Dadmobile Update: A failed Hemi experiment changes a person. Welcome MAZDA6.

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Operation distraction. Also this is about the most non motor head car post of all times. HEMI adherents will have none of it and I understand. I was only set free from my allegiance by a $6,000 engine fix estimate.

Recently wrote of my updated Dadmobile adventures.

Ford was good. Now it is the my Mom-mobile.

Dodge was good for a minute…

,,,then Dodge let me down. But big blue took up the slack.

Sony A7c - AF - 7Artisans 28mm f/1.4

Big blue being the vehicle left to me by my dear father…


…I wanted to preserve it. My better half sensed this and recently suggested that I get a more practical daily driver. While I love the truck my Dad did not check the rear camera box because he was a retired tractor trailer driver who did not need such add-ons. Just something else to break as he would say. Me? Forward we are good. Reverse is avoided if at all possible. Check the rear view mirrors and turn around as much as you like all you will see is the small blue house behind you. It is a miracle I have not backed over a small village. Bought the largest rear bumper WeatherTech had and it has already saved the life of a rogue shopping cart just as I uttered, “I think I am getting used to this truck.”. When chauffeuring my Mother (dual masks/far corners of the vehicle/cracked windows COVID style) to an appointment I got a little bold and backed into a parking spot. Got out and was stunned to see a Nissan Sentra behind me. Started shopping for an add on rear view camera that night. Anyhoo…

Whatever was purchased would have to have:

  • After the HEMI situation reliability is crucial.
    • This took a whole lot of car brands out of contention. A lot of companies make great cars. Even more make good ones. Precious few seem to make reliable cars.
  • Capable performance.
    • Hemi has officially cured me of my HP obsession. I just need to leave the line and get up to operating speed without drama. Borrowing a page from my “That’ll do” camera series.
  • Excellent fuel economy.
    • When the world is no longer on fire I am looking at a 35 mile or so commute each way. Did this run with vehicles that did 28MPG max. All great vehicles but something well over thirty MPG would really be nice.
  • Great handling.
    • Decent? Many. Nimble? Precious few.
      • The Charger and the Crown Victoria did great for large vehicles, but were not what one would call nimble.
      • A VW Passat V6 I used to commute in was good also, but was done no favors by being sprung for an American market with a V6 hanging over the front axles and FWD. While capable I would not consider it to be nimble either.
      • I hear good things about recent Camrys… Camri… Camrum…? but 2016 vintage cars were still the pillow mobiles of yore.
      • Hondas hold their own fairly well.
      • Mazda definitely pulls ahead here. They can coax decent handling from a people mover after all.
  • Practical.
    • It does not need to be a massive 8 passenger vehicle but 4 in relative comfort and 5 in a pinch is required. All fit the bill here.
  • Aesthetics.
    • Why not have a good looking vehicle while I am at it?
  • Features.
    • On the list.
      • Leather.
      • Moonroof.
      • Touch screen.
      • Back up camera and navigation would be nice.
  • Used.
    • Since my first two cars I only buy used. We tend to drive cars until they drop. So we figure we will let some other fine soul take the initial depreciation hit and then take it the rest of the way from there.
  • Manual transmission?
    • Those first two cars I ever purchased were manual transmission vehicles. Those were cars for me to drive alone. For practical and availability reasons those were my last manual transmission vehicles.

That left about one vehicle at first.

2016 Honda Accord Sport Manual

And we are a go. Fire up the internets and find us an…

Not so fast. Let’s revisit this manual thing. After some thought I realized some things:

  • Not that I would ever do such a thing, but eating and driving is off the menu.
  • My wife was wiling to learn, but functionally I would be the only one who could drive the car.
  • I am not out here racing other Dads for pink slips. When I step back for a moment I realized that a manual shift family sedan daily driver was not really what I wanted. Perhaps a nice sports coupe one day, but not now.
  • I was recently introduced to the the sitis brothers, art and ber, by way of my right shoulder and my ever loving and blunt Mother asked if that was the best of ideas. I love that woman. And she is 100% right as usual. I joked with her that it would be an awful thing to ‘cuss my way all the way to work.

