For 2009, the Mazda Mazda6 i Grand Touring has grown--both literally and figuratively--into a formidable competitor in the midsize sedan market, although its impressive array of cabin tech is marred by a few glaring omissions.
In Grand Touring trim, the Mazda6 benefits from brighter, LED-illuminated tail lamps and chrome-tipped tail pipes. What the Mazda6 lacks is a backup camera option, which would be useful when parallel parking the high-rumped sedan.
The Mazda6 i Grand Touring's interior is trimmed with a mix of high quality plastics and heated leather seating and is available in one color: black. Fit and finish is on par with the best of this segment.
Located at the center of the dash is the seven-inch touch-screen display. We like the screen's size and brightness, but the orientation angled it up and away from the driver. This created horrible glare in direct sunlight.
Climate controls are logically situated, although the HVAC display located all the way at the top of the dash takes some getting used to.
The Mazda6's red and blue illuminated electroluminescent instrument cluster is good looking and easy to read. However, the redline is not marked on the tachometer, which can be a problem when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission.
The Mazda6's DVD-based GPS navigation is the same system that we've seen time and time again in Mazda vehicles. The learning curve is a bit steep on the interface, which may turn off some users. Once mastered, the system is quick and responsive.
Standard on the Mazda6 at the Grand Touring trim level, bluetooth hands-free calling is easier to set up and use now, thanks to onscreen controls that let users bypass the finicky voice command system.
Look closely at the list of available inputs and you'll see something new for Mazda: Bluetooth audio streaming. This new system pairs in the same way as the hands-free and allows wireless audio streaming with limited control from compatible devices.
Paired with out T-Mobile Shadow, which doesn't support tag information, the Mazda's audio system can't display artist, song, or album information. A newer device that fully supports the standard should be able to send this information.
Users of iPods or other MP3 players are stuck playing their music through this aux-input hidden in the center console. There is no dock connector or USB option available that we could find on Mazda's specification sheets.
The 170-horsepower inline-four that lives under the Mazda6's hood can best be described as peppy, especially when paired with the six-speed manual gearbox. Configured as such, the Mazda6 manages an almost-thrifty 20 MPG city and 29 MPG highway.
Those in need of more power can opt for the thirstier 275-horsepower V-6 in the Mazda6 s model.