2009 Mazda 6

Mazda today released photos of its all-new, second-generation 6 sedan, which is set to go on sale late this summer as a 2009 model. The new mid-sizer promises major upgrades in styling, performance, and comfort. As you can see from these photos, the sleek exterior features de rigueur elongated headlights that reach back over the wheel wells, which are themselves quite prominent and reminiscent of those in the RX-8 sports coupe and the MX-5 roadster. The fog light surrounds at the front corners are particularly nice pieces of jewelry, and the large snowflake-design wheels are very sharp. We have no idea yet what the 6's interior will look like, but given Mazda's most recent efforts in cars like the CX-9 crossover, we imagine it will be among the best in class. And since the mid-size-sedan class is overcrowded with excellent entries, such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Malibu, and Ford Fusion, Mazda will need the 6 to stand out as much as it can.

What we do know is that the powertrains from the 2008 Mazda 6 are both being pitched in favor of bigger, more powerful engines: an MZR 2.5-liter four-cylinder will be the base engine and the CX-9's 3.7-liter V-6 will be an option. The four will be mated either with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, while the V-6 gets only a six-speed automatic; both automatics will, of course, have some sort of manual-shift mode. Mazda has not yet released official horsepower figures for the 2009 Mazda 6 sedan, but since the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is already used in the European-market 6, where it makes about 168 hp, one can assume a similar level of output for the North American version of the car. And the 3.7-liter V-6 makes 273 hp in the CX-9, so that gives us an idea of its potential rating for 6 duty. That's a big bump from the current car's 212-hp, 3.0-liter V-6; let's hope Mazda has taken steps to curb torque steer, always a worry in a front-wheel-drive sedan when the power rating passes the 250-hp mark.

Unlike the first-generation 6, which was derived from a model developed for worldwide markets, the 2009 Mazda 6 for North America was specifically designed for this market. Thus it will be bigger inside and out than 6 models sold elsewhere, and the larger V-6 is exclusive to North America. We get unique styling, too.

Most other details are sketchy, but you can count on four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and standard ABS and stability control. Three trim levels will be offered: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Only a four-door sedan will be offered; the outgoing model's wagon and five-door hatchback found few takers.

We'll bring you a full drive report on May 23 , before the 6 hits your local Mazda dealer.

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