Mazda 6 Grand Touring Review

Automotive journalists, yours truly included, have shouted ourselves hoarse over the years about the merits of the Mazda 6...without much influence on the sales charts. It's not a stiff, but it's not any threat to Accords, Camrys or even Altimas when they total up units sold at the end of each month.

The new Mazda 6 is every bit as good as the last one...and manages to pull off that trick (difficult because so much of what we like in the 6 is its sporting character) while getting quite a bit larger (in an effort to attract Accord, Camry and Altima cross-shoppers).

$24,910 buys a 2.5 liter 16-valve four-cylinder with 170 horsepower. Doesn't sound like much, but it drives like a 250-horsepower six. There's a six-speed manual transmission...17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, leather-trimmed seats (the driver's is an 8-way power adjustable and both front seats are heated) and a bunch more. Standard. For $24,910. And that's the Grand Touring model. There are less expensive trim lines.

The tester I drove for a week added a nav system for $2,000 (I'd have skipped it...if you have to have one, you probably already do...in your cell phone. If not, TomToms and Garmins are a fraction of this price) and $1,760 for a Moonroof & Bose Package...with a moonroof (duh!) and a Bose audio system with 6-disc CD changer and Sirius Satellite Radio. I'm not big on moonroofs (less headroom, more distraction, violation of structural integrity), but my wife is, so I'd probably say yes. Especially since the audio system is a really good one.

Even swallowing the nav system, the bottom line is a reasonable $29,440. Drop the nav and it's $27,440, which is a strong value proposition for a car with great performance, five-star crash ratings in every category and an EPA estimated 20 city/29 highway miles per gallon.

I'm getting hoarse again. Please, just drive one.

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