Playing with Some 6’s in the White Mountains of Arizona

IMG_4596

With consistent toasty temperatures beating down on us New Mexicans in Las Cruces for the past few months, I was certainly looking forward to escaping somewhere a little cooler for the weekend. It was a perfect time to head out of state in search for some fresh countryside and curvy roads. That’s just what I did. Last weekend I grouped with Tyson Hugie (drivetofive), Bradley Kyle and James Lee (six speed blog), and we had a grand time in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. James brought a 2016 Mazda 6 press car for the ride, and I had a lucky opportunity to take the keys and see how it fared in the mountain roads.

IMG_4569_2

With sleek “Kodo” design language, a brilliant chassis, and SkyActiv technology to boost those fuel economy figures into the…well, “sky,” the redesigned 3rd generation Mazda6 was an instant hit with journalists and consumers when it was unveiled in 2013. I was a bit surprised when I heard Mazda was already doing a refresh for 2016. This should be a treat to drive on our planned route.

Let’s get to the road trip! My total travel distance was 717 miles. Las Cruces, NM > Globe, AZ > Eagar, AZ > Las Cruces, NM.

IMG_4472

The contenders:

IMG_4550_2

  • 2013 Acura ILX:  2.4 liter 4-cylinder, 201 horsepower; 6-speed manual
  • 2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring:  2.5 liter 4-cylinder, 184 horsepower; 6-speed automatic
  • My 2004 Mazda 6:  3.0 liter V6, 220 horsepower; 5-speed manual

Friday afternoon I headed west to Arizona where I’d spend the night in Globe. Easy sailing the whole way.

IMG_4430_2

State line!

IMG_4435_2

Accommodations of choice was the Belle-Aire Motel. Don’t let the rather sketchy broken neon sign fool you…this was actually a pretty nice stop. Room was decent and clean if not the most luxurious. Did I mention it was only $37 a night?!

IMG_4456

IMG_4454

I took a little drive through the historic district of Globe after hours. The quiet town is very picturesque at night and during the day. These photos aren’t my best work. My DSLR was left at home.

IMG_4451

IMG_4449

The next morning, I was able to find a nice high point in the town for a photo.

IMG_4466

From Globe, I headed west on Hwy 60 to the small town of Superior where I’d meet with Tyson, Bradley and James.

IMG_4473

They arrived. And here’s James’ ride for the weekend…a 2016 6 bathed in Sonic Silver Metallic.

IMG_4474_2

The new updates to the 6 really show well in person. If you think it looks slick in photos, it’s much better in the flesh.

IMG_4475

Snack and restroom stop in Globe (backtracking a little for me). Here are a pair of 6’s and an ILX.

IMG_4480

Bradley, James and me comparing and contrasting headlight designs.

IMG_4481

We swapped cars afterwards, and I was in the new 6. Tyson and Bradley took my car and James was in the ILX.

IMG_4482

On to the hills!

IMG_4485

We took Hwy 77 North that would go through a very scenic area of Arizona: The Salt River Canyon in the the Tonto National Forest.

salt_river_canyon_sign

This canyon is been referred to as a “mini” Grand Canyon. This canyon can be driven from rim to rim and comes with lots of fun curves that requires a focused driver and a taught, athletic chassis. 6% grades will greet you in some areas, so you’d better check those brakes! Perfect opportunity to put this 6 through its paces.

IMG_4488_2

Photo stop at a lookout point.

IMG_4491

First Impressions on the new 6:

As I settled myself into the driver’s seat, I felt like I just stepped into a $40-50,000 car…BMW anyone? The stitched leather treatments on the dash and splashes of high gloss silver and piano black really make the cabin inviting. One feels cocooned, yet has a commanding view of the road. 6ft plus adults should try before buying though, as the low-slung roof can make headroom a bit tight. Seat comfort is excellent and among the best I’ve experienced. Aggressive bolsters held me in place nicely.

IMG_4534

IMG_4476

The driving experience impressed with a few minor reservations. A snob like myself keeps wanting more power from that 2.5L motor. The 184 Horsepower rating just doesn’t do the excellent chassis and slick styling any justice. Power delivery is a little soft at lower RPM and off-the-line. Throw a turbo or V6 option into the lineup, and I’d seriously consider being the first in line at the dealer. For regular sane folks though, this engine should be perfectly fine. Modest power is backed by excellent fuel economy and nice raspy noises emitting from the dual exhaust. Quietness is up there with the best of them if not quite as hushed a Camry or Passat.

