predictable.
While the Mazda6 is clearly one of the sportier picks in its class, it's also one of the roomier picks. Its interior has soft yet supportive seats for those in front--in black or beige cloth for entry models, or black or beige leather for top-of-the-line models--while in back there's enough legroom and headroom to fit two adults on a long road trip or three for a shorter time. And the back seat has split-folding seatbacks that can expand the trunk's already very roomy trunk.
Opting for one of the 4-cylinder 'I' models earns you a more affordable price, as well as a choice of four different trim levels. Base Sport models include air conditioning, power locks, power windows (auto-up for the driver), a height-adjustable driver's seat, tilt/telescopic steering-wheel adjustment, steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a 6-speaker audio system. Above that, Touring trims get larger 17-inch alloy wheels and fog lamps on the outside, plus Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio capability, a 6-disc changer, a power driver's seat, a trip computer and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob. Touring Plus models add 18-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof and blind-spot monitoring, while at the Grand Touring level you get leather seats (heated in front), dual-zone climate control, an upgraded center console, a 4.3-inch display with rearview camera system.
On top-of-the-line models, a Technology Package adds satellite radio, push button start, advanced keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, a universal garage-door opener, body-color mirrors and LED rear lamps. A full voice-control DVD navigation system is available in addition to this package and includes real-time traffic functions.