By on April 18, 2012
YouTube Preview Image

Mazda is saying “peace out” to their V6 engines. The party line is that they don’t really fit with the companies new philosophy, and the SkyACTIV portfolio. Instead, the company is drumming up a few alternatives.

The V6 engines used in the Mazda6 and CX-9 were fine, but nobody will shed a tear over their demise. According to a Car and Driver interview with Mazda USA Senior VP Robert Davis, the new Mazda6 will use SkyACTIV 4-cylinder engines only (hopefully the SkyACTIV-D diesel will be offered – a hybrid is rumored as well), while the next-generation CX-9 will apparently use some kind of 4-cylinder with forced induction.

In more performance oriented news, Mazda is working on not one but two new rotary engines. A new, more efficient, more powerful rotary engine as well as a rotary designed to be used as a range extender for an electric vehicle. The light weight of the rotary would be a plus for this application, while the lack of torque would be rendered moot by the electric motor.

And finally, news of the next MX-5 remains the same. It will be lighter and follow the same principles as SkyACTIV; less mass, more efficiency. And Davis hinted that there would be some more radical special editions in the spirit of the MX-5 Spyder or MX-5 Super 20.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

57 Comments on “Mazda Says “Deuces” To V6 Engines, Welcomes Rotaries Back Into The Fold...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    I like Mazda’s gumption. If they’re going to go down, they’re going to go down fighting on their own terms – with SkyACTIV, rotaries, and Zoom-Zoom.

  • avatar
    cmoibenlepro

    Rotaries! Whoohoo!

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      They’ve been working on a “…new, more efficient, more powerful rotary engine…” for 20 years, and never gotten anywhere close to even a half decent piston setup.

      The light weight of rotaries were relatively more important back when total car weight was lower. Now, even halving the weight of a similar powered piston engine, doesn’t make that much difference in total vehicle weight. Unless the lightness component of SkyActiv is taken very seriously, at least.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        Reciprocating manufacturers have been working on new, more efficient, more powerful engines for over 100 years, with tens of thousands of iterations, and are still not more than twice as good as the last Mazda rotary, which retained a lot of the same dimensions as their first rotary.

        I, for one, will keep cheering on Mazda for their next rotary. And if they get it out in the next few years in RX form, I’ll even buy one.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Saab’s legacy: You may have any engine you want, as long as it has 4 cylinders and displaces 2 liters.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m assuming they’re going to cancel the CX-9, then, because it will be interesting to see five thousand pounds pulled by a 2.0L four-cylinder.

    Yeah, they could turbo it. Ask anyone, including the owners of wunderkinds Kia or Hyundai, what kind of mileage turbo-four-equipped crossovers get.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      My Juke is pulling about 29mpg. Not bad but I thought it would do a little better. I consider it more of a car even though it is billed as a crossover.

      • 0 avatar
        Sgt Beavis

        The heaviest Juke has a curb weight of 3210lbs. The LIGHTEST CX-9 is 4328lbs. A thousand+ pounds makes a huge difference…

        But I don’t see them cancelling the CX-9. They have already announced the death of the CX-5 but I think they can get the weight down on the CX-9 with the new platform for the gen Mazda 6.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Sgt Beavis – I assume you mean the CX7 is due to die, since the CX5 is brand new and looks pretty good.

      • 0 avatar
        Sgt Beavis

        @mike

        yea, slipped up there..

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Mazda said that the CX-9 is on the list for a new Kodo+SkyActiv model by 2014 along with the Mazda6 (next spring), Mazda3 (2014 model year) & Miata (2014?). I honestly don’t know how they have time to do all that AND work on two(!) rotaries.

        I think the CX-5 will be a template of what will happen to the CX-9: its footprint will shrink a bit but retain interior volume, and it will drop a few hundred pounds. They’ve promised a diesel for the US next year–probably in the CX-5–and if it sells, you can expect it in the CX-9. I don’t much like the idea of a turbo 2.0L for it; they might be wiser to devote some of the rotary man-hours to a 2.5L Sky-G engine.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Psar – absolutely right. Just look at reviews of the Explorer Ecoboost 2.0 – too much car, too little engine.

