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2018 Turbo Grand Touring Reserve - 600mi Review
About the Reviewer
Initally I jotted down some initial reviews of the Mazda but with 600mi on the odo here is an update. First off I have never owned a Mazda. The m6 turbo replaces my 2005 BMW 545 (with auto trans). A total piece of shit. Which replaced my 1998 BMW 540i with 6 sp manual which was a great car, loved that car. My other cars current cars include a 2007 Rav4 with v6 and a 2017 Shelby GT350, and a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 sport touring bike. I am 56 years old, don't mind wrenching on my own cars to a point, have a BSME degree and have track experience and am an avid motorcyclist, and always run my radar detector. So this gives you some prospective of the reviewer.
My goal with the m6 was to get a car that was BMW 5 quality and performance at a smaller price especially considering maintenance work. Yes I could have purchased a nice used 335i / 435i for about the same as my new 2018 m6, but based upon my recent 2005 545i (did I say this car was a piece of crap?), the maintenance could have ended up killing me.
So how does the m6 compare to the BMW experience, actually quite favorably. The interior certainly feels near luxury or luxury and the sound level in the car is very rich feeling. So caulk one up to Mazda in this department. And certainly the newer tech in the m6 clearly outshines the 2005 BMW. So as I mentioned road and wind noise are very well contained. Plus the road noise / feel that comes through feels ideal and very muted. So the car has a luxurious experience. While I did not drive the 2017 back to back with the 2018, the 18 feels much quieter. I do know that there were thicker body panels used, but maybe there is also more sound proofing as well? All in all the 18 feels quite luxurious while the 17.5 felt somewhat cheap. My occupation is that of Real Estate broker and this car gives nothing away to a BMW or Lexus (well maybe a little...) But it does not feel cheap. In fact it makes you look like you are smart with your money.
The experience of the engine is very muted, specifically with regards to throttle response and power building. Is it the non existent turbo lag, is it the torque vs hp biased motor, is it the quiet interior, or are there electronics to override any over eagerness. I am not sure, but my expectations of 310 ftlbs of torque are greater than how this car feels. The car does not FEEL fast, but then you quietly see that after a short period of time you moving quite fast. So +1 for those who want unassuming speed, -1 for those who want the sensation of speed. Sometimes something as little a quicker throttle response or more engine noise can make a huge difference in perception. Either way the car does not provide the perception of speed, yet it does produce speed. With the engine being a turbo, maybe we will be lucky to see some aftermarket support for this engine in the future. Maybe just a re-tune would give it a more ready and willing feel. As a quick example my Rav4 feels faster just because the throttle response is so immediate and it does have 269hp!, but clearly a bigger car and already 10yrs old.
The transmission shifts quickly and effortlessly. I do like how you can override the standard program with the paddle shifters and then it reverts back to standard program after a while. A big +1 for the transmission. I like the idea of the sport mode. But don't really want to turn this on for a one or two turn scenario, I would however leave it on if I were climbing some mountain roads.
The suspension does an excellent job of transferring the right amount of road feel through the wheel. It feels almost perfect for 90% of the population. However, I would prefer something maybe a little tighter. Maybe I will upgrade to lower springs and aftermarket koni's. Maybe there will be a way to upgrade bushings to get a little more engaging feel. It is a little soon to see any aftermarket support, although I do hope there will be some aftermarket support. One other poster mentioned the car feeling a little squishy, I would agree with this when the car get pushed a little. The squishyness may also be the tires??
I am not sure if the sport mode enhances the steering response, but I do fee the steering response is a little slow on turn in. The car seems slow to turn in and feels like there is significant understeer, but then once set into the turn the car becomes neutral. I think a larger rear roll bar will help, and most likely some lower and firmer springs will help with turn in. It would be nice if the electric steering rack could be put in sport mode as a separate item, probably not possible.
I suspect the brakes are the same as the 185hp 2017 model and if this is the case then they are just not up to spirited driving. Yes they stop the car and they work just fine. But the feel is vague. Probably the combination of flexible floating calipers and rubber brake lines. I spent this morning looking at more options. There are corksport bigger brakes, likely to fit (but not yet confirmed) the 2018 for around $1100 which would be a good middle of the road upgrade. Then both Wilwood and Sporttech are within 1 hrs drive. I am sure I could drive there and have them fit bigger brakes for around $1200 - $1,800
Now it sounds like I am being a little picky and I am. I have a 2017 Shelby GT350 as comparison and used to road race motorcycles. I am looking at the car from my point of view. However, this is my wife's car. But of course I do a lot of the driving when we are together. So is it the perfect car for her? Yes!. Is it a car that I can be happy driving right now as it is? Yes. The other car I was considering was either a WRX or WRX sti. But the interior of this car was really quite weak and the Mazda was a clear winner in this category. So much so, that I didn't even show my wife the WRX.
So at this point I have a very competent car that is 80% of a new BMW 435i yet at around 1/2 the initial price, and maybe only 20% of the cost for on going maintenance as the car ages. And the only thing standing in the way of it becoming everything I want is $1,500 of suspension work and $1,500 in brakes? That isn't such a bad deal. Especially considering that from the wife's perspective it already is perfect and from my perspective it is only $3,000 away from perfection.