Devil in the details? With Mazda6, there’s also delight

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The 2020 Mazda6 Signature at Seven Magic Mountains, an open-air art display just south of Las Vegas | Larry Edsall photos

The devil, they say, is in the details. Ah, but so is the delight.

Regular readers of my Driven stories know I’m no fan of all the driver “helpers” installed on cars today. I know they’re being done primarily for safety, and I applaud the development of anti-lock brakes and rear-view cameras, both are great additions to our vehicles. 

On the other hand, I think I drive well enough that I don’t need technology looking over my shoulder and warning me I might violate a paint stripe as I hit the apex on a curve, and I have a tire gauge and know how to use it, which is not always the case with tire-pressure monitors that too often give weather-induced false readings, and that have batteries that can die and connectors that can fail and I’m told it’s like $50 a wheel to get them replaced.

That to get to this: I’ve been driving a 2020 Mazda6 for the past week and it’s the first car I’ve driven that’s equipped with an apparently new technology feature that I actually  like. 

Since this Mazda6 is a Signature edition that comes standard with global-positioning satellite technology, the car can alert the driver to the speed limit on most roads traveled. And Mazda takes that to a redundant extreme, showing a pseudo speed-limit sign on the instrument panel as well as on the Signature series’ heads-up display. 

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It also displays such things as stop signs as you approach them, and that’s OK with me. 

But the thing, the delightful detail, I really like is the way one of the dashes that form the outer edge of the speedometer sweep changes from white to red to indicate the speed limit for the section of road you’re driving. It’s subtle, but clear, and makes the other speed-limit indicators redundant.

I find this to be clever technology that reminds me of the posted limit at any quick glance at the speedometer. I find it brilliant, and useful, and unlike that harping stay-in-the-center-of-your-lane feedback, helpful without interfering with the driving experience.

But then isn’t that what we’ve come to expect — enhanced driving experiences — from the brand that gave us the Miata?

While the Miata is a genuine sports car, the Mazda6 is a mid-size sedan, an increasingly rare vehicle on roads clogged with crossover and sport utility vehicles. And while a sedan, the Mazda6 Signature has a Sport setting that allows an enthusiast driver to enjoy a few more revs while driving.

The 6’s heritage traces to the Mazda Capella, introduced in Japan in 1970 and debuting in the US market as the 626 for the 1979 model year. The car moved from rear- to front-wheel drive a few years later.  and in the late 1990s was built in Michigan when Ford controlled Mazda.

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Capella/626 was replaced by a new Atenza/Mazda6 model in 2002. The latest architecture for the cars are now produced in Japan, was introduced in 2014 with a facelift and component update for 2018. Sadly for driving enthusiasts, a manual transmission option was discontinued a year later.

The current drivetrain includes a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque and linked to a 6-speed automatic (alas) transmission. You have to rev the engine to 5,000 for peak horsepower, but full torque is available at 2,000 revs.

The car — yes, a car, a real car, not a big-box on wheels — is quiet and comfortable, has plenty of interior room for people and a huge trunk (14.7 cubic feet of space) for their stuff. 

In top-of-the-line Signature-edition trim, the Mazda6 comes with a 8-inch display navigation monitor with 3-year Sirius XM Travel Link information service, Bose audio, Android Auto/Apple Carplay, Nappa leather seating (heated and ventilated for the driver and front-seat passenger), rear-seat middle armrest and cup holders, Ultrasuede and Sen wood interior trim, an array of driver “helpers,” LED head and tail lamps, rear-view mirrors that fold in toward the body when the car is parked, more. And all that, along with 5-star safety ratings, for a $35,300 base price. 

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If that price, which is about the average these days for a motor vehicle, seems too high for your budget, the Mazda6 in Sport trim starts at $24,100 and comes with a normally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 187 horsepower. It has cloth seating surfaces, Bluetooth hands-free calling, as well as blind-spot monitor and other safety features. 

And in between the Sport and Signature models the Mazda6 is available in Touring, Grand Touring and Grand Touring Reserve trim.

Each of them is a real car, a sleekly styled sedan, and a welcomed change from all of the boxes on wheels. The sedan can be a fun to drive, and don’t forget, there’s delight in the details.

2020 Mazda6 Signature

Vehicle type: 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, front-wheel drive

Base price: $35,300 Price as tested: $36,620

Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 227 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 310 pound-feet of torque @ 2,000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 111.4 inches Overall length/width: 72.4 inches / 191.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,582 pounds

EPA mileage estimates: 23 city / 31 highway / 26 combined

Assembled in: Hofu, Japan

For more information, visit the Mazda website

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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