By: Matt Smith
Nothing gold can stay. For the sedan, those words ring painfully true. Ford was one of the first to drop the guillotine blade on its cars, shuttering the Fiesta, Focus, and Fusion in succession, but General Motors soon followed.
When looking at Mazda, at its size and scale, that similar measures are being taken should not come as a surprise. While the Mazda3 sedan carries a smaller profit margin, it still sells in admirable numbers. The larger Mazda6, however, has seen its popularity wane as consumer interest in crossovers has boomed.
So, it should come as no surprise that 2021 will be the final year for the Mazda6. Nothing gold can stay, and when it comes to pure driving pleasure, the Mazda6 is gold.
With streets and avenues evolved from cow paths, New England is no stranger to great roads. Twisty lanes traverse historic sites through nearly every town on our map, but for drivers living within the confines of Boston’s metro area, those great roads are frequently choked with traffic and neutered by safe, city speed limits.
Unless the driver in question is one for a dawn patrol, the best bet for a spirited drive means getting out of town. Head out along Massachusetts Route 2 West past the historic communities of Lexington and Concord, where the speed limit rises and the traffic thins. Continue past Interstate 495, past the trickily pronounced Leominster, past Gardner and Lake Wampanoag, and toward the town of Athol; this is where a car like the Mazda6 can find new life.
South of Athol lie the towns of New Salem, Pelham, Belchertown, Ware, Hardwick, and Petersham. They form a ring around Massachusetts’ Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest unfiltered water supplies in the United States. Driving the Mazda6 around the Quabbin reveals the lengths Mazda has gone to imbue the family sedan with its Jinba-Ittai philosophy.
Jinba-Ittai conveys the relationship between a horse and rider, where communication is reliant on tactile response. A beautifully balanced chassis combined with razor-sharp steering inputs allow the Mazda6 to truly feel alive, particularly when the road rises and falls, twisting and bending like it does along the permitter of the Quabbin Reservoir.
Even better, Mazda has tuned its brilliant, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to deliver nearly all of its 310 pound-feet of torque below 2,000 RPM, and its horsepower output climbs steadily and smoothly until peaking at 5,000 RPM—with 227 horsepower when burning regular fuel and 250 with premium. Whether you’re putting along through one of New England’s sleepy towns or letting the engine roar down an empty country road, the Mazda6 delivers all the power necessary for the occasion.
Mazda refreshed the 6 for the 2018 model year, but in 2021, plenty of details signal the company’s intention of shutting down production. The exterior, once elegant and beautiful, has aged quickly and no longer matches the ultra-modern style found on the Mazda3, the CX-30, or the CX-5. And on the interior, the infotainment display and controls—a design centerpiece in many other Mazda models—looks painfully outdated.
When building the Quabbin Reservoir, the state made an undoubtedly burdensome decision to sacrifice four towns: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. These communities were disincorporated, flooded, and the remaining land was divided among the towns presently ringing the reservoir. By the time the Quabbin was finished in 1939, an estimated 2,500 residents are believed to have lost their homes so that the residents of Massachusetts’ more populated communities could have a reliable water supply.
It is somewhat crass to equate the Mazda6 with the lost towns, yet it feels apt. As Mazda shuts down production of the 6, it prepares to expand its electric-vehicle and crossover lineups. The small automaker known for quick, engaging cars is eliminating one and moving more toward the crossovers that help keep its balance sheets black.
Of course, Mazda hasn’t announced that the 6 will be dead forever, only that production of the car as we know it has ceased. Rumors abound about a future 6: rear-wheel drive, an inline six-cylinder engine, and admittedly, feelings of “too-good-to-be-true.” Regardless, Massachusetts will never see the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott again. Let’s hope the same does not hold true for the Mazda6.