2014 Mazda6 i Touring Long-Term Update 2
Within the first 3500 miles of our Mazda6 loan, I managed to get it to the track more often than in the entire year I had the Nissan GT-R: once at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and again at the Streets of Willow. But while the Mazda6 is many things, it ain't no race car. It's a fine-handling road car, precisely because that's what it was tuned to be. But the track exposes two critical deficiencies: power and grip.
The lack of power was not a surprise; even with a slick six-speed manual, one can only squeeze so much oomph out of a 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder tuned for 37 freeway mpg. The front straight and uphill sections of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Streets of Willow made this crystal clear. But what's good about limited power in a nice-handling car is that the combination forces you to pay attention and try to carry momentum throughout the entire track.
The key to this strategy, however, is grip. The ability to carry speed through corner requires good tires. And the faster I went, the more noticeable it became that the Dunlop all-season tires were simply not up to the task. Coming out of the back bowl at Streets of Willow is a straightaway that rises gently into a quick succession of turns. After a couple of laps of increasing speed, I was trying to keep my momentum up through the bowl, back straight, and initial turn, before going hard on the brakes for the slow, twisty bits.
I clearly was carrying more speed than the tires could handle, because they refused to bite and I understeered straight off the track into the rocky dirt. After a few seconds of bucking and banging, I managed to guide the '6 back on track, none the worse for wear. Or so I thought. In the days after the track session, I started to notice a quiet rattle emanating from the front passenger wheelwell area. A visual check of the body and underhood revealed nothing obvious, so I took into to our local South Bay Mazda dealer. The upper shock tower bearing was shattered, most definitely by my shunt at Willow.
The parts were cheap at $21.03, but labor cost $163.50 to remove the shock absorber to access the plate and bearing, for $184.53 with tax. Ouch. But the rattle is gone, and the turnaround was quick and came with a car wash. So while my track experience wasn't so hot, my first dealership experience was pretty good.
|Service life||13,853 mi|
|Average fuel economy||26.9 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.72 lb/mi|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ||25/37/29 mpg|
|Energy consumption||125 kW-hr/100mi|