  • avatar
    Orangutan

    The current CX-9 doesn’t weigh 5,000 pounds. Why would the next, Skyactived one weigh that much? I would expect a weight savings of at least 200 pounds for the next one.

  • avatar

    This seems like a faux-pas to me.

    Just in the Psychology of it, in any car bigger than a Civic, the American mind wants an engine bigger than a 4.

    -or at least an Option for one.

    If the Altima-Camry-Accord-Triumverate-of-Doom and sizes-plus have it, then anyone wanting to be competitive should have it, too.

    I think their efforts with rotaries won’t work as well as they want.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Hyundai is replacing the “optional V6″ with an “optional turbo I4″ and seems to be quite successful with it.

      As for the rotary engine, well, Wankel’s ideas, like Marx’s, work well in theory only.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      >If the Altima-Camry-Accord-Triumverate-of-Doom and sizes-plus have it, then anyone wanting to be competitive should have it, too.

      I think that could change too. The thing that kills it for these cars is that the engine bay has to be designed for the v-6 option. If you a mid-size that is only designed around a straight four or five, but with a turbo option, then the family car gets interesting. Imagine if you took the Fit and scaled it to Accord proportions… same interior room, lot less exterior size, lighter and more fuel efficient car.

      • 0 avatar
        Feds

        The mind, she boggles:

        http://www.netcarshow.com/honda/1995-odyssey/800×600/wallpaper_05.htm

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The problem with hatchbacks in the United States is consumers automatically assume hatchback = cheap car. You can’t charge much for them. In my opinion, the holy grail of mid-size sedan packaging would be to change the transaxle design to move the front wheels forward to reduce the FWD overhang while retaining the almost flat floor and generally good interior space of a dedicated FWD car. The most profitable car would be a 3 box sedan design with BMW RWD luxury car proportions on the outside and Toyota Camry FWD efficient interior packaging on the inside. Eliminating the V6 could add value if it helped the car meet pedestrian safety standards without looking chunky. Most consumers would instantly associate that exterior shape with a higher price even if they didn’t know why it looked more upscale.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Do FWD/RWD proportions matter anymore? Did they really ever matter outside of a very limited number of car nuts? I’d wager that the majority of self-styled car enthusiasts today couldn’t identify a FWD compared to RWD car based on a profile photograph as long as badging and brand/model specific styling details were obscured.

        The vast majority of cars built in the last 20 years have been FWD. FWD looks normal, and as long as the overhang doesn’t result in scraping parking barriers most people won’t care or notice.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Look at the public reception of the RWD architecture of the Volt concept and the public reception of the FWD Volt production model. Night and day.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        A whole lot more changed than a few extra inches in front of the wheels. The Volt concept could have been built as a FWD vehicle without too much change. A lot of the changes were to make the production version more practical for rear seat passengers.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        NulloModo said: “I’d wager that the majority of self-styled car enthusiasts today couldn’t identify a FWD compared to RWD car based on a profile photograph as long as badging and brand/model specific styling details were obscured.”

        No need to obscure badging or model info.

    • 0 avatar
      TW4

      The mind of the American consumer doesn’t really matter anymore b/c the mind of the US Federal Government has different ideas. If the gears are made any taller on the premium engine models, the car won’t be drivable.

      As far as rotaries are concerned, I don’t think they will make Renesis efficient for ICE propulsion, but it should work as a range extender. Range extending combustion is performed at fixed rpm. Wankel rotary is high on the list of suitable range-extending ICEs. I think it would be really interesting if Mazda’s obsession with the Wankel rotary turned into a serendipitous windfall for the company in the hybrid era.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        You may be right about the serendipitous windfall, but it’s a longshot.