I was much more ok with abandoning manual shift than I expected to be. After prattling on for years about a manual it was not as big of a deal as I had made it out to be. As a great bonus this would expand my choices. Let’s look at the rest of the criteria again.

  • Reliability..
    • For starters Ford and Dodge are now off of the table. Nothing that rhymes with semi will be considered for sure.
    • Hyundai and Kia were off of the table due to the bazillion V6 engines that were recalled. Kudos to them for doing right by their customers, but pass.
    • My former fascinations Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Bez are off of the table.
    • For me that leaves Honda, Toyota, and Mazda. Mazda? Yes Mazda. We had an MPV that we bought in a pinch for $3,000 with 100,000 miles on the clock. We had it for 3 years and put another trouble free 100,000 miles on it before donating it to charity. At 200,000 miles this van still drove like new money. A/C worked. Transmission was fine so on and so forth. And the thing was agile for a beast of burden. Mazda is definitely on the list.
  • Excellent fuel economy.
    • Over 35MPG. Not just in paper, but real world in drivers hands. Not many left standing with that requirement. As an example a 2016 V6 Accord is rated at 34MPG HW, but Car and Driver only managed 21MPG in mixed driving which matches the city MPG for that car.
  • Great handling.
    • As mentioned above so long Toyota.
    • Perhaps Honda. The Accord handles itself well. Long ago I had an Accord EX that did alright handling wise.
    • Definitely Mazda. The MAZDA6 gets top marks for handling from all corners.
  • Practical.
    • Check for all.
  • Aesthetics.
    • Camry… On the ok side of meh.
    • Accord? Well… It looks good for a Honda.
    • MAZDA6 most definitely. Not just good looking for a family sedan. A great looking car inside and out full stop, It rivals luxury cars costing far more.
  • Features.
    • Accord and MAZDA6 check all feature boxes. The MAZDA6 especially so.
  • Used.
    • Great values to be had with both… The MAZDA6 especially so.

Toyota took too many hits above to remain on the short list. That left the Accord and the MAZDA6. But Mazda had the lead:

  • 38MPG highway.
  • Better looking inside and out. Has a real luxury car look to it.
  • Everyone and their Mother, Uncle, Accountant, etc. has an Accord. For good reason, but still…
  • The Honda has respectable handling, but the Mazda gets top honors in every review I have read. It made the Car & Driver Top 10 list after all.
Photo from Car & Driver.

They turbocharged it in 2018. Maybe that? But no. While impressive and a definite HP improvement that cost more new and fuel economy dropped. Not the trade off I was looking for. In 2016 and 2018 they made a manual transmission Touring and Sport versions respectively I was not aware of. Maybe those? No. I also point you back to my “not racing other Dad’s for pink slips” comment. Plus I had settled on the Grand Touring trim level and they are auto only.

One thing nagged at me. Could I really make peace with 184HP after my ever escalating pursuit of higher HP? If not I might have to start looking Honda’s way.

Then I drive the best MAZDA6 deal I had found and yes. Yes, I could. I would be fine. Left the line just fine and while talking to my wife during the test drive I got up to sweet giblets highway speeds without realizing it in short order. And that was in normal mode. Toggled it to Sport mode and it brought a noticeable bit of anger.

I am good.

Add in a price that I could not refuse at a dealership a few miles away (that allowed for a few road trip pictures) and we brought it home that night.

It has been a few days since and I have some thoughts. All glowing so far as a heads up.

