Subtle updates make the 2018 Mazda6 more than the sum of its parts

Mazda bumped the Mazda6 up a notch on the premium scale at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Japanese company’s flagship sedan receives updates inside, outside, and under the hood that make it more refined than before. It’s not all-new, but Mazda promises it’s comprehensively re-engineered.

As expected, the 6 receives the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine already available in the CX-9 crossover. It provides 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque when it’s fed 93-octane fuel. Filling up with cheaper 87-octane gasoline reduces the four-cylinder’s power output to 227 hp. Mazda mercifully recognizes a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is usually incompatible with driving enjoyment, so it offers the turbo four with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the only configuration offered.

The point of entry into the Mazda6 lineup remains a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter which generates 184 hp and 185 lb-ft. of torque. It’s down on power compared to its turbocharged counterpart, as you’d expect, but it’s offered with a driver’s choice of a six-speed manual transmission or the aforementioned six-speed automatic. The 6’s buttoned-down chassis and revised suspension help provide an engaging driving experience regardless of whether the engine breathes on its own or with the help of a turbo.

Mazda points out that, inside the 6, only the steering wheel and small trim pieces are carried over from the 2017 version of the car. The HVAC controls are grouped in a smaller conglomeration, the instrument cluster looks easier to read, and there’s now a thin strip of chrome trim that accentuates the cabin’s width. The available Signature trim bumps the 6 into premium car territory with wood accents plus a combination of leather and microfiber upholstery. The leather’s special shade of brown draws inspiration from ancient Japanese temples, according to Mazda.

It’s difficult to guess at the changes lurking under sheet metal after merely glancing at the Mazda6. The visual modifications are largely limited to a new insert in the grille and updated lights on both ends. You’d have to be a true Mazda fan to tell the 6 also gains new 17- and 19-inch alloy wheels and an additional color to its palette, named soul red crystal.

The 2018 Mazda Mazda6 will go on sale in the spring of next year. Pricing information hasn’t been released yet. When it lands, it will compete in the same segment as heavy-hitters like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Chevrolet Malibu.

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