Sometimes the First Drive of the Year doesn’t happen on the first of the year, sometimes it’s not even the planned ‘FDotY’. This year, our First Drive of the Year in the 2017 Mazda6 i Grand Touring was our third drive of the year, but it was the first that we enjoyed as drives are meant to be enjoyed.

I’d been to the store, to a friend’s house and even on a purpose made drive up toward the north end of Puget Sound, but it was the first Sunday Drive on the second Sunday of the year that lives on.

That morning, I hopped into the Mazda6 because I felt like being on the road for pleasure and not work. I grabbed my camera and headed out onto the road while the fog still clung to the air.

Pressing the push-start button, the 2.5L Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder engine comes to life. The powertrain puts out 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, pushed through a Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.

After a New Year’s hankering for Teriyaki, I decided to take nothing but backroads from Seattle to Everett, with a bypass through the Redmond Ridge area (because those roads are just too good). I make my way through Mountlake Terrace and into Lynnwood’s curvy backroads toward Seattle Hill Road with the Mazda6 in normal driving mode.

One of the first new things I noticed over the 2016 model was the inclusion of the Traffic Sign Recognition System. Pulling up to a stop or other sign, the Mazda puts a representation of it in the heads-up display.

Along the way, I stopped to examine the interior over a cup of coffee.

(More below gallery.)

The comfortable and elegant simplicity of Mazda interiors ensure that you don’t feel out of place, yet always have the modern amenities craved by consumers.

The driver’s seat has 8-way power seats including lumbar support and two memory positions, passengers have 6-way seats. Bolstering kept me in place and the 19-inch wheels covered in all-season tires chirping down the hairpin corner on Seattle Hill Road.

Nappa-leather upholstery and heated seats all around, even the main back seats had heating, and metallic trim pieces radiated light from streaming in the moon roof. The dual-zone climate control had rear seat vents and kept the heat well circulated throughout the car.

I took Lowell Larimer Road (also known as Route 96) along the south side of the Snohomish Valley and enjoyed watching the sun mingle in the icy haze blanketing the land. Around shaded corners of the road, snow and ice still clung to the pavement, but it was nothing to the Mazda6.

Finally in Everett, I navigated to Oishi’s Teriyaki on Broadway for some of the best stuff this side of the Pacific Ocean. When I finally got to the place, I was sad to learn it was closed. Disappointed, I got back in the car and headed back to Lowell Larimer Road. There was a place I knew in Redmond that, while not as good, would work for my hankering.

I turned the tunes up this time. The 11-speaker Bose surround sound system was pumping out my Rasta tunes while I decided manual mode would be needed for my return trip down Route 96 to Redmond.

Other amenities of the 7-inch Mazda Infotainment System include Bluetooth hands-free (which I used to convey my Teriyaki sorrows to my spouse), Mazda’s navigation system, AM/FM radio with high-definition radio where available and more.

When the rains came back later in the day, the wipers came on automatically. Had it been full dark, the headlights would automatically turn high beams on and off. Automated in the ways that a driver’s car should be.

Safety systems included lane departure warning and lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, radar-assisted cruise controls that work down to 15-20 mph, traction and stability controls, slews of airbags, and more.

Heading south on 96, I pressed the Mazda6 hard into corners. The 6-speed automatic transmission doing all it could to keep up with my manually-inputted demands, and keeping up for the most part. It’s not a manual and its not a dual-clutch, but it kept me smiling through my sad lack of Oishi’s Teriyaki.

It didn’t take long to get to the Redmond area, at the fun clip I utilized. Alas, Miyaki’s was closed too. Giving up, I decided that I’d do what had given me joy that day. Seriously saddened, I pulled back onto Redmond Ridge Road and drove the entire length one more time.

If the new year couldn’t give me teriyaki, then the least it could do was give me clear roads, a fun car and a wonderful Sunday drive to experience.

The only thing that could make the Mazda6 better is a rear-wheel drive configuration.

However, I can forgive that given the price point is well below rear-wheel drive cars with these kinds of amenities. At $34,530, the 2017 Mazda 6 I Grand Touring is the kind of car I like for any Sunday drive. For a First Drive of the Year, it’s heaven around corners, music to my ears and plenty of car for the weekday.

Please visit www.mazda.com to learn more about the 2017 Mazda6 trim levels.

 

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Deanna Isaacs is a syndicated automotive columnist who graduated from the University of Washington’s Communication department. She enjoys sports cars, two-seaters and long drives where she can annoy the husband.

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