2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Cures Car Sickness By Cliff Leppke A Soul Red Metallic Mazda6 transforms the mainstream midsize sedan into a sexy beast. Like a scantily clad buff beach body, you cannot help gazing at it. Besides the brilliant finish, a cab-back stance, long hood, short rear deck and curvaceous metal generate visual interest. Mazda adds substance. Its refreshed 6, for example, is no longer the loud child in the automotive classroom. That’s because the Mazda6 cuts wind rush with thicker window glass. Extra sound deadening reduces road noise. A rich-looking interior dons two-tone stitched leatherette rather than faux wood or imitation carbon fiber. Soft-touch materials cover the dashboard, door cards and aft compartment. Bright accents grace the steering wheel, vents and the center console. The latter is wrapped and padded. Mazda’s driver-focused cocoon is more Ferrari and less F-150 pickup. The motorized Nappa leather-clad supportive front seats--complemented by a shifter lever, pushbuttons, toggles and steering wheel--encourage brisk motoring. Sitting shotgun doesn’t mean second rate. Riders get tilt, height, rake and lumbar adjustments. Those inhabiting the contoured aft pew should unfold the center armrest. It conceals seat-heat buttons. No pass thru for skis, however. The Euro-black headliner’s plastic plugs, however, say cheap. Grand Touring adds a driving perk--a head up display. It projects icons on the wipers rather than above them. Yet, this HUD is helpful; it presents useful forward obstruction, blind spot detection and lane-keep function info. You don’t have to look down at the instrument panel for cruise-control speed confirmation. Two left gauges (speedometer and tachometer) are 3D analogue style but the third is a 2D TFT info screen. The overall effect, however, is like Milwaukee losing one of its three iconic Domes. Mazda’s infotainment setup is clunky despite good screen placement and a slick volume knob. A Byzantine menu structure makes viewing mpg, setting radio stations or dimming the distracting ambient overhead mood light a chore. Otherwise, the illuminated center console is smart. In the go department, Mazda’s engineers, under the Skyactive banner, perform motoring magic—an adept combo of fuel efficiency and sprightly performance. The 186-hp four-cylinder mill has a high 13:1 compression ratio. That figure, which improves engine efficiency, usually requires premium fuel to prevent engine-killing pre-detonation. Yet, due to its heat-sink-like long-stroke cylinders, Mazda’s 2.5-liter imbibes regular and gets 30 mpg overall. The EPA says: 27 city, 35 highway, 30 mpg combined. I-Eloop, Mazda’s technique for recovering braking forces as electrical energy, subtly ups mpg. It charges a capacitor. In turn, the capacitor supplies electrical current to vehicle accessories. This reduces the alternator’s drag. This cuts fuel consumption by one mpg. The powertrain enthusiastically responds to right-foot cues. There’s a slight thrum during mid-range operation, which disappears on the expressway. A sport mode or paddle shifters let you tailor the six-speed automatic’s cog changing. Engine rpm is about 1800 rpm at 60 mph. A row-it-yourself manual six-speed is available—a rarity. Mazda’s polished power wouldn’t mean beans if the chassis were wooden. Don’t worry; it’s lively. The 6 rides lightly, as if suspended on taut rubber bands. Bumps are noticeable but the ride is composed. The speed-sensing steering centers well and imparts some road sense. This model rolls on 19-inch wheel-and-tire combo. Tiller behavior on expressways is firm and precise. Enhancing turn-in is a cross-differential feature. This offsets a front-drive car’s tendency to understeer (run wider than expected). In sum, the Mazda6 digs twisty routes. Despite the sedan’s fleetness, the electronic stability program intrudes, when charging cloverleafs. This takes the ginger out of an otherwise racy ride. Mazda, therefore, offers sporty-but-safe handling. Its comportment lets you adeptly manage foul weather, though. Low seating, for instance, imparts a better sense of vehicle stability than popular SUVs. Adjustable lane-departure warning (vibration) lets you tailor wiggle room before the lane-keep assist intervenes. This proved handy, when navigating through Lake Michigan-induced fog. Brakes modulate well. Mazda doesn’t offer a smart phone app but you do get automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control (adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a gap) with forward braking assist to prevent smashing the 6’s distinctive front snout. One assist sensor turned into a snow dome leading to various warnings. Covered hinges, carpeting and a long boot floor welcome your luggage. A short rear deck, however, restricts what it ingests. Mazda asks $30,695 for Grand Touring trim. Red paint fetches $300. Adding the GT premium pack with I-Eloop, active grille shutters, LED accent lighting, leather trim, heated rear seats and steering wheel bumps that figure to $34,695. Unlike some carmakers, Mazda’s zoom, zoom approach banishes boredom. This and its newfound refinement are just what the doctor ordered. A Mazda6 dose cures bland-car sickness.