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2006 MAZDASPEED6 Road Test

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Justin Pritchard
Luxury performance is a dish best served turbocharged.

2006 MAZDASPEED6 (Photo: Chris Koski)
It's an interesting job, this automotive journalism. Every week, we determined writers set off in a different sort of vehicle with the goal of telling you, the general car-curious public all about it to help you make a more informed decision as to what to get. Every week of driving is a different experience, yet each week has the potential to be something disastrous. What am I yammering on about? The something disastrous is called, "the one". The One is a rare car that for some often unexplainable reason, you just don't want to give back. Plain and simple. The MAZDASPEED6 is one such machine.

First, the styling is very understated, not intended to get massive attention wherever it goes, but rather intended to be noticeable to a select, interested few. It isn't an over hyped and overgrown Hot Wheels toy. It wears no hood scoop, no park-bench spoiler in back--in fact the spoiler is smaller than that of the regular model! The hood has a new bulge, there are some upgrades to the body of the car, including bigger wheels and a new set of bumpers. There are a few other appreciable elements to the styling as well. One example is the angle of the grille and the angle of the spoiler forming parallel looking lines, and a look of completeness while tying the visual impact of both the front and rear of the car together when viewed from the side. The dual exhaust outlets protrude from the bumper--a rarity among most cars on this side of affordability. With 18-inch wheels and an intense fascia conveying a menacing presence, the MAZDASPEED6 doesn't drive down the roads, it prowls them.

This car looks sneaky, like it's up to something. It is.

2006 MAZDASPEED6 (Photo: Justin Pritchard,
You see, at Mazda they don't just add bigger wheels, body upgrades and bulgy hoods for no reason. Under that bulge? An intercooler, to feed cool air to the turbocharger that has been fitted to the 2.3-liter engine. It's a four-cylinder, and very well motivated. The turbocharger coupled with the DISI (Direct Ignition Spark Injection) system belts out nearly 115 more horsepower than the non-turbo model. Output is 274 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That's quite a bit. Those bigger wheels? They are attached to an all-wheel drive system and wear bigger tires to help make sure the added power makes it way to the pavement.

The performance is brisk and entertaining. Open the taps and wait for the turbo to kick up full boost around 3,000 rpm, and the four little cylinders go to work eagerly planting occupants into seatbacks with little delay. It's almost feline--prowling along coolly and calmly but able to claw into the ground with all fours and disappear in a flash should the need arise. The MAZDASPEED6 has massive torque right at 3,000 RPM. Its powercure is like a slingshot--a rubbery feel which reminds me of that slight pause as you pull back before the release of momentum.

That's called turbo lag. It's a little waiting period before the action begins. It's generally a short wait, kind of like foreplay, or the previews before a good Tarentino movie. Stomp the long skinny pedal anywhere over 2,000 revs, wait a tick, and you're off in no time. It's a quiet engine, as
2006 MAZDASPEED6 (Photo: Chris Koski)
turbochargers tend to cancel out any sort of harmonious exhaust note. As a result, it's got a fairly quiet character. On full boost, the only audible part of the experience is a mellow hum accompanied by the blast-of-air turbocharged sound effects. Close your mouth, leaving your lips open slightly. Now, hold your teeth together and suck in a big gulp of air. Exhale it as quickly as possible--that's what the MAZDASPEED6 sounds like. (If you were sitting too close to your computer screen, take a moment to wipe it off now.) It's not a high-revving unit, nor does it do any tricks with the timing as the revs escalate--but the low-end snap is so impressive you won't really mind.
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert