If you’re an auto enthusiast and are of “that age” where you’ve had the opportunity to experience all things automotive for the past fifty years or so, you’ve probably concluded we are in a pretty good place in 2016. Certainly from a performance perspective we survived the lows of the ‘70s, and are enjoying a real performance renaissance – Hellcat, Shelby GT 350, Corvette Z06, M4, GT-R, P90d – we’ve never had it this good, and that includes that hallowed era that spawned legends such as the Hemi, Boss 429, ZL-1, and GS Stage 1…
But there is one segment that has really reached a peak – and it’s a segment that has not typically been known for innovation, design leadership or “emotion” – that segment is mid-sized sedans. Let’s take a quick look at three I think really stand-out…
I already have offered my view on how well-styled I think the Mazda 6 is – it’s just an absolute stunner. In addition to its good looks, it provides sports car levels of handling and balance. Some have criticized its lack of a performance engine, but Mazda spent time and effort ensuring the SkyActiv engine and transmission complimented each other perfectly – the powertrain is amazingly smooth and linear. And knowing Mazda’s emphasis on performance, I’d bet there’s a turbo or supercharged mule running around a Hiroshima test track right now – maybe even one with a next generation rotary.
Look back over the past several decades – can you name one where Ford’s mid-sized sedan offering was considered its best looking product? Fairlane (60s)? Torino (70s)? Tempo (80s)? Contour (90s)? I don’t think so. Yet today, while Ford’s line-up has some great looking vehicles, I’d vote the Fusion as No. 1. It’s beautiful – not a bad line on it. And Ford has continually put money to update it – you may have seen the recent announcement of an upcoming ST model with AWD and 325 hp – I’ll be the first in line at the dealership for a test drive…
I actually didn’t pay much attention to the new Malibu’s introduction as my expectations were pretty low. While the 2008-12 version was considered a competent mid-sizer, the 2012-15 version was routinely derided as cramped, clumsy and crude. So when I first saw this 2016 version I was pretty staggered – “looks nice, no, actually looks real nice……” I saw one magazine refer to it as looking like a US version of an Audi A7. I may not go that far, but again, look throughout GM’s line-up – Buick, Cadillac, other Chevy’s – I think the Malibu comes out on top. And early reviews also give high marks to its interior and driving dynamics.
So – back to our question, is this a golden age for mid-size sedans? I’d say yes.
What do you think?