Zoom Zoom Evolution
Mazda Atenza Sedan, Tokyo
Mazda 6 Hatchback, Frankfurt
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.
Mazda Atenza Family
Mazda 6 Family
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.
Mazda 6 Sedan
VehicleVoice staffers had been looking forward to the Mazda CX-9 to see how the new Mazda flagship stacks up against competition. One of a plethora of new Crossover SUVs, Mazda is venturing into uncharted, for them, territory.
Mid-Size or Large Crossover SUV… a Tweener?
The CX-9 is a “large” Crossover SUV – not the size of the Tahoe-sized GM Lambda Crossover SUVs like the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave, but still big enough to have a relatively comfortable 3rd row seat. AutoPacific carries CX-9 in our Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment (what a mouthful). It may actually deserve to be categorized in the Large Crossover Segment. We’re taking a look at it.
Styling is Modern, but Blends in With Other Contemporary Crossover SUVs
The styling of the CX-9 is modern without being overdone like its lower priced stablemate the CX-7. There are no wheel arch accents over the front wheel like the CX-7, RX-8 and Miata, but I don’t know if this is good. I was kinda getting into the more blatant Mazda front end look. The CX-9 doesn’t offend, it just blends. So from an overall styling standpoint, it seems to “blend” rather than turn heads. Some folks wondered if it was a new Lexus RX, so I guess being mistaken for an RX (like the Hyundai Veracruz is) ain’t too bad.
AutoPacific take on Mazda3 win – With a combination of great breaking, handling, and ride Mazda has found a sweet spot in the Compact Car segment. Winning the Compact Car category in the 2007 Motorist Choice Awards® the Mazda3 provides owners with a great value in an easy to live with package.
IntelliChoice take on Mazda3 win – The Mazda3 does not lead the class in any one area, but has solid retained value, and performs above average in both fuel and maintenance costs.
OK, the Mazda Tribute has been around for years. Mazda has practically forgotten about it. There is very little advertising for the Tribute especially since Mazda has its more modern and upscale CX-7 and CX-9 Crossover SUVs to pitch. Because Tribute lives in the shadows of its “more important” brethren it is easy to forget about it. That’s a shame, because the Tribute is a fine Crossover SUV overall, with only a few warts that could be corrected with very little investment or cost.
Mazda Tribute Derived From Ford Escape – Sweet Spot Among Crossover SUVs
Over the years, AutoPacific has had Ford Escape Crossover SUVs in product clinic research. Since introduction the Escape and its derivatives – the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute – have represented the sweet spot among small to mid-size Crossover SUVs. Easy to live with, easy to get into and out of, good interior package. Wow. Very well thought-out and executed. Ford knew the solution to the SUV equation when they developed the Escape and Mazda benefits.
One of the advantages of the new 2008 Mazda Tribute and the 2008 versions of the Escape and Mariner are that they have more differentiation than they have ever had before. You can actually tell which is a Mazda, Ford or Mercury at a glance.
Not big, not small, the Tribute is a handy size. Easy to maneuver. Easy to see out of. Reasonably large rear seat and usable cargo area. All product attributes that measure up to a pleasant and affordable package. For a bit over $23,000 this Mazda Tribute is an excellent value.
Nitpicks – NVH and V6 Finesse
What are the problems? Well, there needs to be some work done on engine noise and road noise. Not insurmountable problems. The venerable 3.0L V6 engine pleasant around town but thrashy when pushed. I’d love to drive a Tribute with Ford’s new 3.5L V6, but that’s not in the cards.
No Passion? But Would Make a Great Car for a Young Driver
What did the office say? Of course, folks around the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice offices have strong opinions about vehicles like the Tribute. One gray hair contended that when describing all the virtues of the Tribute the one word that was not mentioned was “passion” or and other word “enthusiasm”. True enough, but the Tribute, overall can be a very persuasive package without being headturning or making your blood run hot.
Others in the office observed that the Tribute would make a great vehicle for a teenager just out of high school and going off to college. The Tribute has enough room for the driver and a few friends plus the cargo room to carry their stuff. In fact, my high school buddy Bill Spiers in Metarie, Louisiana just bought one for his youngest daughter as a graduation present. She was pleased to say the least.
