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Review: 2018 Mazda6 Signature 2.5 Turbo - Best In Class

The 2018 Mazda6 with the new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is the new benchmark for midsize vehicle excellence.


Mazda's Mazda6 has always been a favorite of reviewers and critics. The car has won numerous awards and has come out on top in numerous comparison tests of midsized cars with base four-cylinder engines. As good as the Mazda6 was, it lacked an engine that could go head to head with the Camry XSE's V6 and the Accord Touring's 2.0-turbo four. Until now.

Mazda refreshed the Mazda6 in 2017.5 with new looks inside and out. The car was already a looker with a classy interior, but now it is at the top of the midsize class, and we are including every luxury model, not just the mainstream brands' cars. New for 2018 on certain trims is a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. The engine develops 310 lb-ft of torque at basically idle. It has 227 hp, but trust us, it is more than enough. This new engine and its fantastic six-speed automatic transmission put the Mazda6 at the very top of its class. Here's what we found in our testing of the $36,140 Signature trim.

2018 Mazda6 InteriorStying & Ergonomics
Inside, the Mazda6 is luxurious. Microfiber suede and leather of the highest quality cover everything appropriate. No place is any cheap plastic material located that you will notice. The new dash design is impressive. Up top, a premium material in black to prevent glare is as good as it gets. The microfiber suede trim is soft and adds a coziness to the cabin. The front seats are both heated and cooled and supremely comfortable. Mazda added padding to the area that a driver's knee may contact the center console while driving. Touches like this make this the best car in this class. The light-color parchment interior is the way to go.

The exterior of the Mazda6 has the great new front-end treatment that distinguishes it from the prior design. This car is so beautiful you will look back as you walk away. Even better, unlike the Camry and Accord, you don't see one on every corner. To our eye, this is the best looking midsize sedan in production at any price point.

In terms of luxury content, our Mazda6 test vehicle had options like adaptive cruise control, adaptive lighting, and cooled seats that a recent BMW vehicle we tested priced at $66K did not have.

Mazda's head up display is now the benchmark for all vehicles. It offers all the information you want and need including traffic sign recognition. The screen in our Mazda6 felt large and was perfectly suited to the size of the vehicle. Mazda plans to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to all of its 2018 model year vehicles soon, including updating already-sold vehicles. BMW, Lexus, and Toyota do not offer Android Auto. You simply can't get it. Mazda is leaping ahead in this important area.

The Drive
The first thing you will notice about the drive of the Mazda6 is a "lightness." It seems to be lighter in every possible way than its peers. The Mazda6 feels as if its steering, handling, and other aspects are of a car that the designer's wanted to feel "natural." it is hard to describe, but you will feel it in the first mile of a test drive.

Next, you will notice the engine's diesel-like torque. The engine in the Mazda6 Signature never works hard in normal or spirited driving. The tachometer hovers between 1,400 and 3,200 RPM even when you push the Mazda6 on back roads. The engine pulls in all situations and power is plentiful. The Mazda6 is quick in an effortless way that the Accord and Camry in their top trims are not. There is a sport mode and also paddle shifters if you plan to be naughty.

The Mazda6 Signature's alloy wheels and low profile tires are not as low profile as some of its peers. Mazda struck the perfect balance here. The steering is sharp, there is almost no body roll in corners, yet over bad roads the car is still comfortable. We could keep going, but one word covers the handling and ride of the Mazda6 - "Perfect."

Fuel Economy
In our testing on suburban roads and highway driving over about 125 miles, our fuel economy measure at the pump was 33 MPG. The EPA Combined rating is 26 MPG. That rating is identical to the Camry XSE V6 and the Accord 2.0T Touring.

The Mazda6, when tested in 2017, earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from IIHS. The 2018 earned top scores on every crash test and also earns a superior rating for its collision mitigation technology. Best of all, none of its driver aids are the least bit annoying, and most have sensitivity settings the driver can program. This is as safe as safe gets.

Ownership Experience
Mazda's ownership experience has outperformed BMWs based on one Torque News associate's recent purchase. The Mazda dealerships in our area offer loaner vehicles (BMW did not when our associate needed one) and one year of scheduled maintenance was complimentary on the 2018 CX-5 she purchased. In a recent J.D. Power Quality Study, Mazda was the most improved brand and scored higher than both Honda and Audi.

We try hard not to pick favorites at Torque News. In this segment, the Audi A4, Toyota Camry XSE V6, Honda Accord 2.0T Touring are all excellent choices. However, ours would be the Mazda6 Signature. We would strongly recommend that shoppers for a midsize premium sedan consider the Mazda6 before over-spending on one of the brands on which the automakers and auto media collude to consider somehow better than the mainstream brands. Spending more for a great car in this category is an exercise in vanity. This Mazda6 proves it.

