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Mazda6 variants under consideration

Six appeal: The striking new Mazda6 has only just been unveiled but Mazda is reportedly already working on adding more exciting variants.

Sporty flagship, coupe and AWD mulled for new Mazda6 as rotary range-extender looms

30 Aug 2012

MAZDA is considering coupe, high-performance and all-wheel-drive versions of its all-new Mazda6 according to overseas reports emerging from the Moscow motor show, where the mid-sizer has just made its public world debut in sedan form.

The Japanese company is also reportedly keeping its rotary engine technology alive by using it as a range-extending generator for a plug-in electric vehicle it has in the works.

Chief designer of the Mazda6, Akira Tamatani, told British publication Autocar a previously speculated four-seat coupe version is under consideration to join the sedan and wagon – the latter will debut at Paris next month – but said no decision to produce it had yet been made.

“I would love to make one, he said. “The first job is to make the saloon and estate, but from this position a coupe is not so far away.”

Mazda6 program manager Hiroshi Kajiyama told Autocar all-wheel-drive was also under evaluation for the Mazda6, which would broaden its appeal in the snow belt markets of North America and Europe.

“There are no set plans, but we are studying the possibility of introducing all-wheel drive – it would be a good weapon with which to establish the brand,” he said.

22 center imageFrom top: Mazda6 MPS Mazda rotary engine Audi A1 e-tron.

“It is my belief that there is a very strong opportunity for us if we bring it to market.”

All-wheel-drive would also provide the necessary traction for a high-performance variant, providing a spiritual successor to the turbocharged 190kW/380Nm Mazda6 MPS that sold in Australia between 2005 and 2008 and came with with an 'active torque split' all-wheel-drive setup.

Speaking with another British publication, Auto Express, Mr Kajiyama said there is “high potential” for a sporty flagship variant of the new Mazda6 and that such a model “would be helpful to the brand”, but declined to confirm if the MPS badge would return.

He hinted that further weight reductions could be part of the performance package, saying it would be possible for the new Mazda6 to “lose more” weight over the 50kg saved compared with the outgoing model.

Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver was unable to confirm if any of the Mazda6 variants were under development or planned for production.

He described the European reports as “speculation from discussions with senior Mazda executives in Moscow”, but offered that the company “always looks at numerous options and ways to develop our vehicles”.

The new Mazda6 is expected to make its Australian debut at the Sydney motor show in October and rumours abound that the Mazda stand will also host a mystery world debut, although Mr Maciver declined to confirm this.

Mazda president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi was present at the Moscow show unveiling of the new Mazda6 and reaffirmed the company's commitment to rotary engines, production of which ended in June when the RX-8 coupe was discontinued.

According to Autocar he said a range-extender electric vehicle was under development that used the rotary engine to generate electricity and will be launched on a lease-only basis in Japan from next year.

Mr Yamanouchi explained that using a rotary engine as a range-extender eliminates the fuel efficiency disadvantages of having to go up and down the rev range as road speed and gear selection changes during normal driving.

“We can keep it spinning at its most efficient 2000rpm while also taking advantage of its size," he said.

Using a rotary engine in a range-extender EV has been done before by Audi in its experimental A1 e-tron.

The electric Audi used a tiny rear-mounted 254cc single-rotor unit to charge its 22kWh Li-ion battery pack and boost the 50km electric-only range by 200km.

A long-time advocate of rotary technology, Mr Yamanouchi said Mazda's research would continue as long as he works at the company and revealed it was rotary engines that motivated him to join the company in 1967.

"We continue to explore ways to improve the fuel efficiency and capabilities of the rotary engine so it can be the primary power source of a car again."Part of that research has included hydrogen-powered rotaries that emit only water vapour from their exhaust pipes, with Primacy people-movers and RX-8 coupes tested on Japanese and Norwegian roads in recent years.

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