Here’s something you may not have realized: Back when Mitsubishi first debuted the Lancer Evolution in the United States and Subaru rolled out the WRX STI to us Americans, Mazda also had a competitor to those cars. It was called the MazdaSpeed6.
Most enthusiasts I talk to already know about the MazdaSpeed6, so they’re not surprised to find out that it exists. What they’re usually surprised to discover is that it wasn’t a competitor to the regular old, basic WRX or some Mazda6 with a special body kit. It was an actual, legitimate rival to the Lancer Evo and the WRX STI. See the 2006 MazdaSpeed6 models for sale near you
Here are the numbers. The Lancer Evolution debuted here in the U.S. for the 2003 model year, at which time it had 271 horsepower, all-wheel drive and a 5-speed manual transmission. Meanwhile, the WRX STI debuted for the 2004 model year, and it had 300 hp, all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission. And the MazdaSpeed6? It came out in 2006 with 274 hp, all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission.
The MazdaSpeed6 didn’t have 220 hp to compete with the regular WRX, and it wasn’t just some tarted-up standard version of the Mazda6. It was a true, 6-speed manual, all-wheel-drive Evo-fighter.
With a few exceptions, of course. One of them was size. The MazdaSpeed6 was based on Mazda’s midsize Mazda6 sedan — not the smaller models, like the Lancer Evolution and the Impreza WRX STI. It also didn’t have the huge-wing, look-at-me styling that some people preferred in the WRX STI and the Evo. And most importantly, it had one of the most annoying clutches I’ve ever used — a clutch that was approximately as smooth and gradual as a fistfight.
Still, the MazdaSpeed6 did 0 to 60 miles per hour in something like 5.9 seconds, had a lot of midrange power, handled well and didn’t get anywhere near as many annoying highway race offers as the STI or the Evo. And it’s worth considering if you want a relatively unknown car with impressive performance. Find a 2006 MazdaSpeed6 for sale