Related Stories: European vs. Japanese Cars: Why I switched From BMW X3 to 2018 Mazda CX-5

Five Features I Love About My 2018 Mazda CX-5


Bill Malcolm (not verified)    August 18, 2018 - 7:22AM

Only review that more or less mirrors my experience. All the others bring up the Accord 2.0t and we're all supposed to fall down in amazement at the Honda's accelerative capabilities, as if that was the only relevant factor.

It isn't. The major difference in Mazda's favor is far less road noise, then there's better ride, steering and interior. The Mazda and Honda dealer in my hilly city are directly across the street from each other. I drove a midrange 6 turbo and Accord Sport 2.0t, retail price the same to a $100 within an hour of each other over the identical course of about 15 miles from inner urban city out to and on the four lane highway, and back.

I've been trying to replace my old '08 Subaru LGT for about four years, and nothing at any reasonable price has come close to being as good. These two aren't either; if Subaru still made the B4 GT, I'd have a new one tomorrow if not tonight. But compared to four years ago, when I did the same Mazda6 and Accord comparo and both were frankly laughable by comparison to my car, at least the gap is closing.

The Accord has tire noise from 10 mph on up, and it never went away, a constant whir. It's noisier than than my own car on its Michelin Sports. Not good from my perspective. The really stupid pushbutton drive mode selector has no Hold feature I could find, so using the paddles to downshift and using engine braking coming down the steep hills into the city to gradually decelerate means pecking away like a madman on the ten speeds left paddle until you get the correct one, then if you touch the gas pedal again due to traffic circumstances, boom you're back in Drive. Utterly useless. The Mazda works like my car - use the paddles to get the gear you want, then slide the shifter over to the manumatic position to hold. Honda brain fade.

On the highway, the Mazda is serene, utterly vibrationless and straight-tracking. Yeah, it's way better than mine there - found myself speeding. The Accord is what you'd expect, nothing special. Around town, well, neither car is particularly agile because they're long. Not nippy. And neither has the lunge I'm used to at low speed - they're already in too high a gear by 10 mph so feel constipated. Anyway, neither is a sports sedan.

In the infotainment area, the Honda outclasses the Mazda's low rez screen by a country mile, not even close; plus it's easier to get out of because the door opening is bigger and B-pillar further back. I also preferred the driving position to the Mazda's. Good start. Then you move the Accord off the lot and boom - intrusive tire whir.

Sitting at traffic lights, the Mazda makes you feel rich; the Accord Sport for the same money has cheap cloth seat bottoms, and an interior made out of dozens of low-sheen plastic pieces, feeling quite utilitarian by comparison. From a standing start, full throttle up a short on-ramp made little difference to merge speed, but the yipping Honda roaring through many short gears makes you feel like a hero, while the Mazda just gets on with it. I'd agree that the impression the Mazda engine makes is that it never works up a sweat, and never notices hills either. It's a wafter.

As usual, a combination of the two cars would be ideal for me, at least. Not going to happen, because that's life. So, no sale for now, but if the LGT conks out, I'd get the Mazda 6. The fact that it doesn't look like a beached whale is another point in its favor.

I also have driven the Fusion 2.7tt, and the seat bottoms were comically short, ending a full six inches before my knees and I'm only 5-9. Ten minutes of that and I was uncomfortable as all get out, so no to that thing. I have to say, reviews these days are of the "once over lightly" variety, and you get little of the real spirit of the car. Nothing I can do about that, so once again we're all left to actually get off our butts and go and drive the things. But most people would rather argue fine points on internet forums without ever trying cars out physically, which about sums up the state of the world -- opinions not facts rule the day, paper specs and hidebound fanboyism-perception triumph over reality.

Jason Godzwa (not verified)    October 2, 2018 - 8:03AM

I wouldn't own ANOTHER Mazda if it were given to me, tax free! If anyone is curious as to why. Research the 2.3 turbo that Mazda dumped into their CX-7 & Mazda speed 6. It was a complete lemon! And Mazda doesn't stand behind their product! I was a victim of many other people that had a CX-7. And Mazda's customer service is by far THE WORST I've ever dealt with. They're rude, and blame you for their faulty product. Customer service even claimed that I never had my vehicle serviced at their dealership. I had the receipt in my hand of the work that was done. I faxed it to them, and they still denied my vehicle being there, even with PROOF! Mazda is the scum of the earth! And they need to go out of business! I don't recommend anyone buy a Mazda product! Like I said, I'm not the only person this has happened to.