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LA show: Revamped Mazda6 set for mid-2018 debut

Hit for 6: Mazda is aiming upmarket with its facelifted Mazda6 that is set to arrive in Australia in the mid 2018.

Mazda aims higher with facelifted Mazda6 with turbo, tech and extra refinement

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Mazda logo30 Nov 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Los Angeles

MAZDA lifted the covers off its heavily facelifted Mazda6 midsizer at the Los Angeles motor show overnight, ushering in a new nose, upgraded interior, improved refinement, a better ride, increased engine efficiencies and a turbo-petrol engine option lifted from the successful CX-9 large SUV.

Due in Australia in about July next year, the headline 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo application will be made available only in the up-spec GT and Atenza variants initially as the Hiroshima-based company attempts to inch the four-door sedan and wagon range up from mainstream Toyota Camry/Ford Mondeo zone to the sub-premium space occupied by the Volkswagen Passat and – at a stretch – lower-end versions of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

It is also expected to take on the Opel Insignia-based Holden ZB Commodore that arrives in February.

It is not known if the advances for 2018 will bring a price hike over the existing five-year-old GJ series that kicks off from $32,490 plus on-road costs for the Sport sedan petrol and rises to $49,540 for the Atenza wagon diesel.

As in indicator, the Passat equivalents range from $35,490 to a tenner under $60,000.

The so-called SkyActiv-G 2.5T (for turbo) with its 170kW of power and 420Nm of torque will join the long-serving 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G petrol and 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D turbo diesel units (albeit with some changes to improve efficiency and response).

All three engines will rely on the continued but altered six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission to drive the front wheels.

Dubbed Dynamic Pressure Turbo, the newly installed forced-induction plumbing accelerates exhaust gasses through a small outlet to speed up the turbo spooling process at lower revs-per-minute, before a larger secondary passage is opened for the rest of the engine’s operational range.

An industry-first application, it is described as being “akin to how water velocity increases when one holds his or her thumb over a hose”. A secondary valve opens as required at higher revs to up the kilowatt ante.

Mazda says that in unison with a freer-flowing exhaust, the turbo design helps the 2.5T achieve torque akin a 4.0-litre V8.

Additionally, the volume-selling 2.5-litre atmo petrol engine gains cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down the outer two cylinders between 40km/h and 80km/h when power load demands are light to help save fuel and cut emissions.

The engine also has reduced internal friction for improved across-the-rev-range refinement. Helping the latter is a balancing shaft in the auto’s torque converter to neutralise vibrations in the switchover from four to two-cylinder running.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are set to tumble significantly, beginning with a chassis-mounted steering rack for greater rigidity and better steering feel and response.

In turn, said chassis and the body have been reinforced in places, while suspension geometry has been modified for roll-steer improvements and more-neutral handling.

Thicker metal around the rear wheel wells, extra body bracing and beefed-up suspension trailing link mounts also help quell noise paths for a significantly quieter cabin. At last, this addresses one of the Mazda6’s biggest bugbears.

Many of the changes follow in the footsteps of the second-generation CX-5 medium SUV, although the fundamental design remains the same as the Mazda6’s five-year-old predecessor.

The nosecone’s larger and lower-set grille and sleeker headlights reflect the latter, while different 17-inch (standard) and 19-inch wheel designs, two new colours and fresh trim complete the exterior alterations that fall short of a total body redesign.

Inside, the dash, console and associated surrounds are new, reflecting the low-cowl/high-instrumentation themes set by the latest CX-9 and CX-5.

A lift in materials, including traditional non-automotive Japanese-inspired wood and leather applications, redesigned front seats for greater occupant comfort and support, as well as a new pseudo trim known as Ultra Suede, also help the Mazda6’s upmarket aspirations.

To that end, a surround-view monitor camera, larger configurable 7.0-inch TFT gauge in Atenza, an upgraded 8.0-inch MZD Connect central screen, adaptive cruise with lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed assist and a windscreen-projected head-up display unit all make their debut for the MY19 model-year series.

Only the steering wheel and minor trim pieces carryover from the outgoing car.

Further information, including final specification and pricing data, will be divulged sometime towards the middle of next year.

This is the fourth significant upgrade since the current third-generation Mazda6 debuted in late 2012. NVH cuts and equipment rises were the highlights of revisions in 2014, while a new dashboard and further interior refinements arrived in 2015. This was followed by a round of improvements including G-Vectoring Control, which alters the amount of engine torque for “… more direct and linear” steering responses, in mid-2016.

So far this year, the Mazda6 is the second best-selling medium car in Australia, achieving a comparatively paltry 3012 units against the first-placed (but heavily subsidised) outgoing Toyota Camry’s 20,498 registrations. That’s a dive of 17 per cent over the same first 10 months of 2016 for the Mazda6, compared with a 10 per cent uptick for the leading contender.

The Ford Mondeo is in third place with just 2610 buyers (up 4.0 per cent), rounded out by the Subaru Liberty and Skoda Octavia at 1746 and 1514 sales respectively.

If the Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s 7162 unit-total from the premium medium segment above is factored in, the Mazda would be nudged out into third place, highlighting the brand’s desire to edge its largest passenger car up in the world.

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