2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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Photo Gallery: 2007 MazdaSpeed6

Oshawa, Ontario – Time was when anything that went fast and handled well also had two doors, and usually, two seats. But many drivers want performance with practicality, and for that, there’s the sports sedan.

Mazda comes to the table with the Mazdaspeed6, a hopped-up version of its venerable Mazda6 sedan, now in its second, and apparently, last model year: Mazda has just announced that it will discontinue the Mazdaspeed6 in 2008. This really is your last chance to get one.

The 2007 model drops four horses from 2006, but the performance hasn’t changed; Mazda has tweaked the numbers to reflect new SAE calculations.

Like the base Mazda6, the Mazdaspeed version uses a 2.3-litre inline four-cylinder, but with a direct-injection turbocharger, mated to a six-speed manual transmission that’s the only gearbox available. While regular Mazda6 models are front-wheel drive, the ‘Speed6 is all-wheel, with torque distribution that can split up to 50/50 front to back. The engine produces 270 hp at 5500 rpm; the important number, torque, hits its 280 lb-ft peak at a seat-pushing 3000 rpm.

There are some ‘Speed-specific styling cues – a slightly taller hood and the exaggerated air intake for the intercooler among them – but overall, the Mazdaspeed6 is a relatively low-key version, which is both a plus and a minus. On the plus side, it’s a handsome vehicle that doesn’t shout its abilities, with mature styling and a comfortable interior. On the minus side, it doesn’t shout its abilities: it’s too quiet and well-mannered for its power, and I was expecting a little more visceral feel for something that was lighting a fire under my foot.

2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6. Click image to enlarge

A couple of times, I looked down to discover I had hit 160 km/h; it just didn’t seem like the Mazdaspeed6 was moving out like that. It’s a gentleman’s racer, but I would have liked a bit more exhaust note, a little more seat-of-the-pants fun to it.

Turbo lag is minimal, and a wide powerband minimizes shifting; at highway speeds, it’s easy to get around most traffic problems without the need to go down to lower gears.

The clutch is set up for enthusiast drivers: the pedal is stiff and the short-throw shifter is notchy. It takes a bit of practice to get into the car’s rhythm, but once you do, those first smooth shifts are extremely satisfying; it’s not hard to drive, but it’s also not meant for neophytes.

Handling takes no rehearsal at all: the ‘Speed6’s wheels respond immediately to input, and the all-wheel system pulls it smoothly around corners, with a touch of understeer dialed in. The chassis is extremely stiff, with virtually no body roll; the ride is much firmer than the regular Mazda6, but not unpleasant. The car takes bumps in stride, and while it’s a bit noisier than the softer, regular version, there is no suspension crash over rough spots.

2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6. Click image to enlarge

Fuel economy is fairly good for the power: against an official rating of 12.5 L/100 km in the city and 8.5 on the highway, I got a combined average of 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg). As is to be expected with a turbo, 91 octane is rated “acceptable”, while the preferred juice is 93 octane.

The Mazdaspeed6 comes in a single trim line, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels with high-performance tires, dual exhaust with silver tips, heated mirrors, speed-sensitive wipers, Xenon headlights, fog lamps, six-CD stereo, automatic climate control, cruise control, eight-way power driver’s seat, and one-touch up and down on all windows. My tester was optioned with a package of heated leather seats and power sunroof; other packages include a navigation system, and black and white leather seats. Only four exterior colours are available: black, white, grey, and my tester’s “Velocity Red Metallic”, which looked stunning in sunlight and was sprayed flawlessly.

2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6. Click image to enlarge

The Leather Package also adds a keyless entry and start system, featuring Mazda’s signature “Intelligent Key”. That’s not quite the name I’d use for this goofy system, which includes a flat plastic key that’s the size of a credit card. It’s too big to fit in a jeans pocket, and while it will go into a shirt pocket – a rare animal on women’s clothing – few people carry car keys alone, with most clipping on a house key or two as well. You definitely can’t “travel light” with this thing.

The bucket seats are unique to the ‘Speed6, and while their bolstering isn’t as tight as with some sporty models, they’ll fit a wider range of butts (no pun intended) and they’re very comfortable and supportive. Also unique are the alloy foot pedals, which can be slippery with wet sneakers. Controls are laid out within easy reach, and the vents open and close with a fingertip; the automatic climate control is easy to use. I’m not keen on the all-red instrument cluster; any time I complain about it, readers send me letters outlining studies showing the colour is better for night driving, but I still find it hard on the eyes.

The rear seat is equally comfy, with sufficient legroom for all but the very longest-legged passengers, but be careful getting in: the roof slopes sharply down to the rear quarters, and it’s easy to knock your head on the doorframe when entering or exiting the rear doors. There’s a rear centre armrest, but it’s tough to pull down, and could use a strap to make it easier to grasp.

2007 MazdaSpeed6
2007 MazdaSpeed6. Click image to enlarge

The trunk measures 82 cm (32 in.) in length, and that’s all you get. That extra body stiffness has to be made up somewhere, and so unlike the regular Mazda6 models, the ‘Speed6’s rear seat is fixed in place, and can’t be folded down to increase the cargo area.

Mazda offers two other go-fast cars, the Mazdaspeed3 and the RX-8, and the Mazdaspeed6 slots in very well: it’s a larger vehicle than the ‘Speed3, and has all-wheel drive to that model’s front-wheel-only; and while it lacks the low-slung, swoopy styling of the RX-8, not everyone is enamoured with that model’s rotary engine. Subtle, stylish and swift, this is an intelligently-priced way to get from A to B in a comfortable hurry.



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