Just over two weeks and 1,700 miles with my new ride, I couldn’t be happier with my new investment. Here is a personal review of what I love about waiting a decade to upgrade a daily driver.
From 3 to 6
Most of you know how much I love my cars, they are my pride and joy, and they take a lot of my blood, sweat, and tears keeping them in the best condition I can. I was never the buy and sell/trade type of consumer. When I get something I love, I like to hold onto it for generations of that product until it’s really time to upgrade. I was in love with my 2005 BMW 330xi from the moment I saw it in the showroom. I knew I had to get it, jet black paint reflecting rows of fluorescent showroom lights, chrome trim adding to the luxurious aesthetics, and what used to be considered large 17 inch alloy wheels. That was even before stepping into the beautiful dual tone leather interior with Harman Kardon emblems to tickle your eyes as they tickle your ears too. The ergonomics of the E46 can hardly be matched even in today’s standards. Everything was in perfect reach, and best of all, the center console was angled towards the driver! Show me a car today that has true driver oriented setup and I’ll go buy it.
To make a long story short about my BMW affectionately named Boba, I cared and loved (and sometimes hated) him (yes, it’s a boy) for 9 years and 11 months, had an amazing journey for 202,000 miles. Boba had also earned many hearts and affection from my friends who have experienced wonderful long drives with him. I truly didn’t want to give him up, but it was well past the manageable repair (and consistent) costs to keep. I had reached my unimaginable goal of 200k miles, so I was now willing to trade him in if I found another daily driver that I could really enjoy just as much.
What is a daily driver you may ask? In the car world, the daily is a practical car you commute in, and the weekend car can be anything ridiculous or impractical you have fun in. I also own a 2007 BMW Z4 M Roadster, so all the fun and wild desires in a car is tucked neatly into that little package, which allows me to concentrate on comfort when it comes to a daily.
My requirements for a daily driver at the age of 33 is now different than it was at 23. The BMW 3 series is a compact car, and I usually found myself struggling to put all the luggage or equipment I wanted. There was also minimal front cabin storage space. Let’s face it, for a daily driver, you will need all the comforts you want and store items you need during commutes or long drives. While I also need to get my speed demons out once in a while, driving fast all the time was never my thing. I’ve discovered cruising with traffic while enjoying your music or windows down is so much more relaxing than trying to pass that annoying prick driving slow on the passing lane. This being said, while I would love to have more horsepower on paper just to show off, I really didn’t need anything faster than what I had, and I never had a problem overtaking a car when I wanted to. Being a solely BMW owner for a decade, I was spoiled by German luxury interiors with great ergonomics and refined design, it would be difficult to move down a step or two when looking for a more economical car.
I will bundle my final requirement together for a daily driver, a long-term-reliable-low-maintenance-fuel-efficient car that I wouldn’t be terrified of parking in Manhattan. In other words, a practical car. How can I ever love a practical car? That’s when I discovered the Mazda6.
The 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring
Knowing that I was able to keep a German car for 10 years made me realize I can easily keep a Japanese car for even longer, with less maintenance and repair costs, and still keep a higher residual value. I literally stumbled upon the 2016 model of the Mazda6. The model is so new that at the time of this review and having driven the car for more than 1,700 miles, mazdausa.com still does not list this new redesigned model, nor will you find any real world reviews online. I only discovered it because the salesman pulled the car up from their inventory last minute because I was hesitant about the last year’s design. The dramatic facelift of the interior immediately sold me and I was ready to buy. If you’re really curious about the performance and specs of the car, there are lots of reviews online of the 2014-2015 models (3rd gen). I will just give my personal experience with the car so far. Keep in mind, I am also comparing a 2016 model car with a 2005, so my excitement may be much higher than someone who upgrades every three years.
