Mazda might be a bit late to the turbo middle class party. But at least it has arrived. This is the 2018 Mazda6 GT turbo. And, as you may have noticed, it’s a wagon. A shaggin’ wagon? It’s more refined than that. Think of it as a quickie-the-kids-are-asleep wagon.

2018 Mazda6 GT turbo wagon: What is it?

The Mazda6 is the medium-size offering for Toyota Camry buyers who want something with pizazz and style. Its elegant design and premium connotations separate it from the humdrum rivals. And now it’s available with a spicy 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, borrowed from the CX-9.

What your eyes are looking at, specifically, is the GT wagon. The GT is the second from the top, behind the Atenza, stocked with more fruit than a Hawaiian cocktail bar. Prices for this magnificent Reflex Blue machine start at $45,290, before on-road costs.

2018 Mazda6 GT turbo wagon: What does it come with?

The GT comes with a leather trim with lovely seats that gently caress your hips, and an impressive set of indulgent appointments and conveniences. When you open the door for the first time you’ll be surprised by how luxurious it is in here. It’s not just the leather seats. Mazda designers have done a splendid job on the overall decor. All fittings and shapes blend together with a clear whiff of prestige. It looks like an expensive vehicle. And when you take a seat and have a play around, it feels expensive too.

You get quite a low seating position with a relatively high centre console giving it a sportscar-like character. Despite this submerged setting, it doesn’t invoke claustrophobia. The main pillars are thin, with big clear windows presenting a nice view outside. Soft-touch materials are used to cover everything that you come into contact with, and more. Across the top of the dash, centre console, and door trims you’ll find a stitched, neoprene-like material that’s pleasant to look at and it seems to enhance the in-car quietness and acoustics.

Up on the dash Mazda has fit its excellent MZD Connect media system. There’s no need to reach up and fiddle around with touching the screen with this one. Instead, there’s a convenient hand controller right at your left hand. This is such a good system in our opinion. The best in the class, for sure. It doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android auto, but it does pack sat-nav, digital radio, and various vehicle settings all into one. Tunes are played through a premium 11-speaker Bose sound system too, with sharp clarity and grumbling bass at all volume levels.

Being the wagon, this is the ideal family car alternative to the ever-popular SUV. Almost all of the practical benefits of an SUV are here, except this handles a tonne better on the road. We guess the main disadvantage is that you do need to step down into the cabin as opposed to an SUV that allows you to slide across and in. Boot space is comparable to a mid-to-large SUV, with 506L opening up to 1648L with the rear seats folded down.

2018 Mazda6 GT turbo wagon: Fun factor

Okay, so on paper this sounds like an exciting set of components. Up front you’ve got a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 170kW at 5000rpm, and 420Nm at 2000rpm. Mazda says the power figure is actually 184kW when running on 98 RON fuel, as that is what engineers used when developing the engine. However, due to Australia’s poorer fuel quality the official power rating is 170kW.

Now you may think that power level is pretty high. But it’s actually down on the class average, in terms of the flagship rivals. You see, the Toyota Camry is available with a 224kW V6. The Subaru Liberty is available with a 191kW flat-six, and the Ford Mondeo is available with a 177kW 2.0L turbo. What is interesting though is the torque. Being a 2.5-litre turbo, Mazda’s grunty 420Nm output sets the benchmark and surpasses even the Camry V6 and its 362Nm effort.

Out on the road the high torque means it is effortless to drive. It gallops up to speed leisurely rather than under strain, and with peak power available at a low 5000rpm, you don’t need to poke it with a stick to get things shifting. Mazda has said this is part of the reason it hasn’t fit the common eight- or even seven-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed is ideal because the engine has the legs to pull through longer ratios.

In terms of the stopwatch stuff, we saw 0-100km/h come up in 7.3 seconds. This is brisk. Brisk enough to have some fun anyway. Out on your favourite road the Mazda6 springs between corners, using that torque surge to knead straight sections into shorter leaps. In that sense, it is surprisingly quick from A to B, as you tend not to push it that hard, or at least not need to push it hard to get a good pace going.

Around corners we think the Mazda6 is one of the more capable vehicles in the class. The class itself isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in this area, but if you are after the most enjoyable steer in this segment the Mazda6 should jump straight to the top of your shortlist. We like the absorbent and tactile suspension, which does really well to soak up some of Australia’s ordinary road surfaces. The mechanical-style steering also provides just the right amount of feedback. This results is an enjoyable driving experience, whether you’re just commuting to work or getting away for the weekend.

2018 Mazda6 GT turbo wagon: Should you buy one?

If you are part of the shrinking crown that shops in this market segment, with class sales down 29.5% YTD (through June), the new 2018 Mazda6 turbo is one you should look into. Its attractive styling and outstanding interior fit and finish, and advanced technologies, give it truly class-leading credentials in most areas. Priced from about $45k in GT form, it’s a great value proposition.

How does it rate against rivals?
  • Practicality
  • Engine and gearbox
  • Cornering talent
  • Engine sound
  • Value for money
3.8

Final word

Mazda has evolved a sound and solid offering by giving it a breath of fresh, turbocharged air. The new 2.5T is noticeably quieter than the non-turbo sibling, not to mention quicker, and it requires less of a push to get things done. Some not-so-obvious updates to the exterior styling ensure it remains as one of the more elegant options, while the vastly updated interior puts it even closer to the proper premium car market. As an alternative to an SUV, the wagon is simply cool and deserves a higher social status we think.

Maverick
I like to think that I'm a car fanatic, but more of a driving fanatic. There's nothing better than getting out onto the open road, almost regardless of the car, and enjoying dancing with the controls and gathering up the moving scenery. If I'm not driving I'm either at the gym or sinking a few beers with friends.




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