By on May 9, 2019

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Arctic White marque badge detail

Much of the news surrounding Mazda this past year has concerned powerplants: a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-banger for the CX-5 crossover and 6 sedan, a sort-of sparkless Skyactiv-X mill that still doesn’t have a North American arrival date, a lackluster diesel that took its sweet time getting here, and the brand’s continued lack of electric offerings.

The engine news continues. Buried within this week’s fiscal year earnings report is a hint of two new engines to come — inline-six engines. For a brand eager to position itself as premium, the development of a mill widely regarded as the classiest engine type reflects well on it.

It looks like Jalopnik was first to delve into the center of the document, so credit where it’s due.

On page 25 of the 57-page doc, Mazda details its investments for “brand value improvement.” There, beneath the subheading of “large architecture,” the automaker lists a straight-six Skyactiv-X engine and a straight-six Skyactiv-D diesel engine, both with longitudinal layouts and ability to handle all-wheel drive applications.

A 48-volt mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid are also listed as future large vehicle offerings, while mild hybrids and independently-developed EVs are in the cards for the smaller crowd.

Anyone who’s watched the European auto scene over the past few years has no doubt noticed a resurgence in inline-six interest. BMW never got rid of its inline units, and now Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar Land Rover are getting into the game. Why not Mazda? The company isn’t exactly awash in larger-displacement engines.

2019 Mazda CX-9 front quarter

The document doesn’t state when we can expect to see either of these new inline engines, though the Skyactiv-X designation implies power and fuel economy at least on par with the most advanced offerings from Europe. We expect to see it offered in an America-geared global crossover slated for production in 2021 at the jointly-operated Mazda/Toyota Alabama assembly plant. (The plant is not yet built.)

As stated before, Skyactiv-X offers drivers  a different way to light their fire. Its nearly diesel-like compression ratio is the product of a unique combustion process.

From Mazda:

Running on regular gasoline, SPCCI works by compressing the fuel-air mix at a much higher compression ratio, with a very lean mix. The SKYACTIV-X engine uses a spark to ignite only a small, dense amount of the fuel-air mix in the cylinder. This raises the temperature and pressure so that the remaining fuel-air mix ignites under pressure (like a diesel), burning faster and more completely than in conventional engines.

Besides the engine news, Mazda’s earnings report shows a sales softening. Globally, the brand’s sales sank 4 percent, the result of weakness in the U.S. and Chinese markets. On the fiscal side of things, lowered sales volume and unfavorable exchange rates pushed operating profit down 43 percent for the year.

The company expects to make up for last year’s volume loss with this year’s release of the next-generation Mazda 3 and the tweener CX-30 crossover.

[Images: © Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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52 Comments on “Let’s Talk About Six: Mazda Confirms New Inline Engine in Development...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Like Skyactiv-D and Skyactiv-X, I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I think Mazda has squandered a lot of its limited resources on this unnecessary engine tech. You can buy a 90K BMW/Benz with a 4 popper. Volvo sells nothing but 4s here. They don’t need a 6.

    They don’t need RWD either. Audi and Volvo both sell expensive FWD vehicles. With AWD and the long noses it doesn’t matter to 99.9% of the market.

    Not to mention they are partnered with Toyota who has an awesome hybrid system, a brand new RWD platform, and a new turbo 6 popper too.

    What exactly is the point of all this? As a forward looking enthusiast I want companies like Mazda to survive and continue to make cars like the Miata, so spare me the “how could anyone be against this” strawmen

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I agree with your points but will also say quite honestly that I think a new I-6 still makes more sense than investing in a Wankel.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Wankel showed great promise at one time. Little could anyone forecast that the compression seals would be the weakest link.

        I briefly owned a used NSU Ro80 for a couple of months in 1972 in Germany as my commuter but it was just not practical for a family of four, at that time. Once our Olds Custom Cruiser arrived, bye-bye Ro80.

        And starting the Ro80 up cold would produce a modest cloud of blue smoke that would diminished the warmer the engine got.

        I also rode a Wankel-powered Van Veen motorcycle there I considered buying but the price was just out of my income range.

        Both Wankels were impressively smooth and made the BMW 3-series I-6 feel rough in comparison because of the four distinct cycles.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Agreed, PrincipalDan. Mazda continues to double down on rotary engines despite the market moving on.

        Any use of the rotary in a hybrid application will be niche at best.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Yea, would still be subject to the same issues.

          Mazda seems to have a fixation on unworkable engine technology. Turbos and hybrids… done.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Then the lasts of the Wankels had practically V8 like gas consumption.

            Heck taking an RX-8 and slapping an LSX in it likely IMPROVES the fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      I question a lot of Mazda’s decisions, but if they intend to continue the move upmarket, a longitudinal inline six is a great way to boost their credibility among the more savvy shoppers. An I-6 powered RWD-based mid-size Mazda crossover (or wagon) would jump straight to the top of my shopping list.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        This…they don’t build a V8. The inline 6 can likely share more tech with their existing motors and nobody is moving upmarket with only 4 cylinders. Yes the BMWs and benzes sell them. They also sell inline sixes and v8s

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The push upmarket is a mistake. Engines don’t really matter. Thousands of people pay $60K+ for 4 banger European cars every day. The big sell for most luxury buyers is the (growing) badge on the front, which Mazda will never be able to compete with, at least sedan wise. Cadillac and Jaguar tried this and failed; Alfa succeeded and sales are still tanking; to a degree one could say Lexus is floundering as well. Mazda doesn’t stand a chance.

