In a market where vehicles are becoming more automated and less connected machines, very few companies are holding on to the joy of actually driving. For 30 years Mazda has given us the Miata, the most raced driver’s car of all. But what happens when you grow up, have a family and/or a corporate job, and can’t get away with driving a small roadster 365 days a year? Mazda offers a more sophisticated driving experience with the 2020 Mazda6 Signature. The Mazda6 Signature is a car that has matured elegantly over the years, but hasn’t strayed too far away from the joy of driving.
What Is It?
The Mazda6 has been around in the United States since 2003. Since its debut, it has mixed sporty styling with solid driving dynamics. As it has matured, its sporty styling shifted to include hints of elegance. Our 2020 Mazda6 Signature is the top of the line trim for the Mazda6, and it is more elegant than ever in its Soul Red Crystal Metallic skin. Paired with the sprawling Parchment Nappa Leather interior, this car has matured with grace.
Underneath this car’s curves lies a 2.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder, with a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque and 250 horsepower. Every Mazda6 now comes with a six-speed automatic transmission – even the naturally-aspirated Sport trim no longer offers a manual. The pedal box remains unchanged though, still perfectly placed for heel-toe downshifts. If only more consumers bought them when we could.
The car I drove stickered at $36,915, with the only optional extras being Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint ($595) and a cargo mat in the trunk ($100). That near-$37k MSRP places this car at the upper-end of the more mainstream mid-size sedans such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. But just a few moments behind the wheel remind you that this car still punches well above its class.
Driving the 2020 Mazda6 Signature
Gobs of torque get you moving quickly thanks to Mazda’s technically-intriguing Skyactiv-G turbo four-cylinder. Though not as fast to 60 as its Japanese competitors (just a hair over 6 seconds to 60 mph), the Mazda6 has a more usable drivetrain with a more usable power band. Unlike Mazdas of old, this car’s engineers knew its main user group would spend very little time in the upper revs, and would instead put more value in low end-grunt. The result is an engine with an almost diesel-like torque delivery, that will still spin to a 6000 RPM redline when you ask it to.
When left in automatic mode, the six-speed transmission shifts early at 5500 RPM to take advantage of the engine’s torque. Just when you think it’s beginning to run out of steam at the top of 3rd, a smooth transition into 4th results in an immediate shove of torque all over again. By this point you’re going way faster than you should be, but the car never asks you to stop. After every shift is an addicting wave of torque that you never tire of riding.
The shifts in manual mode are almost as good as a ZF 8-speed. With traction control off, the 2020 Mazda6 Signature will let you hit the rev limiter without automatically upshifting, which is always a commendable attribute. The tuning in automatic mode is spot on as well. There are no hiccups around town, and this transmission doesn’t find itself stumbling over which gear to select like some of the 8- or 9-speeds in the class.
Pairing perfectly with the ocean of torque is the silky smooth dampening of the chassis. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control takes an already well sorted suspension, and silently works behind the scenes to make this 2020 Mazda6 Signature feel superbly sure-footed. Mid-corner corrections are completely unnecessary in this car, as once the suspension is loaded up it stays stuck to the pavement. Mazda keeps the handling tidy by slightly, imperceptibly retarding spark timing, which reduces torque. The lateral load on the front tires is increased and the car can “pivot” with more grace.
With 310 lb-ft of torque channeling through the front wheels, power is cut when you try to access it early out of low-speed corners even with the traction control “off”. But nimble mid-speed transitions as well as incredible high-speed composure make my “E90” BMW 328i feel skittish in comparison to this car.
Just below the limit of grip, the rear end of this chassis is balanced and communicative enough to put a smile on any enthusiast’s face. The front end loads up quickly in transitions and immediately after, you feel the rear end almost “waft” into line. Long sweepers transition into steady understeer due to the front-drive chassis, which eventually pushes wide once the limits of grip are exceeded in any scenario.
Mazda’s engineers have done an amazing job making a front-drive chassis feel balanced and smooth. If recent rumors of a rear-drive platform are true, we are in for a treat!
The Daily Driver with Soul
As the name of this Soul Red Crystal Mazda6 suggests, this is the choice in the mid-size segment that is still built to make you smile as a driver. The things in this car that really matter over the long haul of vehicle ownership, such as interior quality and driving characteristics, are top notch. This sedan has all of the comfort and leather stitching of its German competitors, with a price tag tens of thousands of dollars lower.
Luckily, it’s not until you really start to push this car beyond the limits of grip where you feel any of its shortcomings in comparison to those more expensive rivals. The Mazda6 Signature is a must-drive for those looking for a sophisticated, sporty, and stylish sedan.