A few weeks ago, Ed over at The Car Blog wrote a piece on Why Wagons Rock, detailing why the practicality of wagons has won him over. Well, here in The Garage, we couldn’t agree more. In fact I’m a little surprised that it’s taken so long for so many folks to come to the realization that wagons (or some SUVs by extension) are indeed cool. As one who spent years working for Volvo, with all their boxy, turbo monster wagons I figured this out way back in the early Eighties. There is no reason why a wagon can’t be practical and a blast to drive at the same time.
Enter the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon. Over the past couple of months we’ve racked up about 9,000 km on a pair of these haulers. The first was equipped with the 3.0 l V6 and a 5 speed manual transmission, while the second utilized the same engine coupled to the optional 6 speed automatic. The automatic is tuned for the sporting driver and has a manual shift option. Personally, I’ve never been excited by manumatics so this feature didn’t get much use but it did seem to work smoothly. Just not my thing.
This engine is rated for 212 hp and 197 ft/lb of torque which was more than enough to turn the front tires to smoke off the line when the driver’s inner hooligan is released and sometimes when you’ve got your jacket and tie on too. Everyone who drove the car while in our stable commented that the front tires will squeel when leaving a light, even under moderate throttle. Odd, considering the big sticky boots the Sport Wagon wears.
Those big boots are nothing less than Pirelli P-Zero’s in a whopping 215/45 R18 size. The 18 inch rims look great on the car and the tires feel good in normal driving and are acceptable in the wet. When the driving gets spirited, the tires are a bit odd. Under hard cornering, the tires are predictable right up to the limit and then at the limit they break away cleanly without any abruptness. Under hard acceleration at lower speeds, they break away much more easily than I would have expected for a P-zero and under braking they lock up very easily which can be pretty disconcerting when you need to jump on the binders. Overall, on a windy road you would never guess that this is a wagon. Smooth and responsive, the Mazda 6 is a hoot to drive fast, with quite neutral handling at speed. Ever the old rally driver, I always like to see how a front driver behaves when faced with a quick lift of the throttle at speed and the chassis responds with a subtle shift from understeer to throttle off oversteer that is easily controllable.
Inside, the leather seats are comfortable and supportive and the driver never feels fatigued on a long drive. The seats are firm enough for the twisty bits, but probably wouldn’t offer enough lateral support for a track day. There are lots of nice little storage cubbies and the split back seat offers good versatility, which brings us to the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon’s biggest strength. Space for Stuff. As the pictures show, there was more than enough room to put a couple of bikes inside, with the front wheel still in place. What impressed the most, was how well it took the big stuff. A few times, the back end swallowed up a racing kart, tool kit, cooler, pit canopy, rain tires and a bunch more stuff with ease. With the rear seats folded flat, the cargo area is cavernous. With the seats up, there is still more that enough room for a family of 5 to cram their junk for a weekend away.
With the price of gas these days, one of the strong points of the Madza 6 over an SUV or even a minivan may be fuel economy. The government fuel ratings of about 12 L/100km city and 8 L/100km city seem about right, as our combined real world comsumption was right around 10 L/100km. When you are used to driving an sUV, this is great.
With a base price of $33,195 for the GT-v6, the Mazda 6 is a much better value than a similarly equipped wagon from Volvo, Audi or BMW. If you need the space, but don’t need the hot rod, go for the GS 4 cylinder which starts at only $24,395.
If you have a family and are looking for some seriour space, but still want a ride that looks hot and is a blast to drive, then the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon is definately worth a look. This wagon Rocks!