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Another '6s 5spd manual test drive...
I just want to add my $0.02 to the opinions from my very recent test drive of a 6s with 5spd manual transmission.
The vehicle I test drove is identical to the one I ordered Nov 15 from Crown Motors in Holland, MI. The vehicle I test drove Nov 14 was a 6s with 5spd auto and no options. My family has had a very good experience owning Mazda vehicles, and I had no problem placing an order for a vehicle I hand't driven yet. As an employee of a Tier 1 supplier to Ford Motor I am able to buy my vehicle on S-Plan, but because they're selling the vehicle to me at a discount and because of the demand they wouldn't sell me the vehicle they ordered for their own inventory. Oh well. The vehicle I have on order, and that I drove today, is a 6s with 5spd manual, Sport Package, Bose Audio, moonroof, leather interrior, side air bags, and comfort package.
I guess I really want to provide my own insight into what are peceived problems with the '6 that I've read.
The clutch and shifter take some getting used to. The clutch travel is shorter than my '89 626 but is very linear. I didn't stall the vehicle during my test drive, unlike some of the Honda products I've driven. The shifter isn't as smooth as the Miata's but it's not bad. It's quite a bit more free than in my 626 so it'll take some getting used to. Some of the shift gates are not as precise feeling as I would like, but I was never in any danger of doing an accidental downshift into 2nd instead of 4th. While on the topic of shift gates, they're also not as tight as the ones in the Celica GTS which IMHO is a very good thing.
It's been very windy the past few days here on the west side of Michigan, and the steering wheel was able to effectivly communicate the steering input caused by the wind. The car also didn't blow around very much. Weight transfer while cornering and braking is very predictable.
I had the car around 80mph on the highway in 4th gear and the noise in the cabin was very tolerable. IMHO the road noise wasn't as bad as some reviewers have let on. It may not be a Lexus, but it's 10x better than the previous generation Dodge Stratus. Wind noise also was very subdued, which given the 80mph speed and gusty winds is very impressive. The engine was also rather quiet. Normal conversation at highway speeds on crappy roads is very doable.
I've gotten a bit more used to the layout of the controls, and they're less of a problem than when I first test drove the car. I made a quick adjustment to temp and hit the 'auto' button and temperature seemed okay. With the weather we get in Michigan I'm hoping I don't run into the same problems that Steve is having. When adjusting the volume on the center console I accidently turned the stereo off. A bit frustrating as I ment to turn it not bump it. I suppose that will take a bit more getting used to, but definatly not a reason to not buy the car.
I'm 6'1" tall and after the test drive I left the drivers seat in place and sat in the back. I had a little head room to spare and sufficient leg room. No complaints here. Being stuck in the rear seat behind a driver of my size would get annoying on a long trip, but for the couple minutes I was back there it wasn't a problem. :)
Rear Visibility with the spoiler:
This was something I learned to watch out for with the Celica GTS and it's rather small rear window and spoiler that cuts through the middle of it. The spoiler on the '6 is in the lower part of the rear view and doesn't obstruct much of the view. I was very happy with overal sightlines of the car. The side curtains sitting attached to the A-pillars take a little getting used to though.
Generally speaking I'm very happy having finally driven a car identical to the one I have on order. The dealership has said that I may see my car in late January to early February. For me it's not a big problem having to wait because my 626 is still running strong at 190k miles. It's especially nice because I'll be able to make a larger down payment on the car. I've been keeping track of AAI production through Ward's Automotive publications, and am a bit currious as to why this is. Theey seem to be cranking out enough cars, but like the dealership and halfadozen have experienced once the car is built it's taking a really long time to get to the dealerships. When I sat down and spec'd out a car Nov14 the dealership already had the VIN# for the car I test drove today (it arrived Wednesday evening).