Mazda is working on a rear-wheel-drive platform to be powered by an inline-6 engine. An investor presentation posted recently on a Mazda website revealed that inline-6 engines running on diesel and gasoline (in compression-ignition SkyActiv-X guise) will be mounted longitudinally in the company’s upcoming “large architecture” vehicles.
Our own sources at Mazda have been hinting that this would be the case for quite some time, but we could not reveal it until this recent development. We suggested the possibility of an FR inline-6 when the Vision Coupe was revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017, and are glad to see it officially announced.
Though beloved by enthusiasts and possessing many intrinsic advantages such as a perfect operating balance thanks to its cylinder firing order, the inline-6 is physically large. Packaging it efficiently, especially in more compact vehicles, is challenging. Over the years, it’s been relegated to more specialized applications, and there have been next to zero FF platforms using an inline-6.
Mazda themselves stated that these engines are to be mounted longitudinally in the presentation. While there are many longitudinal FF cars, we are betting on a high-performance FR application for two reasons.
First, Mazda has been making serious strides towards becoming a maker of high-end drivers’ cars. The ND Miata is arguably the purest sports car on the market today, and its driving dynamics have bled into nearly every car in Mazda’s lineup. Second, in Japan, rumors have been swirling for months that the next Mazda Atenza/6 will have an FR layout. However, even as far back as the 2010 Shinari concept (note the dash display below), Mazda has been hinting at an FR flagship.
For many years now Mazda has talked about moving upscale, brand-wise. An FR sport sedan to replace the 6 would go a long way towards its goal. Add to that a straight-six sporting the most advanced engine technology in the world, powering what is sure to be a sharp-handling chassis tune by Mazda, and we will likely have the best driving machine on the market. Next year is Mazda’s 100th anniversary. Perhaps this will be the Hiroshima company’s gift to itself and to the world.