I think the car looks very sexy, and while I noticed it shares many design cues of other sedans from Chevy to Hyundai, the Mazda nailed it with a much more refined look. They named their design concept Kodo, “soul of motion.” The large aggressive front fender hump suggests it’s still moving and pouncing forward. The headlights and front grill no longer represents a big happy smile, but a girl with sexy bedroom eyes. The sleek look travels to the rear tail lights with long narrow LEDs and wide rear fenders that give the car some extra curves. The shark fin antenna helps remind me of my BMW.
I can’t brag enough about the stock 19 inch wheels, especially on a Japanese sedan. They’re a beautiful dark metallic gray, revised from the silver in the previous years. Would 19 inches be less comfortable than 17 or 18? Perhaps, but Mazdas are known to be more responsive and stiffer than the competition like Honda. Coming from German cars, I like stiffer and less floaty. It also looks too damn good!
My first impression with a mid-sized sedan was how big it was, especially parking in my garage next to a Mercedes C Class and a Porsche Boxster. It made me feel like I might have gotten too big of a car. Spending a few more days with it made me love the extra room so much more and I absolutely love how spacious it is. It can easily seat 5 people comfortably, and fit at least five petite Asian girls in the trunk.
I must admit the interior of the 2016 model blew me away the moment I sat in the driver’s seat. The subtle dual tone leather of dark chocolate brown and black with stitching details elevated the car to a luxury class for me. No more wood trims, all stitched leather, with dark chrome accents. The center console was like that of a BMW or Audi, and Mazda obviously seemed to take interface cues from both. The Commander switch is like that of a BMW iDrive system, with additional buttons and a Audi like volume knob on the right. Additional modern features include an electric parking switch, and sport mode rocker switch instead of just an on/off button. The infotainment display has a mixed look of portable tablet yet seated into the dash. The touch screen is a nice option, but my fear of fingerprints will keep my hands on the Commander switch.
I like using the Commander switch to navigate through the screens, but there’s an obvious trade between having less real buttons for a clean console look, and having to switch screens to control a navigation system or the radio. This is just a feature all future drivers will have to get used to. I have more audio sources than I know what to do with! AM/FM, XM, Pandora, Aha, Bluetooth, USB1 and USB2, CD, Aux. I throw my iPod into the arm rest as a permanent USB device, and charge my iPhone through the other USB port, also as another iPod device. There is a Favorites button next to the Commander switch, and I preset a few favorite FM and XM stations to the list, so you can easily jump from one station from one source to another station on a different source without manually switching sources. I can also access favorite phone contacts or navigation addresses through the Favorites page.
My main complaint about the iPod or XM feature is the lack of memory from the last driving session. When I select a playlist from the iPod, it will correctly play through the list, but upon restarting the car on the next drive, it continues the current song but forgets the playlist I selected, possibly playing the entire iPod. I wish it memorized the steps taken to play a song even when turning off the car so I don’t have to repeat going through the menu selecting the proper playlist. There are a few “features” similar to this missing right now, I hope with firmware updates it will get better.
The volume/mute button on the right side of the console may just be the perfect place for someone who constantly adjusts volume for every song and during. Leaving my arm on the arm rest allows me to naturally place my hand over the Commander switch and volume knob. The ergonomic design of the center console is perfect for me. The Bose 11 speaker system sounds great with 3 more speakers than my Harman Kardon. 5 speakers are dedicated in the front dashboard for more crisp and clear high end frequencies. The bass is nice and clean and not overwhelmingly strong.
The navigation works well, I’m not a car navigation system expert so I don’t have much to compare other than BMW. The map runs off an SD card so zooming in and out is relatively fast. The map is very detailed with 3D buildings too (which I find useless). The voice control allows you to say the entire address in one clip and the computer will try to figure out what you said. My attempts haven’t worked out well, maybe 1 out of 3 attempts worked. There is a command for speech recognition learning for the car which I haven’t tried yet, maybe that will increase the accuracy. The information during routing on the screen is a bit cluttered and hard to read properly, call it information overload. In the end, I would most likely use Google Maps on my iPhone more often than not. Google Maps has a minimalist interface, with internet!