        I recall Bob Lutz saying that GM considered a rotary for the Volt before going with the piston engine. However, I don’t think that engine runs at constant RPM – it varies according to load demands, sometimes out of phase with vehicle speed.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Mazda’s quixotic pursuit of rotary technology should end. The only way it might work for a hybrid/EV is because its running time is limited, but then it won’t meet ultraclean air standards, just like the 2011 Volt wasn’t even as clean as a Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      yes, even my 80 year old dad thinks he needs a v6 even though I wager he hasn’t pressed a gas pedal to the floor in 20+ years.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    I completely understand the motivation to ditch 6-cylinder engines in favor of 4-cylinder designs which can be tuned/detuned as needed for a given application. No question we can get V6 performance (or even better in some cases) out of a 4-banger, facilitating greater economy and cleaner emissions.

    But there’s no such thing as a “free lunch”, so what’s the actual long-term cost?

    Can a 2.0L GDI’ed and turbo’ed to within an inch of its life offer the same reliability over a couple hundred thousand miles vs. a larger engine which replaces the high-tech stuff with displacement? For example, does the Hyundai/Kia GDI turbo-4 everyone seems to be fawning over have even the slightest prayer of running as many trouble-free miles as a GM 3800, Toyota 3.5, Nissan VQ, or Honda 3.5? (Intended as a rhetorical question because the answer is almost certainly “Hell no!”.) This is yet another unintended consequence of reactionary governance leading to haphazard tightening of CAFE (and other) standards, and one which doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention for some reason; I fully understand the need to periodically evaluate and adjust these standards (and fully support doing so), I just wish the powers that be would stop, take a few deep breaths, count to ten, and proceed based upon sound science and engineering principles rather than the histrionic ramblings of a bunch of idealogues.

    No question that the engineering in some of these new motors is very impressive, I just hope the baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bathwater in terms of reliability/durability.

    If product reliability from the Asian marques starts slipping as they begin to develop more of these “high-tech” designs, they’ll lose a lot of their attraction to car buyers (no point in choosing Asian over German or Jag if reliability ends up equivalent). For makers like Mazda, this is a big gamble, which I respect.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      You’ve echoed some of the same points I’ve made to people. The Japanese Big 3 push “reliability above all else” in their family sedans, which is why none of them are in any rush to force turbos down the public’s throat. I would be thoroughly shocked if a turbo-4 Camry/Accord/Altima showed up in the US in the next 5 or 6 years. Such a thing isn’t even mentioned in being in the works for those cars.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Honda has never been particularly fond of forced induction, and Toyota is incredibly conservative with the Corolla/Camry, but I could see Nissan bringing over a turbo-4 in a mainstream car in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        Spike_in_Brisbane

        I can see an argument in favour of high tech, highly stressed, efficient turbo engines that don’t last very long being waged in the boardrooms of car companies. They have the benefit of reducing the abundance of good used cars which work against their bottom line. The US paradigm seems to be to demand a decent length warranty then sell the car for another new one. This trend could work.

  • avatar
    BigPotato

    Too bad, one of the sweetest engines ever was the 2.5l V6 in the old Probe/MX-5 and the even tinier 1.8l in the MX3. Smooth and high reving, they were truly great engines for sporty cars. The 2.3l 4 in the previous Mazda 3/5, etc is a long, long way away from those wonderful little V6s.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Can anyone tell me if there’s ever been a name for an engine more stupid than SkyACTIV?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I remember when GM rebadged their old 4 cylinders as Ecotec and Ford started calling all their 4 cylinders Zetec b/c Honda had VTEC and they were playing catch up. Renaming the engine didn’t give them actual variable valve timing and electronic lift control. It also shows that Honda is not the best at naming their special technologies as well – Super Handling?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed. “SKYACTIV” has nothing to do with the sky, or activity. It’s an engine whose performance and mpg are similar to a Hyundai 2.0L.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Can anyone point out a named engine that doesn’t sound dumb?

