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First Oz drive: Stove-hot Six is quick and trick

Six of the best: Mazda6 MPS adds turbo power and AWD traction, but retains regular sedan's balance, refinement and value.

Stove-hot Mazda6 MPS sedan lobs Down Under with power, traction - and a keen price

7 Oct 2005

MAZDA'S hotly-anticipated turbocharged all-wheel drive sedan has been launched in Australia and will be priced from just $48,600 when it goes on sale in October.

Dubbed "the sophisticated Executive express" and known as Mazdaspeed in Japan and the US, Mazda6 MPS will be a direct rival for Subaru's popular Liberty GT, which retails from $52,990.

Mazda says that as its most technically advanced high performance sedan, MPS is the best handling and best braking sedan Mazda has ever built.

Of course, it calls its flagship sports car - the $55,000 rotary-powered, rear-drive four-door RX-8 – a coupe.

Apart from being Australia’s first official all-wheel drive Mazda since the 1987 323 SS Turbo and 1.6 4WDs – and introducing Mazda's petrol-injection technology - Mazda6 MPS relaunches the brand resurgent Japanese brand into the medium sports sedan market it last competed in with cars like the 626 turbo and V6 models offered more than a decade ago.

However, the resurgent Japanese company - which has just launched its third-generation MX-5 roadster and will back up the hottest Mazda6 with a Mazda Performance Series version of its top-selling Mazda3 – says the first MPS also offers sophistication, refinement and everyday practicality.

As the fifth Mazda launched here in four months, the sedan-only Mazda6 MPS delivers the same 190kW (at 5500rpm) of peak power as the manual Liberty GT (the GT auto offers 180kW) and a class-leading 380Nm of torque from 3000rpm.

Performance comes courtesy of Mazda’s new direct-injection, spark ignition (DISI) 2.3-litre 16-valve DOHC turbo four, which features a top-mounted intercooler and single-scroll turbo.

Euro4 emissions-compliant and featuring a high (for a turbo) compression ratio of 9.5:1, it produces 90 per cent of its torque output at just over 2000rpm.

With a kerb weight of 1612kg in base guise - some 211kg more than the standard Mazda6 - the result is 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 6.6 seconds.

Along with an Active Torque Split AWD system to match the Subaru’s "symmetrical" all-paw drivetrain, MPS’s standard safety kit will comprise DSC stability control, ABS and brake assist, plus twin front, front side and side curtain airbags.

Also standard is a full bodykit, Xenon headlights, 18 x 7.0-inch wheels, 215/45-section tyres, power windows/mirrors, cruise control, a six-speaker/six-CD sound system, remote central locking, trip computer, reach and rake adjustable steering and climate-control air-conditioning.

Based on the recently upgraded Mazda6 interior, the MPS cabin comprises a titanium-look facia with piano black audio controls, alloy pedals and a 280km/h speedo.

22 center image A leather pack model, still priced under the luxury tax threshold at $54,600 and expected to fetch 70 per cent of buyers, adds leather seat trim, power driver’s seat adjustment with three-position memory, a seven-speaker 200-watt Bose sound system and a glass sunroof.

The quickest Six comes exclusively with a short-throw six-speed manual transmission, whose overdriven sixth gear contributes to an impressively low average fuel figure of just 10.5L/100km on the ADR 81/01 test cycle.

That’s up only marginally on the standard Six’s 8.9L/100km official average – thanks largely to direct-injection technology.

Mazda says its ATC AWD system features aggressive torque transfer, with up to 100 per cent of torque automatically directed to the front wheels in normal conditions, and up to 50 per cent sent to the rear wheels in sports or take-off ATC modes.

MPS is claimed to have 50 per cent more torsional rigidity than the standard Six, larger brake discs all round and revised double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspensions.

Along with retuned dampers, spring rates are increased 25 per cent up front and 37 per cent at the rear, while the ventilated front brake discs are 21mm larger at 320mm and the solid 314mm rear discs are 34mm larger.

Available in six colours (the new Liquid Silver metallic, plus Titanium Grey metallic, Velocity Red mica, Radiant Ebony mica, White Pearl mica and Black mica), the MPS look comprises a deeper bonnet, a new front bumper with lower grille and a sports rear bumper with built-in diffuser, integrated exhaust outlet and a discreet lip spoiler. The MPS is 90mm longer and 5mm lower than regular Mazda6 variants.

Mazda Australia expects to sell about 80 examples a month, but initial demand – and the demise in Australia of Subaru’s Liberty GT at the end of this year due to new emissions regulations - is hoped to boost the first year’s average sales to 120 a month, on top of the 1100 Mazda6 sales it currently achieves.

Mazda says it holds the names of about 2000 prospective 6 MPS customers.

Like all Mazdas, MPS comes with free metallic paint and a three-year/unlimited km warranty, as well as (like MX-5 and RX-8) 24-hour roadside assistance for the warranty period and an advanced driving course.

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