It’s also the little attention to details in the interior that make me enjoy it more. The heated seats control is the top most button on the center console, and it really is the most used button during the recent winter drives. It memorizes your last setting when the car is shut off. On the opposite end of the console, the CD is at the very bottom, almost unnoticeable, which is a great thing. The designers at Mazda probably knows most people don’t use CDs anymore and they just threw it in there at the bottom just in case. The cup holder has a beautiful sliding lid that gracefully covers it when not in use. It also encourages me to not keep drinks in the car. Even the placement of the door handles got me excited! It is clearly visible and angled perfectly for my hands to reach forward and pull open. Brilliant.
The heads up display is a tinted glass that pops up when the car starts. It displays navigation info, speed, cruise control, and radar vehicle distance. I am so used to the digital speed readout on the HUD that I rarely even look at the speedometer. The HUD is placed low so I’m technically looking at the hood of the car instead of directly on the road like a BMW’s HUD, but I still love it. The instrument cluster is a clean white readout, not the crazy colorful displays I’ve seen in other Japanese cars. I love clean. The top hood of the cluster is stitched leather, a great touch!
The Mazda6 is a 6 speed automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. They feel sturdy and have a solid notchy feel when depressing them. I love having paddle shifters even in a slower automatic. Instead of wasting time shifting the gear lever to the left, then up or down, or waiting for the computer to change gears after depressing the throttle, a quick tap of the paddle allows the gear to drop instantly to get me ready for my passing maneuver. The 3 blink turn signal tap is also one of my favorite features, allowing for a single quick tap to signal instead of tapping up then down to turn.
The amount of technology in this fully loaded Mazda that is half the cost of a fully loaded BMW 5 series, is almost on par. The amount of sensors in the car is astonishing. From cameras to radars to lasers, the Mazda has active cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and active braking in case of an emergency. It has active high beams that automatically dim for incoming cars, along with adaptive headlights that turn with the car. I disabled the lane departure warning on day one, since it beeps whenever I get too close to the edge. I love the blind spot detection light on the side mirrors and beep warnings while changing lanes. I really enjoy the active cruise control, when I feel lazy I can literally let the car do all the work flowing with traffic. The technology package for this car also includes i-Eloop, which is a large capacitor that stores regenerated energy from the car to power the accessories to allow an extra 1-2 average mpg.
What I really appreciate about the car now versus then, is the fuel economy; something I always laughed about because I believed paying for performance was the game, and fuel economy was for practical people. With a rating of 28mpg/40mpg, it averages 32mpg overall. That’s 10mpg higher average than my BMW. In the 1,700 miles I’ve personally averaged 29-34mpg overall. I love that I can now fill up on regular gas and easily get 400 miles per tank.
The Mazda has 41 less horsepower than my 3 series, but the lighter weight, lighter and responsive steering, and stiffness of the Mazda makes up for it. It’s much more comfortable and easy to drive than a German car. The heavy steering of German cars are nice for the highway and high speeds, but daily driving in a town or city is much easier with a light electric steering.
Different styles of driving matches different types of cars. With my once heavy foot, I use to love German sport sedans with no resistance to the throttle. I can depress down as far as I want and the car will keep on going. Japanese cars all have a resistance early in the throttle to keep you from accelerating too fast and thus decreasing fuel economy. Now I appreciate it in my Mazda, allowing me to keep a comfortable speed and not easily accelerate, as well as the sport button to default the car throttle to be less responsive, again, saving fuel. If and when I want to speed up, it’s an easy flick of the switch and tap of a paddle to get the car pulling, and so far I’ve really enjoyed it. It won’t pull like a 445hp BMW 550i, but it’s fast enough for me.
There are obviously less things I can say about performance since this is not a performance sedan, but it looks and feels great which was more of what I was shopping for. I am in love with Skye, I want to take her to as many road trips as possible, packed full of everything I may or may not even need just because I can. I can’t wait to customize her to make her mine.