So I wised up this time and took my 04 RX8 back to the dealer where I bought it new for a big job so I could get a FREE courtesy loaner (most dealers do this if you bought the vehicle there).
It's even more driving to get there and back, but was well worth it (they did a great job on my 8's new clutch, feels/shifts better than even when new.. probably was a bad clutch assembly from the get go).
Will try and keep this concise and to the point.
My free loaner was a 2012 Mazda6 i Sport with 6k miles.
We have all seen the base model Mazda6 driving around.
But rule number one requires that I post pictures of this fairly new but typically boring dirty dealer loaner car.
Looks: subjective. The base wheel/tire choice made the wheel arches look like Joker Venom forced smiles.
I grabbed the keys and jumped in.
First thought: Wow this is huge!. It has more driver room than the gene pool's old 78 Oldsmobile 98. And this is still midsize?
This is the first Mazda car I have driven where I don't have to raise the tilt steering wheel all the way up to fit my 6 foot 5 legs and allow me to see the gauges through the steering wheel.
I could make a fist and easily fit it between the top of my head and the headliner (after dropping seat height down).
THIS CAR IS AWESOME FOR TALL DRIVERS.
Materials felt very good, with mostly soft touch on upper surfaces.
I did not know that the base seat fabric was changed at some point.
The current base black fabric was pleasing to the eye.
(pic of earlier cloth seat for reference http://0.tqn.com/d/cars/1/0/6/N/1/ag...isport_int.jpg)
Lateral support is lacking, but the seats were fairly comfortable and definitely on the firm side.
Oh carp, I forgot to throw my plans in the back.
I originally was going to put them in the trunk.
But ...., I didn't want to have to climb in and collect them after my drive since the trunk was huge and deep. Spelunking should be left to the real cavers, and I do not normally pack a carbide lamp. (needs better lighting in extreme depths of trunk)
Ok, then I decided to throw them in the backseat.
..and the back seat also looked very roomy even with the driver's seat pushed all the way back.
Back up front I fidgeted with the stereo.
The simple controls were easy to understand, and tall the console button (HVAC and stereo) felt much better than I expected. None (of the center console buttons) felt or acted cheap.
I guess that is one plus for the base trim buyer since he gets a stereo and hvac made for higher trims.
The base speakers are a bit boomy with the low frequencies and lack bright treble (needs tweeters).
Both speaker issues could have been easily addressed with a proper equalizer.
What ever happened to those?
After I drove a bit and got comfortable with the car, I played with the automatic.
The shifter had a very heavy and consistent feel in the way it moves.
It may be just a video game controller (no actual direct mechanical linkage), but it felt as purposeful as any I have ever driven.
I think it looked good too, even though I would want a real leather surface versus the grained plastic shift handle.
The automatic was a pleasant surprise.
In normal [D] mode it was quick to smoothly downshift one or two gears, and even downshifted a bit early in light braking to add some engine braking.
Manual mode is always a mixed bag.
When you make something basically a button press, the user expects video game instant gratification.
And when you are driving a tight curvy road and trying to use a timed downshift, throttle lift and steering wheel jerk to get the back end loose, even a (really good for this class) 1/10th of a second delay feels like an eternity.
I will leave it at that.
The only real build quality issue I found during my time was with the driver's door.
For some reason, the hard plastic edge was higher than the flat surface with the window/lock buttons, and it had a bit of flash.
If any surface needs to be right in a car, it is the armrest where the driver will have his hand 99% of the time.
And back to that wheel/tire choice.
This car drove fine... but fine is not great or even good.
I can't really fault the drivetrain as both the (still has a tiny hint of electric toothbrush nvh) 2.5 engine and (smooth smooth, did I say smooth) five speed transmission performed well under my heavy right foot.
32 mpg? Really?
My question to Mazda- How the flying carp can you still be using the zoom zoom line in ads and simultaneously equipping a well tuned but still 3250 lb car with this wheel/tire package?
On a positive note- the brakes were sporty car firm and easy to modulate even with these tires. (surprised me big time since I am spoiled my my rx8's brakes)
The entire time I drove the car I was always well aware that the tires were squishy.
Sure, the ride quality was classic Buick-like serene even over broken pavement at speed, but it also added classic Buick-like vague on center feel, tires that roll to side and flatten when cornering, and a general sense that the car is never fully settled at speed.
Don't get me wrong- the car still had more grip than I expected even when I intentionally flung the car into a tight corner and tried to get the back end loose (hood raise up like a tugboat cresting a wave), but these tires remove all confidence from the enthusiastic .. or even just normal driver.
If you use the zoom zoom tagline in ads, then even the base base base models should have better tires than this.
Final thought- this car is a great "midsize" value with heavy discounts (or cheaper used).
But please factor in the cost of upgrading the tires (and possibly wheels for plus one).
They literally strip the fun and basic confidence from the driving experience.