The Car That Made Me Love Corners
In a truck and SUV crazed family, I learned some cars could hold the road
My childhood was always shockingly lacking in interesting automotive experiences. Sure, my parents had owned interesting cars from before I can remember, but I can only recall three of them. Long gone were the Datsuns and Volvo wagons when I was having my formative childhood experiences. In their place was an admittedly awesome Toyota Tundra (which I reviewed here) and an unreliable Ford Explorer, later to be replaced by an even more impressively unreliable Volvo XC90.
That front wheel drive Volvo in all its torque steering, turbo blowing, understeering misery wasn't strictly boring to drive, but it could neither accelerate at any pace or go around a corner with any confidence. The Tundra was fun to drive but even less adept at holding the road. Through this all, the very concept of even riding in a car that was fun around a twisty road was a foreign concept only guessed at by devouring automotive periodicals.
When it came time for my older brother to buy his first car, he somehow ended up with a genuine sport compact that revolutionized the way I thought about cars. Enter: a thoroughly depreciated Mazda6 sedan.
This particular example, pictured on the day it came home, was a 2008, then just 8 years old, and was a ridiculously cheap $3,500 (ish). Most importantly, it had the 3.0 Ford sourced Duratec V6 engine putting out 212 horsepower through a 6 speed automatic in a car that weighed a little over 3,000 pounds.
2000s Mazdas are famed for punching way above their weight in the sportiness category and I can safely say this car lived up to that reputation. It was just about the only vehicle I'd ever ridden in that was sporty and, better yet, this time I was behind the wheel. It's hard to state how revolutionary it was to me to discover corners could be fun even at modest speeds.
Unfortunately, the poor 6 didn't last long. My brother's high school parking lot wasn't kind to it and it quickly acquired many dents and dings plus increasing sun damage from sitting outside. The above photo also reveals a mismatched rim from an OEM one splitting randomly. It may have been a fun car to drive, but it wasn't a particularly durable vehicle. A little over a year after he brought it home, the V6 developed the timing issues that have killed nearly all 6s with that engine culminating in bent valves. The unexpected blessing of a genuine sport compact was gone from my life.
I loved that car nearly as much as my brother. We still occasionally comment on what a riotous load of fun it was to not just drive but to ride in. The goofy wing that went on the V6s also afforded a unique opportunity: seasonal decorations. He wrapped Christmas lights around the wing, bought a Christmas tree designed to be mounted on a car roof, bringing joy to anyone lucky enough to witness such a spectacle.
I can safely credit that car for my current love of cars that elevate handling. Before I drove the 6, I was obsessed with just the appearance of cars, mainly trucks and SUVs because they looked tough. The homely Mazda didn't take itself too seriously but was still a joy to use and that changed my preferences for vehicles forever.
I think everyone had a car in their life that shaped their perceptions of what a car can be. What experiences have led you to where you are today?