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MOTORNET: Q car, Mazda style

Q car, Mazda style

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson

Want to build yourself a Q car? Simply take your standard sedan, add a modest body kit and some more performance oriented options like upgraded engine and brakes, and presto, you’re done. Jaw dropping expressions from big Holden and Ford drivers when you leave them at the lights comes at no extra cost.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. In practice, a true Q car packs a mighty technological punch, it just doesn’t need to brag about it. The big daddy of them all is BMW’s M5. It truly embodies the concept of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing looking little different from its cooking cousins bar a discreet M badge on the rear, but secrets a cutting edge V10 in the engine bay. The result is not so much a car as a legend.

Given then that the formula worked so well for BMW, it’s no surprise that others have followed suit. The Mazda 6 MPS is a case in point. At first glance, you might be hard pressed to distinguish it from the regular Mazda 6, but look a little closer and the larger wheels, mesh grille, fat twin exhausts at the rear and power bulge in the bonnet all suggest something a little more special. Always a good looking car, the 6 MPS now has a presence it didn’t quite have before.

Of course, the changes have to be more than just skin deep, even if the recipe is relatively simple. Mazda’s response is to take one standard 2.3 litre four-cylinder motor from a Mazda 6 and add direct injection, a turbocharger and an air-to-air intercooler. The result? A 190kW of peak power, 380Nm of torque and a 0-100km/h time of around 6.41 seconds – in other words, a silent automotive assassin.

But all the power in the world does not necessarily a great car make, so recognising this, Mazda had the foresight to not only add a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, but to increase the stiffness of the body as well, all with the intention of creating a sharper steering and handling vehicle. The question is; did they succeed?

On first acquaintance, steering is surprisingly light. I had been expecting something a bit more European in nature, requiring more arm muscle to truly tame, but the MPS’s steering could be from any Japanese car. For all that, it felt direct and provided a reasonable level of road feedback.

The six-speed manual gearbox is virtually identical to the one fitted to Mazda’s latest MX-5 so I was pretty familiar with its personality. Like the MX-5, it snicks from gear to gear in a crisp and clean fashion. But a word to the wise, the clutch can be tricky to master and takes some getting used to. The odd embarrassing engine stall is certainly on the cards, especially for new players.

Ride is firm but not harsh. Less than billiard smooth roads can prove a little bumpy but the set-up still provides a pretty good ride/handling compromise. Besides, the MPS wouldn’t be on the shopping list if you’re primary aim was a cosseting ride now would it?

Fuel economy, to be frank, was a little disappointing. Mazda claim an average fuel economy of 10.5 litres per 100km, but I was averaging more like 13 litres. True, I was hardly attempting a fuel economy run, but even so, I had higher hopes for this forced induction Mazda.

If high spec is what you seek, then the MPS will certainly deliver. In addition to all the extra bits on the outside (like the stunning spoke alloys), standard kit includes great hip-hugging sports seats trimmed in black leather (which are also power adjustable and have a memory function), Bose head unit stereo and seven speakers, and climate air to list just a few.

So how does it drive I hear you implore? Well, it’s certainly quick. A bit like a high-speed SLR camera, you simply point and shoot. The MPS offers bags of grip to go with its power and the all-wheel drive ensures you won’t go sliding out of treacherous corners if things unintentionally begin to come unstuck. Similarly, the MPS packs plenty of electronic aids to keep the car on the straight and narrow.

Somehow though, it’s not quite as engaging as I would have liked. There’s no doubt that when driven hard you have supreme confidence in its abilities, and while it can take some driving, it never demands more than it delivers. For all that, it doesn’t quite seem to equal the some of its parts and doesn’t exude the fun element that the MX-5 has in abundance.

The Mazda 6 MPS can be had for a fraction under $60k and for that you get a well equipped and fast sporting sedan. Obvious rivals include Subaru’s all-singing, all-dancing Legacy GT, though the 6 possibly provides more exclusivity. For a little bit less, you could also try the likes of VW’s Passat Sportline which offers less power and no all wheel drive, but a similar turbo experience. Perhaps a bit more time behind the wheel of the Mazda will help reveal the true depths of its personality, but until then there’s no doubt it’s a good looking piece of kit.

o Gearbox and clutch take some mastering
o Steering is direct and provides plenty of feedback, but some might find it a little on the light side
o Looks are good, if understated, though pleasantly in my mind. Subtle skirts and spoilers enhanced by mesh grille and suitably fat twin exhaust pipes
o Equipment good, great front seats with multi adjustable drivers position. Won’t suit everyone though
o Reasonably thirsty – official figures are XXX but I was getting around 12-14 litres per 100km/h
o Ride is firm but not harsh, though can be a little bumpy over less than billiard table smooth surfaces
o Power is suitably phenomenal and turbo provides plenty of acceleration regardless of gear
o 4WD works well

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