By Jeff Burry
Mazda MX-6, 1988-1997
First introduced for the 1988 model year, the Mazda MX-6 was a front-wheel drive coupe that was mechanically very similar to the Mazda 626 and the Ford Probe. All three vehicles were built by AutoAlliance in Flat Rock, Michigan for the North American market.
The first generation MX-6 was produced from 1988 to 1992. Based upon the Mazda GD platform, it was powered by the four-cylinder Mazda F2 engine. Transmission choices came in either a four-speed automatic with overdrive, or a five-speed manual. While the base engine produced only 120 horsepower, a much more robust turbocharged version produced 145 horsepower.
The North American market saw four trim levels being available – DX, LX, LE and the GT. The DX was a bare-bones model offering few creature comforts, except for air conditioning as an option. The LX model provided the owner with some power options (ie. windows, locks and mirrors) and an optional moonroof.
The LE version, meaning “Leather Equipped,” provided leather seating surfaces and a leather shift knob for manual transmission cars while the GT version sported all the options from the LX model coupled with a 2.2-litre turbocharged, intercooled engine, producing 145 horsepower. The turbocharged model was known for its prodigious torque-steer. Optional equipment for the GT model also included four-wheel disc brakes and a three-way electronically adjustable suspension.
Of interest is the fact that in 1989, Mazda offered a special four-wheel steering option on all MX-6 GT models destined to be sold in North America. This system, much like the one available on some Honda Preludes at the time, allowed the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction at low speeds to improve cornering. This option was discontinued for the following model year.
This first generation MX-6, though a hard-edged sports machine intended for the serious driver, never enjoyed the brisk sales figures that Mazda had hoped for after its initial launch. Engineers at Mazda were given the go-ahead to redesign the MX-6 for the 1993 model year and the final design proved to be both sleek and eye-catching.
The new Mazda MX-6 was a totally redesigned vehicle built upon the new GE platform. The sharp lines of the previous model were now obsolete, replaced with subtle curvy ones from front to back. The smooth flowing contours of the body were in direct contrast to its predecessor.
Reaction to the redesign tended to fall within two categories – you either loved it or you hated it. One could not dispute the fact that it was an aerodynamic marvel and definitely stood out amongst the crowd, at a time when most manufacturers were all producing similar vehicles lacking personality. Unlike the previous MX-6 model, Canadian destined cars were badged the MX-6 Mystére.
Three trim levels were available for the North American market – RS, LS and the LS M-edition (available for the 1996 model year). The RS model, being the base version (easily spotted by the lack of rear spoiler) was powered by a 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine producing 118 horsepower, while the LS model was fitted with the 2.5-litre DOHC V6 producing a more respectable 164 horses.
A J-Spec 2.5-litre V6 producing 200 horsepower was also available for the LS model, improving 0 – 100 km/h times from 7.6 seconds to just 6.2 seconds. Top speed was capped at 230 km/h. All MX-6 models were available with either a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual.
The special M-edition included such features as all-red tail lights, chrome scuff plates, an in-dash three-disc CD player, gold alloy wheels, gold external badging with “M-edition” embroidered on the floor mats and tan leather seats. This particular edition was only available in three colours – white, black or burgundy.
It has been more than ten years now since the last MX-6 rolled off the production line, yet these vehicles still possess “eyeball” appeal and there exists a cool aura about them. From time to time, one may be spotted with after-market wheels and aero-kit which seem to be the add-ons of choice and definitely further enhance the coolness of these vehicles.
Some things to be on the look-out for if you are in the market to buy is a potential engine knock on pre-1993 models due to carbon build-up in the combustion chamber and a metallic-like tapping noise from the engine (typically associated with higher mileage vehicles) that could be due to slippage between the exhaust camshaft-driven gear and the friction gear.
There are any number of Mazda MX-6s for sale in Canada and south of the border. Typically, unless customized, they can be purchased for under $5,000 in reasonably good condition. If you are in the market for such a vehicle, and find one with around 100K on the odometer, grab it, before it “zoom, zooms” out of the lot or owners driveway!
One of the best on-line sites to research is MX6.com. There is an abundance of information available for both owners and would-be buyers to browse through.
Source: Modern Classics: Mazda MX-6, 1988-1997