2015 Mazda6 Touring – A Sedan Saving the Stick

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The 2015 Mazda6 represents an endangered species. Don’t worry, Mazda is in no immediate danger of going defunct, in fact it’s currently in a real renaissance period. What makes this particular car a dying breed is the fully manual gearbox.

For the 2015 model year, the number of midsize sedans available in America with a three pedal layout has dropped by nearly half. Both the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata have lost their stick shift options as a result of extreme customer apathy, leaving only the 6, the VW Passat and the Honda Accord.

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The Mazda6 features a prominent front splitter

Now in its sophomore year, the current generation 6 stands apart from its midsize sedan contemporaries in a number of ways, starting with the way it looks. Last year, Mazda adopting a new styling direction with sweeping curves and prominent grille that replaces the previous smiley face look.

The shape of the sweeping greenhouse is not actually that different from the last generation but the more upright fascia gives this car and its siblings a decidedly in-your-face stance. The blunt front profile contributes to what looks like a more horizontal hood that looks longer than competitors such as the Chrysler 200. Especially from the front three-quarters, the effect is that this almost looks like a longitudinal engine rear-wheel-drive car.

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Both the mid-level Touring trim that I drove and the top Grand Touring edition replace the 17-inch alloy wheels on the base Sport with 19-inch rolling stock that does an excellent job of filling out the wheel wells and enhancing the appearance of athleticism. By the way, this car doesn’t just look athletic, it possesses the “Zoom-Zoom” spirit of Mazda, but I’ll come back to that.

2015 Mazda6 13Inside, the Touring goes from cloth covered seats to a synthetic leatherette that proves once again, that genuine animal hides are no longer needed to get the same effect as leather. The coverings aren’t quite as supple as the premium skins in a luxury car, but they are at least as good as much of the low-end leather I’ve experienced. The seats themselves are comfortable and supportive and offer enough adjustment for pretty much anyone to get properly positioned. The 111.4-inch wheelbase means there is also plenty of room for a pair of adults to sit comfortably in the rear cabin for a road trip.

2015 Mazda6 12Every 2015 Mazda6 gets a 5.8-inch color touch screen display flanked by a series of mode buttons that are replicated on the center console surrounding a rotary control knob. A Tom-Tom-powered navigation system is available on Touring and standard on the Grand Touring. As usual, Tom-Tom provides good routing directions and real-time traffic updates are available as well.

Unfortunately, unlike smartphone-powered mapping solutions, the point-of-interest database is limited and the ability to find a coffee-shop with voice commands was substandard. Also like most built-in voice recognition systems, the recognition worked OK, but the functionality was limited and extremely cumbersome. Again, I’ll take Google Now or Siri any day over anything offered by an automaker.

My tester was also equipped with a blindspot indicator system with cross-traffic-alert which is especially handy when backing out of a parking space flanked by larger trucks and SUVs. The Grand Touring trim offers an optional radar-based adaptive cruise control and collision warning plus a camera based lane departure warning.

2015 Mazda6 14Propulsion for all 2015 models comes from Mazda’s excellent direct-injected, 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G four-cylinder. With 184-horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, you’ll never mistake this for an old MazdaSpeed 6, but it’s more than adequate for the vast majority of commuters.

The clutch pedal effort is light and the shifter moves smoothly between the gates making driving even in stop and go traffic easy. If like me you are one of those increasingly unusual people that prefers to take control of the gearbox, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by what Mazda has to offer in the 6.

The Mazda6 has a curb weight of just 3,183 pounds, aiding its acceleration, handling and efficiency

Aiding the performance cause is Mazda’s leadership position in controlling the mass of its cars. With a curb weight of just 3,183 pounds with a manual or 3,232 pounds with an automatic, the 6 undercuts the Honda Accord by 100 pounds and the Ford Fusion by 200 pounds. The moderate weight aids handling dynamics as well as acceleration giving the car a very nimble feel when changing direction. My only quibble in this regard would be steering that is perhaps a bit too light at speeds below about 30 mph.  Above that however, everything tightens up and feels great. When the traversing Michigan potholes and speed bumps, the suspension offered enough compliance to keep things on an even keel and just the right amount of damping to prevent any floatiness.

While I can live without radar cruise control systems, I would have liked to try out the Grand Touring with the Technology package for a single feature that is currently unique in the industry to Mazda, the oddly named i-ELOOP regenerative braking system.

Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking system

Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking system

Mazda doesn’t currently offer a hybrid version of the 6, but i-ELOOP uses a smart alternator that essentially goes into an idle mode during acceleration to reduce the load on the engine and improve fuel efficiency. In this mode, the electrical system mostly draws energy from the battery instead of the alternator. During coasting and braking, the alternator engages to provide some extra engine braking and recover kinetic energy that is stored for later use.