IMG_4559

Perhaps the biggest improvement by far is the infotainment system. Placing the volume knob on the center console took some getting used to, but it soon became familiar and very easy to use. Overall, the interior gets an A+ from me.

IMG_4564

Console command center.

IMG_4562

IMG_4566_2

IMG_4560

At the base of the canyon lies a rest area along the river’s edge. We made this a pit stop for a few photos. You can see the new bridge run parallel to the old bridge constructed back in 1934. Gotta love those old bridges!

IMG_4496_2

Old abandoned bridge.

IMG_4498

IMG_4503_2

Taking in the sights.

IMG_4504_2

This time we swapped cars again and I took the ILX. Tyson and Bradley in the new 6 and James in mine.

IMG_4511_2

Tyson’s ILX is still as solid as a rock even with 130,000 miles and lots of off-roading adventures. He recently celebrated its 3-year anniversary. When Tyson first took delivery, it only had 16 miles on the ODO. My first time behind the wheel was back in 2013 at White Sands. It only had 31,000 miles on it then!

3_years

It sure loves these back roads!

IMG_4509_2

Lunch in Show Low, AZ

IMG_4515_2

After lunch, we car swapped again and we were back in our respective rides. James wanted to test out the new 6 on our next leg of the drive to Eagar, AZ.

IMG_4518

Another stop near Crescent Lake.

IMG_4555

A good looking trio!

IMG_4544_2

IMG_4541

The new 6 compared to mine is quite a lot bigger and has a much more aggressive stance. After taking this new Mazda to the twisty back roads of our journey, it was immediately apparent that this car had some hidden engineering magic striking a magical balance between ride and handling. Though the electric steering is a bit numb compared to traditional hydraulic units, it still is the best in the class. The suspension kept body roll in check and hid the front drive characteristics quite well. It made my old 2004 model feel a little flabby. This Mazda is definitely one of the best handling front drive cars out there. Well done, Mazda. The brakes were excellent and inspired confidence.

IMG_4552

After a few hours of more playing on the back roads, we arrive relatively early in Eagar, AZ…just in time to catch the new Jurassic World movie in their historic El Rio theater. I highly recommend this.

IMG_4572_2

The cinema…

IMG_4574_2

We all climbed into the new 6 for our evening running around. Check out those LEDs!

IMG_4579_2

After the movie, it was time to grab some grub at Trail Riders Restaurant.

dinner_group

Next day, we caught some continental breakfast at the hotel and then parted ways. I headed towards home via Hwy 180, and the rest of the gang went back towards Phoenix.  Stay tuned as I share a nice pit stop on my way back through New Mexico. Thanks for coming along!

IMG_4612

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Playing with Some 6’s in the White Mountains of Arizona

  1. tysonhugie says:

    This was a fun weekend! Great impressions of the old vs. new 6, and I must say I fully enjoyed getting the chance to take yours for a spin. Getting to jam out to some Linkin Park was just the icing on the cake. Thanks for taking the time to come up and meet us!

    • pawela says:

      Glad you enjoyed the 6 and the included tunes, Tyson! I think we all are getting spoiled with iPod integration/Bluetooth. Haha. Glad I could join you guys and look forward to future road trips!

  2. Nate says:

    I see three nice cars! It’s cool to see a comparison on the new Mazda 6 vs the old one.

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Nate! Yeah, comparing both 6’s was a lot of fun. Completely different animals in nearly every aspect, but both were fun.

  3. James Lee says:

    Nice write-up! Glad you were able to come along! I really enjoyed driving your 6 – there was so much energy and excitement out of that V6, and the transmission felt like I was actually doing something and not just going through the motions. 🙂

    • pawela says:

      Thanks James! Glad you liked my Duratec. lol. That transmission may not be very snickety-snick, but I’ll take it over an auto any day! Hope to see you guys on another drive soon.

  4. […] here we are in 2015 and Mogollon was on the way back from my recent trip to the White Mountains of Arizona. I thought I’d give this town another try. To my surprise, it was […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: