In the short time it has been around, the MazdaSpeed nameplate has become synonymous with speed and handling. Engineers take cars from the Mazda lineup, such as the Miata and the Mazda 6, and tweak them to add horsepower and better handling characteristics. Based on our drive of the 2006 Mazda MazdaSpeed 6, performance isn’t just for coupes and roadsters anymore. No longer must you sacrifice fun when forced to drive a sedan for the sake of family. Cars like the MazdaSpeed 6 inject a heavy dose of speed and handling into somewhat unsuspecting sedans that will hang with a lot of dedicated sports cars.
The 2006 Mazda MazdaSpeed 6 utilizes a direct injection, all aluminum, 16-valve, 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine boasting 15.6 lbs. of turbocharged boost. Link that power to a close-ratio, six-speed manual transmission (no automatic is available) hooked to a standard all-wheel-drive system, and keeping the 274 horses and 280 lb-ft. of torque under control can be a whole lot of fun. Mazda claims the direct fuel injection setup is responsible for more torque at lower revs, cleaner emissions, and improved fuel economy for a car with this kind of power. The MazdaSpeed 6 is rated by the EPA to get 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Underneath the MazdaSpeed 6, engineers have lowered the ride height and tweaked the suspension. Up front, the suspension gets 25 percent higher spring rates for the coil springs and a 1mm thicker stabilizer bar for better handling. At the rear, spring rates have been increased by 37 percent, the stabilizer bar diameter is upsized by 2mm, and the rear cross-member has been reinforced. These suspension upgrades allow for sharper turn in and flatter cornering while preserving a decent ride quality. Larger brakes with ABS and EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), along with traction and stability control, round out the package.
If you are going to spend the money for a MazdaSpeed upgrade, you want to ensure that those around you know what you have. Mazda understands this and also upgrades the MazdaSpeed 6’s interior and exterior. Outside, the MazdaSpeed 6 gets 18-inch wheels, and the front fascia, hood, front fenders, headlights, rear fascia and taillights are unique to this high-peformance variant of the 6 sedan, in addition to extended side skirts and a rear lip spoiler. You also get your choice of six unique colors. Inside, you choose between cloth or leather seats, depending on the trim level. The Sport trim level gets you cloth seats, alloy pedals, scuff plates, and carbon-fiber-look trim in addition to a 200-watt Bose seven-speaker sound system with and in-dash six-disc CD changer and satellite stereo capability. Step up to the Grand Touring trim level and you get all that plus your choice of leather seating in black or two-tone black-and-white décor, eight-way power front seat adjustment, and adjustable lumbar support on the driver’s seat. Heated seats are standard on the Grand Touring model along with keyless entry and start. An optional tilt-and-slide moonroof and a DVD navigation system can be ordered as options.
Whatever your preference, it’s nice to know that manufacturers like Mazda are aware that just because you’re sometimes forced to drive a family car doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy driving. Mazda fills this niche nicely with the MazdaSpeed 6, allowing enthusiasts to have fun while driving little Johnny and friends to and from soccer games. But this is more than a suburban slot car, especially in Grand Touring trim, which will appeal to closet speed-freak executives as much as any entry-level luxury car. Hey, you in the suit: Next time its your turn to drive to a client meeting.