Mazda has just released its second-quarter earnings reports, and it’s not pretty. The company posted an operating loss of $502 million and sales, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, were down 21 percent to just 578,000 units worldwide. Deep inside the report, though, was a glimmer of something we’ve been eagerly waiting for as enthusiasts — a first glimpse of the straight-six engine powering its upcoming RWD sports sedan.
The image shows a row of engines, a four-cylinder hybrid sitting dead center (more on that later) flanked by the full straight-sixes on either side. Bookending the lineup are the bare straight-six blocks.
Basically, they follow the same architecture as Mazda’s current lineup of SkyActiv fours, but extended by two additional cylinders. As such, each one is able to accommodate any of the current SkyActiv setups, from the gasoline-powered SkyActiv-G to the diesel SkyActiv-D to the sparkless, compression ignition SkyActiv-X. Additionally, they are suitable for both natural aspiration and turbocharging, both 48-volt and plug-in mild hybrid systems, and both rear- and all-wheel-drive layouts.
Given that the current variable-octane SkyActiv-G 2.5-liter turbo can generate 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on regular, or better yet, 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on premium, we expect the six to pack quite a wallop.
Thankfully, Mazda reaffirmed its commitment to the inline-six, rear-drive platform. If everything stays on course, the first fruit it bears will come in the form of a RWD SUV in 2022, likely called the CX-50 or CX-70. We’re imagining something like the Infiniti FX but even sportier. 2022 is also when a rotary-powered MX-30 will arrive. Mazda didn’t say when to expect what we’re tentatively calling the FR6 sedan, but given the state of sedan sales it’ll probably be a year or so after the SUV.
Speaking of SUVs, the report also stated that Mazda has been forced to step up its capital alliance with Toyota. The joint-venture Mazda-Toyota plant in Alabama is nearing completion, and that’s where the final engine pictured in the report comes in. Sitting front and center in the lineup is an inline-four featuring the Toyota Hybrid System. This engine will power a new SUV to be built at the factory, likely debuting sometime in 2021.
As a trade Mazda will soon begin selling a rebadged version of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid in Europe, likely to satisfy the EU’s tightening fleet fuel economy rules. There’s even a rumor that the inline-six will find homes under a new generation of Toyota and Lexus cars, powering models like the IS sedan and RC coupe.
While hybrids and SUVs may not be the first things that spring to mind when one thinks of Mazda, these are products the company badly needs to survive the current economy. Hopefully, they keep Mazda profitable enough to deliver on that FR6 we’ve been promised.