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Mazda Australia keen on inline six-cylinder engines

Straight shooter: If Mazda shoehorns an inline six-cylinder engine under the bonnet of either the Mazda6 (left) or CX-9 (below), it will be significantly upping its performance game.

Inline six-cylinder engines under development as Mazda eyes performance return

20 May 2019

MAZDA Australia’s large-sized models such as the Mazda6 passenger car and CX-8 and CX-9 SUVs could soon be available with petrol and diesel inline six-cylinder engines with the choice between rear- and all-wheel drive, potentially leading to the Japanese brand’s return to the high-performance segment.


In its recently released investor report for the fiscal year ending March 31, Mazda Motor Corporation quietly confirmed that it is developing inline six-cylinder versions of its SkyActiv-X petrol and SkyActiv-D diesel engines after decades of shunning anything with more than four cylinders.


Critically, Mazda revealed that both engines will be longitudinally mounted – a hallmark of most rear-wheel-drive vehicles – while its i-Activ all-wheel-drive system will also be available.


In order to satisfy ever-tightening emissions standards, both engines will be electrified, with the choice of either 48V mild or plug-in hybridisation. No other details, including timing, have been released.


Speaking to GoAuto, Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak stopped short of confirming the new powertrains and drivetrains for a local launch but was upbeat about their prospects.


“It’s nice that that confirmation has gone public,” he said. “Obviously we were aware of them, but we’re very excited by that prospect and what the future will bring. Can’t wait.”


Asked if the addition of inline six-cylinder engines could signal a return to high-performance models, which most recently fell under the MPS sub-brand, Mr Doak said the company’s recent product moves indicate it is trending that way, although he did not confirm any plans.


“I think you can see where we’ve gone (recently),” he said. “We’ve introduced 2.5 turbo into Mazda6 and the CX-5 as well.


“Obviously, there’s still an appetite for high performance. I think we’ve been consistent over the years to say that we would always be interested, and obviously we brought those engines and those vehicles to market.


“So, absolutely we would be interested (in high-performance inline six-cylinder engines), and we’ll keep having those discussions to see what’s possible down the track.”


The last two MPS models were the second-generation Mazda3 and first-generation Mazda6, both of which were motivated by a 2.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produced 190kW of power and 380Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.


The most potent engine in Mazda’s current model line-up is the aforementioned 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder unit found under the bonnet of the Mazda6 mid-size car, CX-5 mid-size SUV and CX-9 large SUV. The CX-8 also offers it in Japan.


While BMW has remained faithful in an industry where engine downsizing is rife, Mazda joins Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover as brands that have developed new inline six-cylinder engines with mild hybridisation after either replacing them with four-cylinder units or instead opting for V6s.


As reported, Mazda’s upcoming SkyActiv-X technology is claimed to be the world’s first compression-ignition petrol engine – or Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SCCI) in Mazda speak. As such, it promises diesel levels of fuel efficiency.


SkyActiv-X will debut in 2.0-litre four-cylinder form in the new-generation Mazda3 small car, with the powertrain due in Australian showrooms in December as an option on some higher-specification grades.

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