Mazda Speed6 Review

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

For a certified car freak living in the City of Angels, the drive to Las Vegas is a special treat. Sure, LA is only a traffic jam or three away from the kind of twisting coastal tarmac that ad makers and throttle jockeys adore. But the two hundred seventy-five mile haul across Interstate 15 to Sin City tells you everything you need to know about a car’s capacity for long distance love. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. My tale began when my friend and I jumped into the hairy knuckled Mazda Speed6 and set off for a suite at Caesar's Palace.

The Speed6 Grand Touring is the opposite of a Q-car. It’s deeply, strangely, and tragically ugly, or, if you prefer, bold, brash and muscular. Mazda's performance specialists fitted the beast with an air-to-air intercooler mounted WRX-style on top of the engine (fed through a pipe instead of a hood scoop). To accommodate the extra oomph, the designers creased the hood and raised it by four inches. The dolphin skull look-alike signals the Mazda’s incipient roid rage. The double-sized gaping mouth fitted below the grill adds to the effect, threatening to swallow Mazda3's whole.

The Speed6’s rear end is even goofier. A huge drooping bumper pays unnecessary homage to mid-70’s safety legislation (which led to a plague of hideous plastic butt grafts). The rear lip spoiler is garish and the oversized oval tailpipe surrounds mounted in the sticky-outty plastic bumper bit are not only phony in practice, but deeply reminiscent of Ford's second generation Taurus. The Speed6’s fifteen-spoke wheels are needlessly fussy, overshooting good taste by a factor of ten.

The Speed6’s cabin can’t quite shake its proletarian roots; the storage bin on top of the center stack looks as though it was hacked out of the dash with a Leatherman. Luckily, there are enough sporty touches– mod squad pedals, red on black dials, Audi air vents– to keep it party real. Pistonheads will be well pleased with the gigantic windshield and huge mirrors, which guarantee an unobstructed view in all directions. The two-tone leather seats are the biggest disappointment. There are park benches that offer more side bolstering. Dial-up some angry-footed hoonage and you might as well be seated on a Slip 'N Slide.

The garden variety front wheel-drive Mazda6 is a genuine driver’s car that manages to keep understeer at arm’s length. The all wheel-drive Speed6 eliminates that problem, and then some– provided you switch off the traction control. Then the Speed6 literally screams to life. You like squealing tires while deep in the midst of four wheel drift? Then you will like the Speed6. While the 3600 lbs. four-door is a bit too chubby to ginsu blacktop like a Subaru WRX, the Mazda is (gulp) more fun to drive. Credit the relatively narrow 215 Pirellis that hold on for a two count before breaking loose. Fo 'rizzle, you shouldn't be able to have this much fun on dry pavement.

Good thing that the brakes are nothing short of astonishing. A light tap on the middle pedal and you’ll shed twenty-miles per hour, from any speed. In a full-blown emergency, the anchors muscle the Speed6 to a standstill with virtually no drama. Highway or byway, you can do some real damage to your license with this mad Mazda machine. But talk about a reluctant warrior…

The Speed6’s 2.3L turbo DOHC in-line four pumps out 274 hp @ 5500rpm. That’s a lot of horses for a mid-sized four-door. But roll on the gas and… nothing. Goose the revs above 3500 rpm and 280 foot pounds of torque comes on like a fire hose. If Mazda added a second, smaller turbo or figured out how to make this sucker spool-up faster (call Porsche), the Speed6 could shave a half second or more from its 5.4 second sprint to sixty. That's WRX country, and not a bad place to live. However, the Scoobie Legacy spec.B does the deed a tenth of a second quicker with 24 less ponies. Our consolation prize? After cruising to Vegas at speeds ranging between [a theoretical] 90 and 110mph, we arrived at The Strip with more than a quarter tank of gas left (from full).

All of which begs a question; what is the Mazda Speed6? It offers the performance of a WRX for a $5k premium. As good as it is, it’s too clumsy and slow to compete with equally priced STI’s and EVO’s. It’s outclassed inside and out by the svelte Legacy. And the answer is… who cares? Mazda has created a charming, keenly priced, everyday family sedan that transforms into a snarling, tire-shredding maniac at the kick of a pedal and the touch of a button. Besides pocket aces, what more could you ask for?

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • Stuntnun Stuntnun on Oct 06, 2007

    to wwest--------have an 2005 auto-x tranny---the hesitation is from drive by wire instead of drive by cable--a signal is sent by computer wire to the throttle body sensor telling the engine to go--the old way was a cable that pulled the throttle open when you pushed the gas peddle --had the dealer do a program upgrade but still a small hesitation --bought some battery cables and grounded the motor better seemed to help some-- my friends manual s2000 does the same thing .

  • Gamper Gamper on Mar 05, 2008

    It may be a bit late, but I thought I would add my two cents. I have owned a Titanium with black interior Speed6 Grand Touring for a year and a half now. Have about 32K miles on it. It is a very fun car to drive, I probably have too much fun behind the wheel. The clutch and gearshift complaints in the comments are legit. However, Mazda has issued a TSB allowing anyone with complaints regarding the clutch operation to get a brand new clutch. The full assembly. I had mine done at about 24K miles. The new clutch is noticably easier to operate, but honestly, once you were used to the old set up, it wasnt really a problem. The occasional driver, such as your wife would have problems though. Shifting gears could still be smoother. My only real complaint with this car is the uneven power delivery that occurs occasionally. Dont know if it is turbo surge or what. Easily overlooked. I would also tend to agree that the seat bolsters are non-existent. Since I find heavily bolstered seats uncomfortable for long trips, I dont mind all that much because the Speed6's seats are comfy. I got my loaded GT for $26 and change. You simply cannot beat that kind of performance at that price. I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder as well, because I simply love the way this car looks, especially the rims. And for those who say the Legacy has a better interior, I just dont see it. It would be by a slim margin if any IMO. I would agree however that the two tone optional leather seats are simply hideous. Stay away from those. It has been a very troublefree car. One caveat though, from the looks of it at fan forums, the car does not take well to modifications. So if you are interested in picking one up, beware. Also, this thing eats tires for breakfast. Anyway, its been good times and many smiles. Thanks Mazda.

  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .
  • Lou_BC Backing up accidents are one of the most common causes of low speed accidents. You'd think sensors and cameras would help.
  • Jpolicke Jaguar started making cars that were dead ringers for Kia Optimas, but less reliable. They now look like everything and nothing; certainly nothing to aspire to.
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