  • I cannot believe this much car can be purchased for this amount of money.
    • Even new this car is a screaming value. Used it is more so. A new base Civic starts at $21,250 while this top trim MAZDA6 cost less than $15,000. Concerned about repairs even with the solid reliability ratings? Buy a 5 year warranty and you still come in at many thousands less than a case Civic new.
  • This is one well made car.
    • 5 years old with 55,000 miles on the clock this car is as well screwed together as any new car on the lot that night. Nary a mark or blemish on the body. A tiny bit of chrome peeled on the small “nib” (not sure what to call it) on the cupholder cover door is all I could find. And that was not enough to cause me any concern. An easy fix if I ever felt like bothering.
  • Amazing handling.
    • I got an inkling of it on the test drive. But this is the best handling sedan I have ever driven. Feels like a far smaller great handling car. It is so good you almost feel like braking for ramps is more of an option than a must. Took a wrong turn on the test drive that called for a multi ramp cloverleaf jamboree. My wife gets carsick but the Mazda handled so flat that it did not bother her at all. This would not have gone well in nearly any other car we have.
  • I am blown away by the features this 5 year old car has. Many I have never had before.
    • SCBS that will warn the driver and even brake by itself when approaching a car a city speeds.
      • Did not know about this until after the purchase. Started with an internet search “Why does the MAZDA6 have cameras on top of the windshield.
    • Knob controls so well executed that I forget that the car has a touch screen.
    • High fallutin’ halogen fog lights and headlights that turn in corners.
    • Excellent 11 speaker Bose audio system.
    • Lacks the latest Android and iPhone connectivity tech, but the Bluetooth integration is done very well.
    • A heads up display that also echoes navigation route instructions.
  • Interior materials are phenomenal.
    • Great to look at and great to touch. An interior that would not be out of place in a much more expensive vehicle. The Grand Touring brings actual leather while lower models have a convincing artificial leather that would have done just fine for me.
I really like the subtle dark chocolate brown accents of this particular model.

Now lets revisit the HP.

No issue here. I am stunned by this. I have gone on for years obsessing about higher and higher HP forgoing sensible options in pursuit of such. It is no rocket but this car gets up and goes without any issues at all at any speed. This is an impressive powerplant pulling far better than I would have thought possible given the spec while delivering great fuel economy. And they have done a stellar job with this transmission. The engine and transmission are so well suited to one another I feel no need to use the gearshift manual controls, paddle shifters, or Sport mode. The car does just fine in regular drive mode in all conditions. In fact the car carries speed so well I often find myself going faster than I realize if I am not mindful. I read up on this transmission and it is an impressive design. As this article point out, “SKYACTIV-DRIVE combines all the advantages of conventional automatic transmissions, continuously variable transmissions, and dual-clutch transmissions.”

After driving this car I now honestly wonder what I was on about for all of these years.

Then I started looking at the numbers of other options and cars I have owned in comparison. Of course the HEMI bests this car at almost 200 more HP but that is an unreliable powerplant in my experience. 370HP did me little good when I was staring at a $6,000 plus repair bill. My Mother’s automotive mantra came to mind..

Can I put gas in it and it will take me where I want to go everyday?

And if you take the HEMI out of the equation there are many vehicles I would choose before the Charger. The Passat 3.6 Passat we have has almost 100 more HP on paper (280HP), but at a 6.4 second 0-60 does not beat the 7.0 second MAZDA6 by all that much. And that 2016 Honda manual transmission car I was looking at initially? The 189HP 1.5T manual transmission model is no quicker to 60 and the 252HP 2.0T bests it by .9 seconds. They are impressive but they also cost considerably more at over $20,000 used, as opposed to around $15,000 for the Mazda, and get fewer MPG HW. That .9 second spread for the 2.0T looks very good on paper, but I can also tell you that the .6 second difference of the Passat V6 is not really noticeable by the seat of the pants experience. Add the lower price and better fuel economy to the fact that I consider the Mazda to be a better looking and handling car and I see why the MAZDA6 made the Car & Driver Top 10 list.

Add a stellar reliability rating and I have found a winner. Far different than the car I thought I wanted, but far better than I ever thought I could obtain at this price.

Bottom line:

  • A well put together compelling car as a whole more than makes up for an engine specifically or raw HP numbers in general.

I plan ahead and Mazda may just have a customer for quite a while. If we do need another vehicle this can and the 2018 and beyond turbo model will definitely be top of the list. And I also read that the next MAZDA6 will be RWD with an inline 6. A Japanese rear wheel drive car from a company that already makes a great handling FWD car? An affordable 3 series of old potentially? Yes. Sign me up please. You may even talk me into my first new car in many years one day.

Well done Mazda.

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