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First drive: 2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.

First drive: 2017 Mazda6 Tourer
Fancy new torque vectoring and a quieter diesel engine for Mazda's handsome 6.

   



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2017 Mazda6 Tourer

4 4 4 4 4

Another round of revisions for the third-gen Mazda6, launched in 2012, but this time it is premiering some new technology - chief of which is the G-Vectoring Control torque adjustment system. That has improved what was already a cracking D-segment car, but it's the Natural Sound Smoother that makes the big difference, turning the 2.2-litre diesel into a sparkling gem of a powerplant.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mazda6 2.2 Skyactiv-D Tourer SE-L Nav GVC
Pricing: from 19,795; 2.2 Tourer 150 SE-L Nav from 24,795
Engine: 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 110g/km (VED Band B, 0 first 12 months, 130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 150hp at 4,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,800- to 2,600rpm

What's this?

The Mazda6, revised once more. It would be easy to cynically suggest that Mazda never quite got the formula of the third-generation car right when it launched it in 2012, if the company is making a second round of updates already, but as the accredited facelift took place in 2015, this is merely the addition of some new technologies for the models that are on sale now and due to hit the roads on October 1. So the UK pricing structure, trim hierarchy (SE, SE-L Nav and Sport Nav) and choice of 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines all remain, as do the six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. We drove a Tourer with the 150hp diesel (there's a 175hp/420Nm variant offered as well) and a manual gearbox in middling SE-L Nav grade; this is the drivetrain that will take most sales.

There are a few minor visual amendments in the cabin, such as redesigned gauges and dials, and a new steering wheel that will make its way into other Mazdas soon. But the real main talking points for the 6 are two pieces of technology; the first is G-Vectoring Control (GVC), which is Mazda's take on torque vectoring. In that, it's emphatically not torque vectoring - rather, it is a torque-limiting function linked to steering inputs that ever so marginally reduces the engine's torque output as lock is applied at the start of a bend.

This feature - which conjures up 0.01- to 0.05 longitudinal g, generating only a tenth of the force that you would feel if lifting off the throttle, for instance - transfers weight onto the front axle as the steering is wound on. That increases vertical load on the front tyres and concomitantly improves the grip and road-holding. No torque is actually vectored; it's instead fractionally cut. Mazda also says GVC - which will filter onto all of its models going forward, starting with the facelifted 3 - improves the high-speed comfort, as less steering corrections are required to keep the car going straight.

The Natural Sound Smoother is a tiny damping gizmo that fits into the hollow section of the piston pins, where it counter-rotates to eliminate noises at the 3.5kHz frequency, these being the sounds that you can most easily hear in the cabin. It has already been fitted on the Skyactiv-D 1.5, but this is its first application on the 2.2 unit and as we'll come to see, never has such a small part done so much for an engine...

How does it drive?

Brilliantly, but there is no way you can discern the GVC doing its funky g-shifting thing, nor will you be able to turn the system off to do a quick back-to-back comparison test; Mazda's so confident in the beneficial feel of the technology that it has made it non-switchable, permanently engaged. The only way you could discern any difference whatsoever is to drive an older 6 without GVC, and even then you'd be struggling because Mazda's primary intention was to make the system imperceptible.

What we can say is that the front-wheel drive 2.2 diesel is incredibly resistant to understeer, needing a hell of a lot of provocation in the tightest bends to make the nose wash wide. The 6 always feels nicely balanced and is about the sportiest car in its sector to drive, bar the Ford Mondeo, so we'd have to concede that GVC is a hit. Especially as the 6 is super-composed on the motorway, loping along on some well-judged springs and dampers (nothing new there), and generally proving to be as fidget-free in terms of 60mph-plus steering inputs as the maker claims. Big tick for an invisible technology that we can't even feel, then.

Nevertheless, as good as the GVC-equipped Mazda6 is - and it is extremely good, with its stunning looks, excellent interior, wealth of kit and roomy boot - we actually love the Natural Sound Smoother more than the clever torque stuff. There was nothing particularly wrong with Mazda's Skyactiv-D 2.2 lump before, but now it is supremely hushed in operation and silky smooth throughout the rev range. Pick the 175hp model if you must (its extra torque just about makes itself felt during sixth-gear motorway surges), but you'll not be disappointed with the 150hp unit, which is next-to-inaudible up to and just beyond 3,000rpm, and still appealing if you ever need to rev the diesel out to 4,000rpm. It's also largely vibration-free, so the engine's significantly improved manners only add to the big Mazda's air of refinement.

Verdict

One of the most minimal updates of a new car we've yet seen is also bizarrely one of the most worthwhile incremental improvement programmes we've sampled. You can't see any of the really meaningful new bits on the Mazda6, but both GVC and the sound smoother build on the admirable strengths of one of the D-segment's most intriguing cars to make it a genuine challenger for class honours. The only problem with the 6 is that you don't see enough of them on UK roads - but try this latest example out and you might just be tempted to ignore all the familiar faces in this segment in favour of the swoopy Mazda.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 6 Sep 2016



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2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.

2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda6 Tourer. Image by Mazda.








 

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