A new report out of Japan sheds some light onto what Mazda’s plans are for its upcoming front-engined, rear-wheel-drive platform. The chassis is eagerly awaited by Mazda’s hard-core fans (us included), as it will also include the long-awaited straight-six engine. It’s a combination that is largely considered to be the ideal format for true driving enthusiasts.
The report, from the Nikkei, says that suppliers are preparing to manufacture parts for the upcoming Mazda vehicles which will enter production in 2022. Additionally, it says that the inline-six engines will have displacements of 3.0 to 3.3 liters, and be available in gasoline, diesel, and sparkless-combustion SkyActiv-X formats. Most will be “mild hybrids” and sticker “significantly higher” than current models, both necessities if Mazda hopes to stay in business through the end of this decade.
If we extrapolate, it means the cars will probably go on sale as 2023 model year vehicles. Based on our knowledge of Mazda’s workings, these will likely be followed by turbocharged version marketed as a range-topping performance variant. Most Mazdas will ride on either the small or large platform, with FF cars like the 3 and CX-30 built on the former, and FR cars built on the latter.
Also, though the FR chassis was developed with a sports sedan in mind, Mazda is now fast-tracking the SUVs based on this platform instead. These were initially slated to replace the CX-5 and CX-8, but now the Nikkei says Mazda will sell them concurrently with existing models (CX-50, anyone?). This is another necessary move due to the market’s insatiable appetite for SUVs, but hopefully it means that the sedan, a successor to the 6, isn’t put on permanent hold.
The article also paints a bleak picture of Mazda’s fortunes. Sales are down, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but even before that hit sales had been weak. New models that should be terrific on paper have underperformed in sales, including the Mazda 3, the revolutionary SkyActiv-X, and the just-launched MX-30 — whose rotary engine range extender has been confirmed for the US, by the way. Mazda is expected to lose $870 million for the fiscal year ending March 2021.
There are rumors that Mazda’s FR platform will underpin future rear-drive Toyotas as well. With the death of the Mark X, Crown, Lexus GS and remaining Lexus sedans like the IS being heavily modified versions on old chassis, we think this is a pretty good bet.
A lot hinges on these upcoming models, including the future of the company itself. We will soon find out if Mazda’s gamble on true enthusiast-friendly cars, its refusal to sell out, will pay off or spell doom for the small Hiroshima company.