  • avatar
    jaje

    Can we dispel the misnomer that rotaries and small 4 cylinder engines “don’t make no torque” or “are gutless”. In fact, all engines make torque but where they make their optimum torque (RPM) is dependent upon the design and application. So in the future the correct way to describe an engine that doesn’t have a lot of low end torque is to well say the engine lacks “low end torque”.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      The science and technicalities don’t matter when you’re merging onto the highway.

      As I recall, a rotary has three torque peaks, making for unusual driving characteristics. You have to beat a rotary pretty hard to get reasonable performance out of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Redshift

      Totally agree. On the transmission point. With 8 speed and beyond transmissions (or the dreaded CVTs) you can compensate for a lot of “lack of torque.”

  • avatar
    GS650G

    A VERY small rotary used to run an electric generator would be a good idea, the Atkinson engine is used currently for this purpose in many vehicles and has more moving parts as well as greater size.

    A single rotor Wankel would be the ticket.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Given the rotary’s dismal fuel consumption, I’m not so sure. But I’d love to be proved wrong, maybe the wankel will shine as a generator.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Wankels have a huge swept area relative to their displacement as well as a low compression ratio. The result is that much of the energy in the fuel is dissipated as heat both through the cooling system and the exhaust. My ’80 RX-7 displaced 1100cc but it had a radiator and exhaust that would look right at home in a muscle car.

        One possible answer? Turbo-compounding. This was used in the big radial engines powering B-17s and B-29s. Essentially, an exhaust turbine converts exhaust energy to mechanical energy by means of an output shaft that connects to either the crankshaft or transmission. On the big Wright radials, turbo-compounding reduced fuel consumption and improved power output by a significant amount.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        Not convinced for using a Wankel as an extender. Same problems as with using it was the primary engine… you have a friction surfaces surrounding all sides of the combustion chamber (seals and walls) and the shape of the combustion flame isn’t harnessed efficiently by the rotor. The fuel savings with a rotary, if any, are in that the engine is smaller and easier to package.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    As the owner of a CX9 I am weeping at my desk over my lunch. I absolutely love my V6 and 6speed Tranny. The only gripe I have is the fuel economy. I one thing that I wish for is a six cylinder diesel/hybrid. This of course would be very expensive but would make it one of the most fuel efficient Crossovers on the planet. I could have my torque and eat it too…Can you imagine a vehicle that size getting 40mpg on the hwy….LORD…lol

  • avatar
    dima

    Well, 4 pot diesel can actually fit the bill.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Test drove an 08 RX-8 just last night, and now I really want one. The numbers don’t seem to make sense on their own. 230 hp at 19 mpg doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense.
    Until you drive it.

    That car has some kind of charisma that’s hard for me to define.

    • 0 avatar
      leeboo1211

      You hit it right on the head there. There’s an indescribable charm that comes with that car that numbers simply cannot define. As a weekend car it’s perfect, since the low MPG isn’t hurting that much. Maybe not so much as a DD, but it does have a way of making even the most mundane grocery runs fun. I know this because nowadays I find excuses to go to the store, because that means jumping into my 8.

  • avatar
    TTACFanatic

    So am I the only one that sees this announcement at face value? Ford looked to Mazda for it’s expertise in four-cylinder design and Mazda tinkered with Ford designed V6’s for their cars. That partnership is over so Mazda no longer has a source for V6’s.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Mazda’s V6 engines are the Ford 3.7 liter from the Taurus, Flex, etc. If they need another V6, then they can probably buy one from someone else.

    Wankel engines are not particularly light since they are cast iron for the barrel part of the engine. There was a video on the Mazda global site a year ago that showed a completely out-of-date facility for making that engine. Also included was a tribute to a Mazda worker who had developed the skill to properly fit the seals so that the engines did not burn oil! A lot of hand fitting in that engine.

