In our last thrill-packed episode, I gushed about the Sport mode turning the putt-putty 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco into a beast.
Well, that beast is a chihuahua compared when you compare its Sport mode to the 2017.5 (that’s the year on the Monroney sticker, folks) Mazda6 Grand Touring’s version.
It was already a peppy little soul metallic red four-door sedan when I first took it for a spin. The Grand Touring features 16-valve, four-cylinder, 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G DOHC engine with VVT that achieves 184 horsepower and 188 pounds of torque.
Combined with the SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed automatic transmission and SKYACTIV Vehicle Dynamics with G-Vectoring Control, the Mazda6 provided an impressive ride before I engaged the Sport mode, which adjusts the transmission shift and engine throttle controls to deliver a, well, sportier driving experience. It’s as if you’ve been dropped behind the wheel of a race car.
You expect nothing less from Mazda–shout out to the North American headquarters near Irvine Spectrum, which is the automaker’s largest operation outside of Japan–which long ago put all its eggs into enhancing the driving experience.
What makes this particular Mazda6 more attractive, especially in traffic-choked Southern California, is the balance between driving performance and fuel efficiency. It gets an EPA rated 35 miles to the gallon on the highway and 27 mpg in the city for a combined 30 mpg.
Even better for the environment, its EPA Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rating on a 1-10 scale (10 being best) is a respectable 7, and its Smog Rating is an 8.
It’s also a safe ride with an overall Government 5-Star Safety Rating with five stars for all passengers in side crashes as well as the driver in frontal crashes and four stars for rollovers and the passenger in frontal crashes.
Combine all that with the sleek design, the power sliding glass moon roof (standard!) and that aforementioned soul red paint job (optional!), and any mug in the rush hour slough would be proud to be behind the wheel.
Perhaps taking a cue from other foreign automakers, Mazda includes as standard features many items that you used to find in premium packages, including the 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with Dark Silver finish, rear decklid spoiler and LED grille accent lighting that enhance the eye-catching look.
Also standard on the Grand Touring are LED fog lights, daytime running lights and headlights with auto on-off, leveling and high beam control, automatic dimming of the driver’s exterior side mirror, which along with the passenger-side mirror is heated, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink to control your garage door.
An alarm, keyless entry, navigation system, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and driver and passenger-side illuminated covered visor vanity mirrors are also standard.
Comfy standards include: dual-zone automatic climate control; rear seat heat and air conditioning vents; leather-trimmed sport seats; eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment and memory settings; six-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat; full-color active driving display; Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound Audio System with 11 speakers; and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with four-month trial subscription).
Safety standards include: smart brake support; lane departure warning; lane keep assist; Mazda Radar Cruise Control with close proximity warning; traffic sign recognition; and rain sensing variable-intermittent windshield wipers.
All that with a $30,695 sticker price? Not bad at all.
My test ride included options such as a cargo mat, that soul red paint, rear bumper guard, door sill trim plates as well as the GT Premium Package (i-ELOOP Regenerative Engine Braking System, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel with unique stitching, black headliner, Nappa leather-trimmed sport seats, bright finish power seat switches and glove compartment knob, LED accent lighting for shifter area and active grille shutters).
The options, package and delivery, handling and processing fees pushed the manufacturer’s suggested retail price up to $34,695.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.