Straight-six engines and rear-wheel drive are ready for a big comeback at Mazda.
The Straight-Six Shows Itself
Earlier this month, Roadshow and Jalopnik reported that an investor presentation uncovered on Mazda’s website big changes coming to the carmaker’s lineup. The presentation, dubbed “Fiscal Year 2019 March Results,” revealed several interesting developments from the carmaker.
The first big revelation was that Mazda plans to shake up their engine production game with a Skyactiv-X straight-six engine making its way to the masses. Roadshow described the Skyactiv-X as, “Mazda’s trick engine tech that has a gas engine combusting fuel through compression like a diesel would, albeit with some tweaks like requiring a small spark to kick-start the process.” Next month, European drivers should finally have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Skyactiv-X Mazda offerings. Americans will have to wait, with no word yet on States-side release.
While this is the first news of the engine making its way to the hands of consumers, Mazda has played around with the idea for some time. At the 2018 LA Auto Show, Mazda revealed their 2019 Mazda3 and the Skyactiv-X engine it held under the hood, to much acclaim. Roadshow took the technology for a spin back in 2018 and was amazed at how impressively it performed, especially after initial skepticism whether it would work at all.
Jalopnik reached out for comment, and Mazda delivered, stating, “We’re excited to bring these powertrains to our future vehicles as we continue on our path to premium. We know our fans will be yearning for additional details, however specific models, performance figures and market rollout will be disclosed at an appropriate time.”
Keeping Up with the Car-dashians
The move by Mazda appears to be aimed at hopping on a growing trend from carmakers across the world. While many thought the engine design relegated to the past, straight-six engines have risen from the dead recently. As Jalopnik mentioned, many of Mazda’s adversaries have revealed their own straight-six developments. Mercedes is working on a new modular engine with potential hybrid capabilities, as well as Jaguar. BMW, too, has reinforced their traditional straight-six roots.
Mazda’s straight-six announcement is a particularly strong blow to Toyota. Despite being a much smaller manufacturer, Mazda appears to have no issue with a transition Toyota is shying away from. Just days before Mazda’s announcement, Toyota told Jalopnik that developing their own straight-six engine would be a “logistical nightmare” that would involve “involving years of development, a new factory, and would have driven up the cost” of the new Supra that borrows BMW’s straight-six engine. Yet Mazda appears to have no such issues, making a mockery of their far-larger fellow Japanese cousin.
A Return for Rear-Wheel Drive
Roadshow also spotted mention of a new engine layout. The presentation makes reference to a supposed “longitudinal engine layout” that would be a big change for Mazda. Incorporating longitudinal layouts would allow for rear- and all-wheel drive to return to Mazda’s lineup. As Roadshow notes, this could mean the return of old favorites like the RX-7. New offerings could also make use of the layout swap, such as cars based off the RX-Vision concept that wowed carlovers back in 2015
Currently, the carmaker’s cars all sport a front-wheel-drive-oriented setup via a transverse layout. Transverse comes with benefits such has being more compact and not requiring vehicle-spanning driveshafts, at the cost of poor support for rear-wheel designs.
While these two revelations stole the show, they weren’t alone. As Jalopnik reported, page 25 of the presentation detailed more future product plans for the company. New strategies mentioned included expanding on the company’s iconic Kodo design language as well as developing a mild-hybrid system alongside Mazda’s own electric vehicle technology.