    Don’t know where Mazda will get the money for a new rotary, and for a new manufacturing facility as well. Plus, a quickly changing combustion chamber is far from ideal for either power or emissions. Pistons stop at the top of their stroke, the rotary is always moving – not particularly good for flame propagation.

    A big bowl of not good for Mazda. They seem to be grasping at straws, and need an engineering breakthrough.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I predict that during Obama’s second term that the diktat will go out that all personal cars must weigh less than 3,000 lbs. and must have an engine no larger than 2.0 litres. Mazda will then become the best selling brand in the USA.

  • avatar
    Terry

    “Agreed. “SKYACTIV” has nothing to do with the sky, or activity. It’s an engine whose performance and mpg are similar to a Hyundai 2.0L.”

    Like Pavlov’s dog, right on cue.

    “As I recall, a rotary has three torque peaks, making for unusual driving characteristics. You have to beat a rotary pretty hard to get reasonable performance out of it.”

    Totally clueless..AGAIN!

    GSLippy–keep ‘em coming–the other techs in my service department LOVE your posts!!

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I understand the theory behind turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and the promise that they can deliver V6 or even V8 power with the fuel-economy of a 4. However, in practice has this ever really been the case had it?

    I owned a couple of Saabs over the years. The turbo 4 was a great engine, torquey, smooth, top-gear acceleration to die for… but it never even gave me 4-cylinder fuel economy… in fact, in a 9-5 it averaged about 19 mpg around town and maybe mid 20’s on the freeway. I got nearly the identical fuel-economy from my BMW 525iTand, well, if you want to talk smooth, the I6 reigns in my book. The BMW was also a lot heavier than the Saab.

    Similarly, the Chevy Cruze 1.4 Turbo appears to be a good engine but the fuel-economy isn’t really any better than a new Focus with a normally aspirated 2.0 liter engine. The Eco can sound impressive, but the highest numbers come mostly from the ultra-high gearing on the manual transmission version.

    It seems to me that the biggest contributor to fuel-economy around town is simply the amount of mass you’re hauling around. On the freeway, it’s drag (Cd and frontal area) and the gearing… or how fast the engine is turning to maintain a normal speed. In the case of the Cruze, the freeway gearing on the manual is very tall, thus the drastic difference in economy between the stick and the auto even though both share the rest of the weight and aero details.

    So, my Saab 9-5 was a fairly heavy car so I likely would have had the same fuel-economy whether I had the 4 or 6 cylinder engine.

    I also had a Chevy S10 with a V6 (a crap one at that) and later had another with the 4. Both had manual transmissions and the same extended cab configuration. Despite the lower weight of the 4, I actually got better fuel economy from the six. Why? I think it’s because I had to drive the 4 like I stole it just to keep up with traffic and the six could lazily pull the weight around.

    So, would a well-designed direct-injection 6 with a good tranny really do any worse in terms of fuel economy than a similar 4 cylinder if everything else on the car (size, weight, aero) were the same? How much do the frictional losses from 2 fewer cylinders really count if a larger engine can spin at lower rpms to do the same job?

    • 0 avatar
      jimbobjoe

      There’s a guy on here with a 9-5 who talks often of mileage in the mid to high 30s. Mid 20s is quite low for the 4 cylinder. I would often get 30-31 on my 9-5 with the V-6 on the highway. The 2009 9-5 was rated 27 highway on the new EPA cycle.

      I can tell you though…the way you drive a car with a turbo engine makes a bigger difference in MPG than a car with a normally aspirated engine.

  • avatar
    righteousball

    But Skyactiv’s whole reason of existence (as an umbrella marketing term) is merely to tide Mazda over until they can do hybrid/electric/something else that they have to play desperate catch-up to right now. There’s no real merit in talking about it like it’s a rival technology to these things; it’s a desperate fight for life.

    As for using turbo 4-pots instead of V6, isn’t that simply because they’re going to lose access to Ford’s V6s and can’t spend on their own? :P


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States