Unlike, other such systems, Mazda uses a supercapacitor to store that energy. The supercapacitor can absorb energy faster than a battery, enabling the system to recover more energy for later use. In combination with active grille shutters, the i-ELOOP-equipped 6 gets an extra 2 mpg from the automatic transmission version on the EPA driving cycles, boosting the ratings to 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. The six-speed manual I tested gets a sticker of 25 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. In my driving, I got an average of 27.5 mpg in some unseasonably cold weather that dipped down to 10 degrees in mid-November.

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At just under $25,000 including delivery charges, the Mazda6 Touring is very competitively priced and has a more athletic demeanor than most of its competitors. If you’re in the market for a family sedan that your kids won’t know how to shift, the 6 is worthy of consideration and buying one is the only real way to convince Mazda and other manufacturers to save the stick.

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Mazda i-ELOOP regenerative braking system

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If you're in the market for a great looking 55-inch TV, skip the nonsense on Friday and head over to 

If you're in the market for a great looking 55-inch TV, skip the nonsense on Friday and head over to +Costco now

This +VIZIO 55-inch is on sale for $529 and has fantastic picture quality, a really nice easy-to-use app interface and 4 HDMI ports to connect all your stuff. We just picked one up and it looks great.?

Item amy be available in your local warehouse for a lower, non delivered price. For more information about this product or warranty issues, please call (1-877-698-4946) M-F: 8am-12pm (EST), Sat-Sun: 10am-7pm (EST).

When I first saw the new GT350 Mustang emerging from a pile of clay in the studio 18 months ago, I knew this was going to be something special

When I first saw the new GT350 Mustang emerging from a pile of clay in the studio 18 months ago, I knew this was going to be something special

I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to play a part in telling this story before I left Ford in August and it's great to see it out in the wild without camo. I can't wait for the rest of the story to be revealed?

$57,500 will make you the owner of the first fuel cell vehicle to actually go on sale in the United States next year

$57,500 will make you the owner of the first fuel cell vehicle to actually go on sale in the United States next year

The +TOYOTA  Mirai will be the first first fuel cell vehicle available for consumers to buy rather than just lease like the +Honda FCX Clarity or +Hyundai USA Tucson FCV. With the incentives available to zero-emissions vehicles, the net price drops into mid to upper $40K range. 


* +Audi USA is apparently going to reveal a concept version of the A7 with a fuel cell plug-in hybrid…

* +Audi USA is apparently going to reveal a concept version of the A7 with a fuel cell plug-in hybrid powertrain at the LA Auto Show today*

Cool idea, but definitely, not the first time it's been done. +***** actually had a prototype of an extended range EV with a fuel cell running in late 2006, a couple of months before Chevrolet revealed the original Volt concept. I had a chance to drive the HySeries Edge concept in February 2007. ?

Click on the photo for a high-res gallery of photos from the Ford SMT LabBetween the Washington, D.C. and Chicago Auto Shows, AutoblogGreen got invited to

2015 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 5.3-liter, Trucks Have Come a Long Way

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Watching the evolution of the American pickup truck over the past 25 years has been a fascinating experience. Some time I recently spent with a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado demonstrated clearly just how far these most utilitarian of vehicles have come.

When I got started in the auto industry as an engineering student in the late 1980s, technology and trucks were two words that simply didn’t go together. Also not part of the truck equation were driving dynamics, braking performance, refinement or any kind of sophistication.

2015 Chevy Silverado LTZ 16Over the course career developing anti-lock brake systems, traction control, stability control and electrohydraulic brake systems, I spent a significant proportion of my time working on truck programs. A lot of that time was spent driving trucks in extreme conditions and frankly it was often a harrowing experience every time I turned the steering wheel or stabbed the brake pedal. It didn’t really matter which manufacturer we were working on, the brakes and steering often seemed like an afterthought. Of course this was often true of American cars of a generation earlier, but by the 1990s, they had started to progress to a higher level.

In those days, stabbing the brake pedal often resulting in a significant amount of pedal travel before any discernable deceleration was generated, and releasing the pedal might or might not modulate the brake force. The problem was small single piston brake calipers with a lot of compliance. Similarly the steering was at best sloppy with lots of on-center play that made it feel like the tiller was connected to the front wheels through a wet sponge.

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Fast forward to 2014 and the contemporary pickup truck has been utterly transformed. While you might think that it doesn’t really matter how a truck handles, when you consider that these vehicles are the highest volume sellers from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, it absolutely does.

2015 Chevy Silverado LTZ 06The latest generation Silverado and its GMC twin, the Sierra debuted in 2013 as a 2014 model. It was the first GM vehicle to launch with GM’s fifth-generation small-block V8 engine. The biggest upgrade to the new generation powerplants was switch to direct-injection which yields more power and improved fuel efficiency. The DI enabled GM engineers to bump the compression ratio to 11.0:1 in the smaller 5.3-liter V8 I drove and 11.5:1 in the larger 6.2-liter version. The test truck was rated at 355 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque and seemed to have more than ample performance despite its heft.

