Believe it or not, fans of the sedan do still exist and at a time when computer chip shortages have made most sport utility vehicles hard to find, overlooked sedans may lurking on the lot. Packed with standard features and new technology, the modern sedan has gotten sleeker inside and out. Latino Traffic Report recently drove the Mazda6, specifically the top-of-the-line Signature trim as well as the Lexus IS 350 F Sport, two viable sedan options with more in common than expected.
Mazda’s flagship midsize sedan, the Mazda6, pushes style and refinement but the Signature trim is considered the most aspirational in the lineup.
Regarding its design, the test model Mazda6 set itself apart on the outside with unique features like a gunmetal front grille and on the inside, with Nappa leather seating enhanced by heated and cooled seats, Japanese Sen wood and gilded UltraSuede (right), accents that most carmakers save for their luxury nameplates.
Convenience features on the Mazda6 also hit a high mark with a 360-degree View Monitor (backup camera) with front and rear parking sensors, a seven-inch reconfigurable digital gauge cluster, and Mazda’s navigation system with Traffic Sign Recognition, an essential feature for speed traps. On the test model, a black headliner, frameless rearview mirror, LED ambient lights and unique stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel completed the heightened look and feel. Plus, the rear seat was split 60/40 for added utility and access to the trunk.
For 2021, Mazda enhances the standard safety suite of features by adding radar cruise control with stop-and-go function, pedestrian detection, collision and lane departure warning with Lane-Keep Assist, and a blind spot monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
The test model added a rear spoiler, ambient cabin lighting, and XM Travel and Traffic Link.
While it offers more luxury than most in its segment, the Mazda6 doesn’t ignore performance. A more powerful turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Mazda’s signature Skyactiv fuel saving technology with 227 horses and 310 lb.–ft. of torque powered the test model. The engine was matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with a Sport mode for a more aggressive performance.
The EPA estimated fuel economy on the Mazda was 23 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. It averaged 26 mpg on the weeklong test drive.
The starting price for the base model 2021 Mazda6 is $25,270. The as-tested price came to $36,620. For fans of Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior paint color, that’ll cost an extra $595.
Lexus IS 350
The IS represents the entry level Lexus sedan model for car buyers who aspire to move into the luxury segment.
As such, the IS reflects the brand’s distinctive design DNA, namely the spindle grille, while pushing its sportier side.
One would assume luxury nameplates always include a bigger list of standard features but that’s not always true, for instance, leather seating is not offered on the IS, including on the test model, IS 350 F Sport considered near the top-of-the-line IS—replacing rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive on the test model would have made it top of line. NuLuxe, a man-made leather upholstery, is standard on the IS but also convincing as a leather alternative. Lexus’s dramatic color palate for the seating also helps. The test model came with black seats with gray accents and blue stitching. The shift knob and steering wheel, however, were leather trimmed.
As expected, the Lexus included a healthy list of safety features, like pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Service Connect, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and Smart Watch and Alexa Skill integration, among other features. The parking sensor, however, didn’t always engage.
Lexus is one of the few automakers to stick with a six-cylinder engine and that’s what powers the IS, specifically a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the test model also came with drive modes and paddle shifters on the steering wheel for better performance. It had an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 20/28 mpg and averaged 23.3 mpg on the test drive.
As mentioned, the test model came equipped with the F Sport package ($3,735) that put badging wherever possible and with a sportier look inside, like metal pedals and bolstered front seats, but more importantly, a sport tuned and adaptive variable suspension, limited slip rear differential, and 19-inch alloy wheels. It also added fancy features like a power rear sunshade and illuminated door sills. For 2021, only the IS 350 comes in an F Sport model.
Starting price on the 2021 Lexus IS is $39,050 without destination fees. The as-tested price came to $52,484.
Sí: The Mazda6 may seem pricey but it effectively combines luxury amenities with a sporty performance.
The Lexus IS 350 F Sport offers a sporty performance in a snazzy package.
No: The lack of leather seating on any Lexus seemed odd and the level of road noise was surprising.
The infotainment system on the Mazda6 was a bit clunky and hard to program.