Sport tuning is all the rage these days. But you don’t have to be handy with a wrench to get an affordable hot-look ride. The trend is so popular that car makers are producing more factory tuned versions of their bread and butter sedans than ever before. And one of the latest is the 2006 MAZDASPEED6. It’s one fast and furious factory-backed 4-door.
Today’s high performance tuners range from hit-or-miss backyard hacks, to high-tech factory-backed pros. And few represent the top flight better than MAZDASPEED. And it’s clear that they’ve put a lot of work into the 2006 MAZDASPEED6.
Much more than just added horsepower and a set of oversized wheels, the MAZDASPEED6 has been retuned from bumper to bumper. Of course a little extra power doesn’t hurt, and the 6 gets its punch from strapping a turbocharger and intercooler to a beefed up, direct-fuel injected variant of the 6’s standard 2.3-liter dual-cam 4. Output spins up sky high to 274 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.
The gearbox is a tight, precise 6-speed manual only. No non-shifters need apply. It pumps power to not just the front, but to all four wheels, with a rally-ready active all-wheel-drive system.
The wheels themselves are 18- by 7-inch alloys wearing 215/45 3-season performance tires. They carry a retuned double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, that’s been stiffened and lowered. Add in standard stability control, and the setup delivers seriously sharp handling. Balance is excellent, and the variable assist power steering has far more weight and feedback than the standard Mazda6, though it could be a bit quicker.
And speaking of quick, the MAZDASPEED6 will hit 60 in only 5.8 seconds, and run the full quarter mile in 14 seconds at 99 miles-per-hour.
The clutch engages rather harshly, but the single-scroll turbo spins up almost in an instant with virtually no lag. Power delivery is surprisingly linear, with much more bottom end than most turbo fours. This makes the MAZDASPEED6 a real treat to drive in daily traffic, the wide spread of power reducing the number of shifts required and providing instant-on power for quick lane changes even in 5th and 6th gears.
EPA fuel mileage ratings are 19 city/25 highway. We averaged 22 miles-per-gallon in mixed driving. That driving, however, did suffer at times from too much ride sensitivity to rough patches, and higher than expected engine and road noise at highway speeds.
When it’s time to drop speeds to zero, 4-wheel disc brakes with 3-channel ABS delivered average deceleration distances of a reasonable 128 feet from 60. Stability and feel are topnotch, but we expected even more braking power in such a serious sport sedan. But more power or less, this is a very serious sport sedan that can easily stand alongside the products of many top independent tuners.
Of course in a world where image can be everything, the MAZDASPEED6 has to look fast too. And it does thanks to revised styling that’s aggressive, but clean and classy. There’s a deeper front fascia with gaping intake and gray-tinted xenon headlights, a subtle bulge in the hood for the turbo plumbing, wider fender flares at both ends, a low profile trunk spoiler, and a new rear fascia with built-in diffuser.
The interior is equally sporting and serious, with carbon-look trim on the dash, direct black-faced gauges with red needles and numbers, aluminum pedals, and stainless steel inserts in the door sills. While a car committed to performance, there are some high end amenities, automatic climate control and a 6-disc 200-watt Bose stereo.
As with the standard MAZDA6, the rear seat is fine for 6-footers. But versatility does take a hit. Body stiffening nixed the folding rear seat and trunk space is reduced about 20 percent to12.4 cubic-feet.
Still, the MAZDASPEED6 is a mighty impressive tuner sedan for $28,555 in Sport trim, and $30,485 for our Grand Touring model.
Indeed with the 2006 MAZDASPEED6 we think you get more than what you pay for plus true tuner looks and performance with factory-backed reliability, which allows you to be both sound-and-sensible and fast-and-furious at the very same time, and how often does that happen?
- Engine: 2.3-Liter Dual-cam 4
- Horsepower: 274
- Torque: 280 Lb Feet
- 0-60 MPH: 5.8 Seconds
- 60-0 MPH: 128 Feet
- 1/4 Mile: 14.0 Seconds @ 99 MPH
- EPA: 19 MPG City/ 25 MPG Highway
- Mixed Loop: 22 MPG