While a nearly three-ton truck is never going to be as nimble as a Camaro or Corvette, the first time I tapped the brakes, it was clear, this was not like the trucks of my younger days. There was only the slightest hint of free-play followed immediately by a smooth and progressive build-up of deceleration. Adjustments in pedal force corresponded directly to braking force, just as you would expect. The steering was similarly precise with weighting that made parking lot maneuvers easy while avoiding drifting at higher speeds. The ride was also comfortable and well-damped even with an empty bed.

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Motors in the seat cushion bolsters of the driver’s seat vibrate to provide alerts for the park assist and lane departure warning

Inside, the crew-cab, had plenty of room for five adults to ride in comfort and the back seat cushions can fold up to provide an large enclosed space for carrying cargo you don’t want to leave in the bed.

2015 Chevy Silverado LTZ 08The new-generation Silverado is equipped with the latest Chevy MyLink system that is shared with the Impala and Corvette. Unlike the original MyLink that debuted in 2012, this more powerful version is actually derived from the Cadillac CUE system. It has a different, simpler user interface than CUE and loses a couple of features that are exclusive to Cadillac including the proximity sensing for the touchscreen and the haptic feedback (no great loss actually).

The MyLink setup is easy to use, responsive and never crashes unlike a certain competing system from one of Chevrolet’s main competitors. Like many of today’s infotainment systems, it supports bluetooth audio streaming of content from paired phones and provides remote control of Pandora running on the phone. No additional app support is available yet, but GM has promised that eventually.

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Yes, there is a place to charge your devices, all of them!

For those with devices to charge, the Silverado is the place to be. Directly below the center stack is power center with two 12-volt power ports, three USB ports and a 110-volt AC outlet so you can charge your laptop. A storage slot below the charging ports provides a convenient place to store your phone while charging without using the cup holders or the larger storage bin. If the six outlets at the front aren’t enough, the deep bin below the armrest has two more USB ports, plus an auxiliary audio port and an SD card slot. A second AC outlet is accessible to rear seat passengers.

Like other 2015 model year GM vehicles, the standard OnStar system includes a built-in WiFi hotspot and 4G LTE radio powered by AT&T. The hotspot enables kids sitting in the back to browse the web or stream music on their WiFi enabled devices at speeds that rival what most Americans get at home. You will of course have to add yet another data plan for at least $10 per month to take advantage of this but staying connected cost money.

the first time I tapped the brakes, it was clear, this was not like the trucks of my younger days

Like CUE, the voice recognition works well, but it is a bit cumbersome to use, especially with the available navigation because you have to go through multiple steps. I can’t wait until GM and other automakers enable Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so I can just use Google’s voice recognition to control navigation and other features.

The fit and finish and materials in the cabin are completely up to contemporary car expectations and look totally in keeping with a $50,000 vehicle. The leather-covered steering wheel and front seats offer heating for cold mornings while the dual-zone automatic climate control lets the driver and passenger tune the temperature to their individual comfort levels.

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The display in the instrument cluster indicates when an object or pedestrian is in close proximity to the truck

Speaking of technology, the Silverado also offers features that make it easier to maneuver such a large vehicle. Ultrasonic sensors at each end along with a rear camera make it easier to know how close you are to other vehicles. The sensors can also detect a pedestrian walking by outside of your field of view. A camera-based forward collision alert and lane departure warning system alert the driver if you are closing too quickly on a vehicle ahead or drifting out of the lane. Another feature inherited from Cadillac is the vibrating driver seat that rumbles the seat cushion for the parking assist and lane departure system. Like the premium models, the seat will vibrate the side of the seat where the driver needs to pay attention, for example drifting right will shake the right side of the seat.

For 2015, GM has added an eight-speed automatic transmission to the Silverado and Sierra, but only with the larger 6.2-liter V8. No doubt the smaller 5.3-liter and the base 4.3-liter V6 will get the new transmission in time as GM ramps up production. For now however, those engines are paired with GM’s still excellent six-speed automatic. During my mostly around-town driving, I managed 17 mpg with the Silverado.

The well-equipped four-wheel-drive Silverado LTZ I drove stickered at $54,055 which is by no means cheap, but not out of line with a comparably Ram 1500 or Ford F-150. This configuration has a 7,200-pound tow rating but other configurations are offered with up to 11,800 pounds. If you need to haul more stuff on a regular basis, you may also want to opt for the longer 6.5-foot bed rather than the standard five-foot, eight-inch bed on my tester.

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A Saturday morning trip to the dump after doing fence repairs

GM has been offering some aggressive incentives of late to try to grab some market share before the all-new aluminum-bodied F-150 hits dealer lots in significant numbers in the coming months. If you’re looking for a truck, this is definitely worthy of consideration and drives so much better than the trucks of just 10 or 20 years ago. On the other hand, if you’re looking for even better fuel efficiency, you might want to look at the Ram 1500 diesel, Ford’s new 2.7-liter EcoBoost-powered F-150 or the smaller, midsize Chevy Colorado.

Click here for full specs on the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado