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The MazdaSpeed6 Was the Subtle Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

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

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. Great car that didn’t quite get baked long enough. I had an ’07 for a couple years, and had issues with the stupid keyless start, the power steering puked every time I went to the track (road course), the gearing was idiotically short (like the STI; had one of those too), and Doug mentioned the clutch. Oh, and the worst OEM wheels ever put on any car that was supposed to be a performance model. Although RX-8 wheels were a great fix.

    Yet, having said that, a lot to like too. Tons of midrange thrust, chassis felt frisky and light, and nice to have an optioned up mid-size car with a proper manual and sports car performance (for the time). Something you just about can’t get these days, sadly. Overall felt like a parts bin hotrod (Ford motor and brakes, Mazda trans, Volvo(?) transfer case, wheels from a stagecoach in the 1700s, etc.) that was a few engineering hours short of where it needed to be. 
  2. Midsize vs. compact…the Speed3 was supposed to be the WRX/Evo competitor.  The Speed6 was the subtle Legacy GT(/Galant VR4, I guess, if they’d continued making it)

  3. I had a 2006 Mazdaspeed6 for almost 5 years, just sold it and replaced it with a 2014 Mazda3 hatch.

    The Speed6 was a lot of fun and has tons of aftermarket support, but it wasn’t without it’s problems (smoking turbos, transfer case leaks, coked-up intake valves, oil consumption/loss of compression possibly leading to engine replacement).
    My car was fully bolted and dyno tuned to about 330 CHP, and naturally modifying a car hurts reliability, but the problems started to wear on me and i wanted something i could count on as a daily driver. Also, when the car ran well it was a blast, but i rarely ever got to let it loose it on my daily commute. Dawdling along burning 94 octane at 14 L/100km during your commute also puts a serious squeeze on your wallet.
    • Back in the day I never met a local Speed3/6 owner who’s car didn’t smoke (turbo seals). Great cars still tho. I used to own a fully bolted and tuned Mazdaspeed Protege and could never keep up 🙁 

  4. Sorry, I’ll be that guy – if it had an auto available I’d have owned one. 

    I still don’t get why they limit some of these models to Manual only. I think it’s because they don’t really want to sell them in mass quantity, it’s more of a pride/halo thing and they don’t really make as much on them as their mainstream models.
    You and I know that if the Focus ST and RS had dual-clutch auto like the GTI/R they’d sell 2X as many. Not to mention the Mustang GT350. No one may like that thought, but it’s true. Truth hurts sometimes and so does having a career where you have to drive a lot in so you need an auto. 
    • I think it largely has to do with the time this vehicle was produced in. Mid 2000s hot hatches / sport sedans were not candidates for a dual clutch, because the tech was really in its infancy and only being used in expensive performance cars. 

      I don’t think they wanted to compromise the driving experience with a bad automatic, as Autos were just slow, boring and killed the vehicle. Subaru knew this as well, and they could not create a auto that would be sufficient in the STI, so they stuck with the manual. I think Mazda was thinking along the same lines.

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