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Mazda6: Re-engineered, refined sedan delivers new offerings

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Mazda is stepping up their game with a re-engineered and refined Mazda6 midsize sedan. Although the 2018 Mazda6 is not completely new, it offers distinctly revised exterior styling and a quieter, more refined cabin.

You will see fuel economy improvements to its base four-cylinder engine, two new upper trim levels and a newly available turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers up to 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

The newly available turbo-four engine is considerably stronger than the 187-horsepower naturally-aspirated base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The turbo-four certainly adds a new level of driving excitement to this often-overlooked midsize sedan, but you will need to choose one of Mazda6’s top three trim levels to reap its benefits.

For 2018, the Mazda6 is offered in five trim levels: Sport ($21,950); Touring ($25,700); Grand Touring ($29,200); new Grand Touring Reserve ($31,700); and new Signature ($34,750).

Sport and Touring models feature the merely adequate naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine. Sport models can be had with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic transmission. All other trims feature a 6-speed automatic only.

The base engine in Sport models (when equipped with an automatic transmission) and Touring models, now feature cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down two of the four cylinders during steady speeds between 25-50 mph to help improve fuel economy (26/35 mpg city/highway).

The more likeable turbo-four featured in the top three trims exhibits a slight turbo-lag when taking off from a stop, but it does wind up nicely after that. It pumps out 250-horsepower when provided with 93-octane fuel. It can be operated with 87-octane, but the result is a 227-horsepower rating. Fuel economy from the turbo-four is 23/31 mpg city/highway.

All Mazda6 models power the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available. Even in base Sport trim, the Mazda6 is easy on the eyes and comes nicely equipped.

The Sport includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, push-button starting, power windows and locks, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display, blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, rear cross traffic alert, Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support System and more.

New exterior design features for 2018 include standard LED headlights with integrated fog lamps, standard front and rear LED turn lamps, a new front grille and new wheel designs.

Slip inside the 2018 Mazda6 and you will find a nicely redesigned cabin that is spacious, quieter, looks more upscale, and features redesigned seats to improve comfort and support.

Advanced safety technologies like lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are optional in the Sport, but come standard in all other trims.

For those who want more premium features, the Grand Touring Reserve and top-of-the-line Signature trim raise the bar to the brink of near luxury models.

With a starting price of around $35,000, the Signature features unique exterior styling, distinctive interior elements like Napa leather upholstery, 7-inch digital instrumentation display, black headliner, frameless rearview mirror and a surround-view camera system with front and rear parking sensors.

The Signature is certainly sweet, but for me, the best bang-for-the-buck Mazda6 is the Grand Touring model. It is priced around $30,000 and includes the stronger turbo-four engine, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, upgraded 11-speaker audio system, satellite radio and navigation.

Mazda6 delivers a pleasingly comfortable ride with impressive agility and better-than-average handling.