While I usually assert the equality of men in all things parenting, there is one area in which Dads consistently lag moms: pampering and self care. The “meterosexual” moment notwithstanding, guys are generally unlikely to seek out anything “posh” or “luxe” or “spa” oriented, preferring more traditionally masculine pursuits like golf or poker or fishing as means to recharge.
At DadLabs, we love challenging gender stereotypes, so we are unafraid to ask the question: Is it possible to seek a bit of comfort and care without sacrificing your sporty manliness?
The engineers at Mazda must have been asking themselves a similar question as they were redesigning the Mazda6: Can we create a car that is luxurious, cosseting the driver with technological advances and a comfortable cabin, but at the same time maintain the zoom-zoom driving experience that has come to define the brand.
I decided to address the two related questions by using myself as a test subject. I would drive the 2014 Mazda6 around Austin to Finley’s Barber Shop then to the recently re-imagined Three Springs Spa at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in order to assess the relative performance of man and car. Were either compromised?
The sacrifices I’m willing to make, right?
My partner for the day, Mazda6 was making an assertive statement before we went anywhere. The new angular look is more aggressive than the previous generation, with it protruding snout. It’s busy but handsome. Inside, the landscape has really changed.
My teenage son, who may be watching too much Top Gear put it best when he said, “Man, this is quiet. A gentleman’s saloon.” Indeed, for spa-like comfort, the interior was a huge improvement on the previous generation (which I owned and liked, by the way). The steering wheel was very handsome and loaded with controls, which made me feel a bit like an F1 racer. The red stitching on the extremely comfortable black leather seats was cool, but it was a blue car.
I struggled a bit to enter my first destination — Finley’s Barber Shop — into the touch screen navigation system. Overall, it was difficult to enter destinations and harder to turn off the route navigation. Even my teen son struggled to understand the system. A couple of times I resorted to using my phone just because I found it easier to use.
The dash was sleek and appealing overall, though it did feature some uninterrupted sections of plastic display. Overall, the interior felt anything but cheap, but the design was not as interesting as a Kia Optima.
My first stop, Finley’s Barber Shop, reminded me a bit of the Mazda6 interior, masculine and sporty, hints of the traditional, but thoroughly updated. Finley’s is the new kind of barber shop, with bright female greeters right out of a trendy restaurant, a waiting lounge with leather seating, huge flatscreen, and complementary adult beverages. The services are a blend of old and new — all haircuts include a straight razor shave and hot towel treatment — but the stylists are heavily tattooed and promote the latest in products. I opted for the full straight razor shave — about a 30 minute, 10 step process that left me feeling smooth and refreshed, ready for my trip to Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa.
It’s a short but windy trip from Central Austin to the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa on the western fringe of town, the perfect route to answer the most important question: can a car so loaded with comforts and technology still deliver a fun driving dynamic while still offering good value and practicality?
It should be noted here that on top of the luxurious interior, the loaded Grand Touring version of the 6 I tested featured just about every last circuit of advanced automotive technology that I have ever heard of. Stuff I’ve never tried before like radar guided cruise control, headlights that move, blind spot and lane departure warnings, regenerative brakes, rain sensing wipers and on and on.
Every feature worked like a charm when called upon. I was especially impressed with the adaptive cruise control Mazda refers to as MRCC. The system allows you to choose your following distance, detects vehicles flawlessly, slows down and speeds up accordingly, neatly solving one of the annoyances of long range driving.
But it’s a Mazda! The 6 needs to be a fun car as well as practical and impressive technologically. The last generation was a disappointment in that regard.
By the time I arrived at Barton Creek, I was in love with the Mazda6’s engine. When pressed, it’s got a really pleasing burr that does penetrate the cabin. Amazing power generated by a relatively small 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine. Real thrust. And as a part of the Skyactiv system, the car still manages to deliver a claimed 40 mpg on the highway. The combination of available power and economy blew my mind.
The paddle shifting increased the sporty feel, and the car handled with rock solid assurance, as I expect from Mazdas. The car was much more fun to drive that the Passat I recently rented, sportier even than the Optima (and with a much larger trunk). I haven’t driven an Accord in years, and have no interest in a Camry. What’s better in this class?
The Mazda6 certainly looked at home among the luxury models that populated the Barton Creek Resort parking lot, resting near the lush and flowering landscape that dominated the property. The place certainly didn’t feel like arid Central Texas. More like a tropical island.
I moved from one cosseting shelter to the next, entering the Three Springs Spa through a sliding glass door, and was immediately welcomed by the staff. Barton Springs Resort has long been famous for its golf courses and other amenities, but under new ownership by Omni Resorts, the property now features a recently renovated and upgraded spa, creating a world class destination for both locals and world travelers.
One way guys can feel better about the spa experience — think of it as sports therapy. I’m a marathoner, see, and I’ve been experiencing some tightness in my calves, see, so it’s really not about the relaxing atmosphere of the Quiet Room, the warmly finished and comfortable locker room area, it’s about sports. And rehab. That kind of thing.
Posturing aside, I’ve never had a better massage experience. My therapist was extremely knowledgeable about sports physiology and deep tissue massage. He addressed all kinds of issues around my aging carcass. I emerged after 80 minutes of treatment without a knot to be found. They guy was truly a master of his craft.
The treatments at Three Springs Spa are on the high end of the price range, not at all surprising, given the beautiful setting. My massage carried a $210 price tag. But if you are looking for both luxury and value, consider this: the treatment fee entitles you to all classes, the exercise room, even the pool. Make a day of it, have a swim, attend a TRX class and finish off with a nice massage, and the price seems more than reasonable.
As I slid my very relaxed self into the supple leather seats, I came to appreciate that the Mazda6 interior can be a quiet, classy and relaxing place as well. Overall, in comparison to the previous 6, the current model is a huge step forward in terms of performance and refinement, inside and out. I was guessing that the sticker had to be close to $40k, but the loaded sedan I drove came in at $32,800 — which seemed like a good value to me. The top of the line Accord is $34,250 with nav.
Did I feel my masculinity diminished by my day of salon and spa treatments? Are you joking? While the new me wasn’t as dramatically improved and the new Mazda6, I felt rested, refreshed and ready to put a few fast miles behind me.
Disclaimer: The car was provided to me for one week and with a tank of gas for the purposes of this review. The Barton Spring Resort provided the massage treatment gratis, but I did pay for my own haircut and shave.