Also, as Bill learned, the Tribute can be found with tremendous discounts that make buying a Mazda a much better deal than a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4.
You could tell from the smiles on the faces of the suits from Cadillac that they had just come from something special. The Cadillac Escalade had just won the Playboy 2007 Car of the Year Award. Jim Taylor, Cadillac General Manager was lugging around a golden trophy with a totally blinged-out Playboy bunny glued to it and a discreet plaque proclaiming Escalade’s win.
Playboy Magazine has just named their 2007 Cars of the Year
. Included in this year’s list were:
Playboy 2007 Car of the Year –
BMW Z4 M
Best SUV –
Best Sports Coupe –
Porsche 911 Carrera
Best Bang for the Buck –
Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500
The Al Gore Special –
Best Two-Way Player –
Best Pickup –
Best Cross Dresser –
Best Roadster –
Saturn Sky Red Line
Oh yeah, about the presentations. Apparently, a hostess Playmate gave the executives a tour around the Playboy Mansion. A former Playmate, the young lady was extremely well spoken, knew her stuff and presented Playboy in a very favorable light. What I’m saying is that she wasn’t the airhead blonde bimbette that may have been expected at Playboy.
At this time of year, everyone wants you to know about the best cars, trucks and SUVS of the year. AutoPacific has already taken a big step in that direction, but with a twist: Partnering with Intellichoice, AutoPacific shared the best vehicles of the year, as picked by you – and that’s saying something! The Awards are called the Motorist’s Choice Awards and this year included the Lexus LS430, The Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4×2, the Infiniti QX56 and the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro. Where else can you go to get the best possible input from your own peers about the latest vehicles in the marketplace? Since you’re here, we think you’ve come to the right place.
My Personal Choices for Best Rides of the Year
Watch the Podcast: AutoPacific & IntelliChoice Motorist’s Choice Awards
It’s part of my job to drive a new vehicle nearly every week. In some cases, more than one vehicle at week gets the once-over, not only by me, but by a number of the analysts and experts at VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. As the resident speed-guy, I might have a slightly different take on things and while I do try to avoid going to court, I do need to put my foot down. And that’s part of what my list is about. The other things I’m taking into consideration are everyday drivability, cost, and return on investment. And as you know, everyone is concerned about fuel costs and gas mileage. Not me! Not yet… So, let’s get to it.
Acura (click here for our story) wasn’t the only manufacturer exploring themes for more than ten years out at the November 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, and not the only manufacturer who may have missed the mark.
Form Follows Function? Not Here
Mazda developed the Nagare (pronounced na-ga-reh) concept to describe their future design themes, as an expression of where Mazda styling might be in 2020. Nagare is not only the name of this concept, but the name of Mazda’s future design language. The word, according to Mazda, is Japanese for flow and the “embodiment of motion.” Nagare is the first of several show properties being prepared for this year’s auto show season that will explore this new surface language, each of which will take a different interpretation. Mazda promises some of the concepts we see this year will be closer to production; this Nagare is a design rather than a production expression.
Nagare has a sleek, aerodynamic shape, but one that is difficult to reconcile with the concept of an “urban cruiser” for 2020 or any other decade. For one, the extreme aero look didn’t leave much room for people, the most basic reason for having a vehicle. Placing the wheels at the extreme edges of every corner does promise strong and nimble handling and give the concept an aggressive stance. This concept stressed the soul of the sports car over the ability for people to ride in it. Though Mazda didn’t actually show the concept property with doors open, it is designed with two forward-hinged double-length doors that open like butterfly wings. Nice and pretty and a configuration found on lots of concepts, but one that is rarely used in production, and even then typically for low-volume sports cars.
WardsAuto.com has announced its 10 Best Engines for 2007. Let’s see how VehicleVoice agrees with the Wards’ results… they are presented in alphabetical order:
Audi AG 2.0L turbocharged DOHC I4 – Audi A3 – We agree wholeheartedly with this engine selection, but Ward’s gives it short shrift by identifying only the Audi A3 as having this engine. It is also found in the Audi A4, Volkswagen Eos, Volkswagen GTi, Volkswagen Jetta and even the Volkswagen Passat. A real nice driving 4-cylinder turbo that is the workhorse of the spirited Volkswagen/Audi lineups.
