2021 Mazda6 Signature Review by Cliff Leppke When critics employ the word “signature” they’re exploring more than an artist’s autograph. They dive into a creator’s distinctive use of tropes or the breaking of them. Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, for example, compelled us with facial closeups, ticking clocks, monochrome moodiness and stingingly poetic dialogue. Bergman, furthermore, broke the usual Hollywood simulation of face-to-face dialogue. His characters often stand one behind the other permitting seamless camera moves. The Mazda6 Signature, which lists for $35,900, dabbles in its own kind of design language. And it dares you to scrutinize it at length. It melds an Asian influence with the character of a European midsize sports sedan. While its developers didn’t sign it, their craftsmanship is evident from bow to stern. This 6 zooms rather than dollies, activated by a 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder mill mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Add an athletic chassis and upscale interior and you get carriage-trade mobility. As such, it’s very much on the heels of VW’s splendid Arteon. Expect 0-60 mph in about 6.4 seconds. Mazda, formerly the loud child in this segment (remember the rambunctious Mazdaspeed3/6?) amped this sedan’s output using the silent treatment. Yes, the engine throbs when cold—often noticeable when using auto-hold brakes while idling, say, at a stoplight. Plus, the four-pot mill seems a tad breathless at launch. On the highway, however, it has a sassy attitude. Just nudge the go pedal for passing power. Regardless, the 6’s sometimes lazy attitude is intentional; Mazda’s engineers down-speeded the engine permitting it to do everyday chores without sweating—it rarely exceeds 2,000 rpm. That’s an economy move. I observed 21.5 mpg during a wintry try out, the EPA says 23 mpg city, 31 highway. There’s a sense of refinement inside due to hushed road noise, muffled engine and tasteful trimmings. Mazda describes dash and door inlays as a forest of “Sen wood veneer.” A glade of premium suede-like dashboard bits might soil easily, though. The overhead ambient lighting LED is a tad bright, but there’s a thin knob in the IP for instrument dimming. The end effect says howdy to those four rings from Inglostat. Mazda even padded the console, door cards and dashboard. Chromium accents (too many I’d say) brighten the otherwise dark environ. The front-door armrests, however, are too narrow at the rear edge for long-arm drivers. Add a head up display, leather-clad sport seating, heated steering wheel, warmed seats and nice stitchwork and the pluses offset the minuses. One of the latter is the infotainment system. Twirling your way through its menus is both a delight and a frustration. The expertly placed controls snick like money. Radio tuning, however, requires too many twists and taps. Mazda’s suite of driver assists (i-ACTIVESENSE) expresses readiness on the head-up display. There’s a camera-based roadside sign recognition feature—right down to stop signs and radar cruise control. The forward collision sensor is befuddled by snow. And like many others cannot find lane markings when there’s too much road salt. When, it’s locked on center, however, the steering wheel’s vibration informs you when you’ve drifted too far. Blind-spot warnings at the outer edges of the side-view mirrors are duplicated by HUD icons, though. An auto-hold feature halts the car at stop lights after you remove your foot from the brake pedal. Mazda advises against using it on snowy roads. Indeed, the automatic brakes induced sliding, when launching, as did the vehicle’s application of them. You can summon a second-gear start via the shifter’s manual mode—a salve on slippery roads. Those in the aft pew get first-class confines. The front seat backs are padded with TWA-like pull out panels for your stuff. There are vents at the back of the center console and the center rear armrest parks at a comfy angle. In it, you’ll find bun-warmer switches. This Mazda, shod with 19-inch Falken tires, rode well. The taut suspension offers good isolation from heaved Wisconsin roads. The navigation system prompted me to do the step-by-step entry via voice. A one-shot setup is common these days. Oddly, the Mazda nags you to strap yourself in while the engine’s on and the tranny in park. While the 6 isn’t the newest midsize sedan on the market, the Signature treatment provides an artfully arranged driving experience. And you don’t have to read subtitles.