October 1, 2012
By Grant Yoxon
Photo illustration by Chris Chase; Mazda6 photo courtesy Mazda
At one time an eager auto writer would have to drag around a large suitcase on wheels to carry all the press kits handed out during a press preview day at any important auto show. It was not unusual to see the uninitiated slogging around from press conference to press conference, weighed down with overstuffed giveaway bags.
You may not know that car makers are as adept at spinning out words as they are at spitting out cookie cutter cars from their factory doors. In the days before print became pixels the words came packaged in attractive, frequently elaborate, and typically expensive “kits”, often accompanied by a “souvenir” of some sort. Those wheeled cases filled up quickly.
Today, all one needs is a large front pocket to carry the USB drives. The bulky press kits are no longer; and swag is hard to come by, too.
But the words keep on coming. It is as if the public relations writers and contractors toiling away in world wide word factories were suddenly let free of weight restrictions. What? We can say whatever we want?
And auto writers have been struggling to make sense of the overflow of flattering prose and frivolous statistics ever since.
Mind you, some are better than others. Struggling through a bad translation from German is good bedtime reading. You’ll be out for the night before the end of the first sentence. Yawn.
But there is some entertaining reading too.
At a single glance, the exterior design conveys animalistic tenacity, dignity and a sporty flare through its smooth and powerful physique. The coordinated interior, in keynote black, is both chic and contemporary without compromising on a timeless feeling of luxury and quality.
If E. L. James could write as well, Fifty Shades of Grey might have been a good read.
The car—yes, a car, not Christian Grey—being described here is the 2014 Mazda6 sedan, introduced at the Moscow International Auto Salon in late August (no, I wasn’t there to witness it).
The new Mazda6 is based on the Mazda corporate design theme termed KODO (Mazda’s caps, not mine), which is translated or, more properly, expressed in ordinary English for us as “Soul of Motion” and is described as “the power and beauty that one sees in the instantaneous movement of animals or humans… the form displayed in the moment motion begins—for example the instant when a cheetah pounces on its prey.”
But the average consumer (or auto writer) probably doesn’t sit pondering, analyzing and questioning the current interpretation of Mazda’s corporate metaphor, like a sculpture placed in the middle of an otherwise empty white gallery. Mazda apparently expects we’ll get it “at a single glance.”
2014 Mazda6. Click image to enlarge
I don’t think even Mazda’s capable designers got it at a single glance. To my mind this third generation Mazda6 draws more from the previous iteration than it does from KODO or whatever metaphorical whimsy influenced the one that went before. The changes seem a lot more progressive than Mazda would let on. You probably won’t notice that it is longer, wider and lower than before, but you might well notice that those pronounced front fenders that looked like they’d been drawn with a compass have been smoothed, rounded and tapered so they now flow into the front doors. The creative press kit writer at Mazda is way more eloquent than I…
Three character lines dominate the side view – an elegant line that extends forward from the rear tire, a rear fender line suggesting driving force from the vehicle’s hind quarter, and a front fender line denoting strong shoulders supporting nimble forefeet. The combination of these lines capture the form of a predator crouched and poised ready to leap forward in an explosion of movement.
… and a master zoomorphist.
Throughout the kit, the writer repeats a Mazda mantra—driving pleasure. Unfortunately we cannot confirm or deny that “three meters [gauges] laid out symmetrically in the meter hood [gauge cluster] heighten the expectation for exciting driving,” or that “an encircling metal ring completes a tasteful design which conveys a zeal for driving.” But we’ll take their word that a “keynote black” interior is indeed chic, contemporary, and uncompromising and not just plain boring.
Apparently, the next generation Mazda6 is all about the pursuit of driving pleasure. Everything—the curve of a fender, the feel of a shift lever, the movement of a dash switch, the positioning of the steering wheel (tilt and telescopic), all contribute to a vehicle that “heightens one’s expectations about the driving experience even before actually riding in it.”
But driving it—although that will have to wait until early next year when the 2014 Mazda6 is expected to arrive in Canada—is where the ultimate expression of KODO, Soul of Motion, is realized, according to Mazda.
Mazda’s superb engineering and craftsmanship have realized a car that handles so well it seems to respond directly to the driver’s intentions rather than the physical manipulations of steering, braking, and accelerating… the aim was to provide an exhilarating driving experience that can only be felt when the driver and car become one.”
I am looking forward to that test drive.
Not only does the new Mazda6 heighten one’s expectations, it would appear that it is also a path to Enlightenment.
On a more practical note, the new Mazda6 is the second Mazda vehicle (after the CX-5) to receive the full SKYACTIV technology treatment. In the press kit, this means that every bit of hardware mentioned is preceded by the adjective SKYACTIV. A chassis is not a chassis, it is a SKYACTIV chassis, a body is a SKYACTIV body, an engine is SKYACTIV-G (for SKYACTIV gasoline engine).
To its credit, the idea behind SKYACTIV is excellent—engineer everything one can possibly engineer to save fuel, meaning weight reduction through lighter and stronger materials, reducing parasitic drag through electrification of various components and maximizing the efficiency of the internal combustion engine—even if it means sacrificing power along the way.
The impact that SKYACTIV will have on Mazda’s zoom-zoom brand image must be a concern for the company. How much driving pleasure can one have in a vehicle that “handles as if responding to the driver’s intentions” if it takes forever to get to the next curve.
Or do I need to become one with the Mazda6 to experience Driving Pleasure?