BMW AG 3.0L DOHC I6 – BMW Z4 3.0si – BMW in-line sixes are always works of art. Smooth, effortless, always feel that they are putting out more horsepower than their ratings. Ward’s has selected the higher horsepower version found in the Z4 3.0si – it puts out 255-horsepower and has 220 pound-feet of torque. This engine is also found in the BMW 530 sedan.
BMW AG 3.0L turbocharged DOHC I6 – BMW 335i – We don’t really go with turbocharged engines much. There is usually no replacement for displacement. But the 3.0L Turbo in the 335i is a sweet piece. Turns the 335i into a Q-ship with near M3-levels of performance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 3.0L DOHC V6 turbodiesel -Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec/Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD – We appreciate the sentiment, but until a diesel can be sold in all 50 states, we won’t agree that it is one of the best engines. Diesels deserve a significant place in the USA automotive landscape, but regulations, technology, fuel costs, fuel availability have all conspired against widespread diesel acceptance.
DaimlerChrysler AG 5.7L OHV Hemi V8 – Chrysler 300C – Chrysler Group has built a franchise around the HEMI. The low cost, Mexican-produced, overhead valve, high output engine almost singlehandedly resurrected Chrysler from its early 21st Century doldrums. Don’t forget the HEMI can be found in all large, rear wheel drive Chrysler, Dodge products as well as the two largest Jeep entries.
Ford Motor Co. Duratec 35 3.5L DOHC V6 – Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX – Ward’s specifies the Ford/Lincoln Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles as the vehicles where the new Duratec 35 is found, but don’t forget the Lincoln MKZ (Zephyr) and the Mazda CX-9. While this higher output V6 is sorely needed by Ford and will eventually find its way through the Ford lineup, somehow the horses feel weaker than its 263-horsepower output suggests. We’ll reserve judgment on this one.
Ford Motor Co. 4.6L SOHC V8 – Mustang GT/Mustang Shelby GT – The 4.6L is the workhorse V8 for Ford’s rear wheel drive platforms. A very reliable, bulletproof powerplant, the 4.6L has proven to be very flexible up and down the horsepower scales. Driving the higher horsepower versions in the Mustang is a delight.
Mazda Motor Corp. 2.3L DISI turbocharged DOHC I4 – MazdaSpeed3 – A very willing and berserk powerplant in the MazdaSpeed3, the 2.3L Turbo provides more than enough power to generate nutso torque-steer in the MazdaSpeed3. Torque steer has always been a bugaboo in high output front wheel drive Mazdas and the combination of power and chassis dynamics in the MazdaSpeed3 may have set a new high (or low).
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Infiniti G35 – We assume that Ward’s is referring to the higher output VQ found only in the Infiniti vehicles for 2007/2008. A significant upgrade from previous VQ V6s, the Infiniti has been finessed to new levels of power, smoothness and “engine music”. Still a bit of a lump in the fuel efficiency category, however. And the VQ’s refinement has pretty much been sub-par compared to the Audi, BMW and Lexus (Toyota) sixes against which it competes.
Toyota Motor Corp. 3.5L DOHC V6 -Lexus IS 350 – Another Japanese V6 putting out over 300-horsepower from 3.5-liters. Sweet, quick revving, quick. But unlike the Nissan VQ in the Infiniti, the Lexus 3.5L seems to lack the passion that really stirs the senses. Maybe it is the “engine music” thing. But it’s far more likely the effect of the Toyota engine’s astonishing refinement.
Quietly tucked away in a corner of the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show II was the all new Mazda CX-9 Crossover Sport Utility Vehicle. No surprise here, as we brought you the reveal from the New York Auto Show in April (click here) and the CX-9 has been seen tooling nearby on the roads surrounding Mazda North American Operations headquarters in Irvine, California. The disturbing thing was that the CX-9 was getting no attention even with an overhead display similar to that Mazda used to launch the CX-7 last year. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers stumbled on this forlorn looking CX-9 while searching for the john.
The CX-9 becomes Mazda’s flagship and effectively replaces the not-missed Mazda Millenia near luxury sedan that literally faded away several years ago. Sharing a platform with the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, Mazda did the Ford entries one better by enlarging the body and adding a third row of seats. In the Mazda lineup the CX-7 does the 5-passenger duty and the CX-9 does the 7-passenger duty.