2009 Mazda6: Frankfurt and Tokyo Introductions Preview U.S. Model
Zoom Zoom Evolution
It was back in 2001 that Mazda started blasting auto-show attendees and innocent TV watchers with the now-famous zoom-zoom theme. Mazda has remained true to Zoom-Zoom in the intervening years, and the second generation of the first Zoom-Zoom cars are starting to arrive. The Mazda2, not sold in the States, led the evolution this past summer. Mazda’s mid-size sedan (and five-door hatchback and wagon) entry is next, known as the Mazda6 outside of Japan and as the Atenza inside. Though U.S. sales don’t begin until summer 2008, the exterior shown at the recent Frankfurt and Tokyo auto shows, pictured below, is close to what we’ll see then.
What we likely won’t see are the wagon or the five-door hatchback, though these bodystyles continue for other markets. U.S. mid-size car segments are dominated by sedans, with a few coupes here and there. For the 2008MY, Mazda gave up the wagon version of the 6, Dodge will drop the Magnum for 2009MY, and Chevrolet gave up the five-door hatchback/wagon-type Malibu Maxx with its 2008MY redesign. Mazda sold fewer than 10,000 wagon Mazda6s in any given year it was available, compared with well over 50,000 sedans annually.
The job of the new Mazda6, according to Mazda, is to continue to deepen and evolve Kizuna, the emotional connection drivers feel with the 6. The new face is evolutionary but strong follow-up for a car that was as well received as this the first time around. Kizuna, for Mazda6, embodies three core values. Mazda wants the 6 to offer an emotional and sporty driving experience that creates a oneness between car and driver, to offer an exclusive experience through a comfortable space and high-quality craftsmanship inside, and finally to offer an “insightful package” that balances the first two elements and incorporates logical, well-thought-out, and easy-to-use driver interface and storage areas. Based on our limited show-floor time, Mazda looks to have created a 6 (and Atenza) with the kizuna they are looking for.
The new 6 is larger (longer, wider, and taller) than the first generation, but doesn’t look as though it has grown dramatically. We found in Tokyo that the hatchback and wagon have more sporting/aggressive lower front fascia than the sedan, though at the European introduction in Frankfurt the same face graced all three bodystyles. It was interesting to see that the five-door took center stage in Frankfurt while wagon and five-door shared the spotlight in Tokyo; at both shows, the sedan was the side note. The sedan’s front fascia was the same as the 6 and as the Atenza. The more aggressive fascia may be held for a new MazdaSpeed6 or a sport package on the sedan, though that is speculation on our part.
High-End Features for a Mid-Market Car
At least for the international markets, the 6/Atenza adds several features not often found in this segment, if at all. Among them are an adaptive front lighting system, a parking sensor system, active headrests, and bi-xenon headlights. Some new features may wind up offered only in the home market. Those include a radar-based cruise control, a rear monitoring system for blind-spot detection (an LED lights if a car is in the blind-spot; if the driver tries signals and tries to change lanes, the light flashes and a buzzer sounds), and a pre-crash safety system. The pre-crash system uses the same sensors as the radar-based cruise control and uses audible and visual cues to warn the driver of the possibility of a crash; if the driver takes no action, brakes are applied and seatbelts pretensioned.
New 2.5L I4 and V6 Expected
The new Mazda6 is on an evolutionary platform, though it will get new powertrains for its U.S. launch. Many are betting Mazda will use the 3.7L V6 from the CX-9, as Ford isn’t likely to give them the 3.5L V6 from the Edge and Lincoln MKZ. Four-cylinder power will be from a new engine, an 180HP 2.5L DOHC 16v unit. The four-cylinder gets a five-speed automatic transmission with the active adaptive shift control system from the RX-8. In Japan, the Atenza is offered in front- or all-wheel-drive models, with AWD models taking a six-speed automatic.