        If they want to grow they should bring back the CX-7, and offer the 2.5T with torque vectoring AWD and a more aggressively geared auto (or maybe even a stick) in the 3 and 6. Call it the “Grand Sport” or something. Ultimately though the auto market is not in a growth mode. I’d be weary to deploy capital on risky ventures now.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          I disagree. They’ll never be able to in sufficient volume to make it as a mainstream brand. Premium products will boost margins and allow them to pay the bills. There is an opportunity at entry level luxury where Acura should be playing, but they don’t really have the product. Lincoln is kinda there, but they appear to have grander intentions.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Premium products need volume for viability too. Going premium will have them in an even worse predicament… maybe the same total profit, but a bunch of capital tied up in development and lower, more volatile volume. No thanks

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Mazda never seems to get past its tiny 1-2% US market share. Will a new I6 make a difference? Unlikely.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    There’s a short list of vehicles with transverse FWD inline 6’s: Volvo S80, XC90 and Suzuki Verona from Daewoo come to mind.

    Is Mazda’s plan for this to go in the new upcoming larger CUV?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Mazda and Porsche both developing I6 engines, GM dropped the 4-banger from some SUVs. Are we seeing the same trend we saw in the 1980s where there was a short period of TURBO CHARGE EVERYTHING!!! followed by more efficient V6 engines negating the need for forced induction.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I would like Toyota to develop an I-6 and mount it in the Camry/Avalon/Highlander/Tacoma vehicle lines instead of the current 3.5L V6.

      When I still had my 1989 Camry V6 I loved the perfect power-to-weight ratio of that little 2.5L V6.

      Imagine an ultra-refined 3.5L Inline-6 cranking out MORE hp/torque and even less vibration than the V.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        This I6 would either have bores about as big as bottle caps, or have the transmission mounted behind it. Wouldn’t work. Toyota’s V6 is great and works perfectly in its transverse applications.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        @highdesertcat…Toyota just reintroduced the Supra and wouldn’t develop an inline 6. Yes, it is a smaller market but if they had any inkling to put an inline 6 in any of those high volume products, you’d have seen it in the Supra. It ain’t happening.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    Love inline-6. After my ’87 325is, the engine in every other car was a Briggs & Stratton off a tiller, an agricultural implement. I do not care what other shortcomings there are.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      That’s what my #2 son said, “Did they put a lawnmower engine in my wife’s new car?” They had traded their 325 for an Infiniti.

  • avatar
    bts

    I’m disappointed Mazda didn’t go with an inline 5 engine based on their 4 cylinder.

    From a packaging standpoint, an inline 6 engine just isn’t any good. It’s too wide to fit transversely in the engine bay of most cars without reworking the transmission, and mounting it longitudinal will intrude on passenger and cargo space.

    An inline 5 on the other hand could still be installed in transverse applications and wouldn’t take as much passenger space when mounted longitudinally. Sure, there’s not as much displacement increase as going with a six cylinder, but the new skyactive engines are competitive that they don’t need as much displacement increase.

    A 3 liter 5 cylinder with a turbo would be plenty big enough to power a large crossover or performance car, just look at the Audi TT.

    Seems like Mazda is really trying to go upmarket by throwing away allot of practicality with with new engine.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Paired with a manual(so that you actually get to move up and down through the revs under varying load), a good I6 shimmers. Everything else (V12s excepted) vibrates.

      Once covered in slush, batteries, nannies and other layers of applied dullification, none of that matters one iota, of course.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Since Mazda has relationships with Toyota and FCA, both may be providing funding to develop both engines for some of their vehicles. Mazda may be acting as a contract manufacturer in this case.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Soon to be called the Hiroshima Motorworks Company.
      HCM
      To tell you my feelings, Mazda has become such an upscale build these days, they might be somebody’s real Lincoln semi luxury unit.
      Toyota has one.
      Maybe Mitsubishi?

  • avatar
    don1967

    An I6 would put Mazda high on my list. Power, smoothness, serviceable engine bay, no need for premium fuel, premium/cool factor, etc.

    I love the I6 in my Volvo, and was sorry to see them abandon it. Ditto all the other companies who seem to be designing vehicles around EPA tests as opposed to consumer tastes.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    This is interesting given that Mazda at one time had a small but well received 1.8 L V-6. A small displacement in-line 6 perhaps, utilizing skyactive technologies to wring out maximum performance?

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      That was a sweet little engine, if somewhat lacklustre. Lots of moving parts and internal friction for only 1.8 litres of displacement.

      2.5 to 3.5 litres is probably optimal from a power:smoothness perspective.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I6 Miata?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I-6 Fiata (Fiat 124 Spyder) would be cooler somehow…

      Although I just went to Wikipedia and saw that all the historical Fiat Spiders were I-4 powered which is a little sad.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Ignoring the practical concerns about fitting such an engine in the Miata, giving either of these cars an I6 would certainly be cool beans. The joys of an I6 together with the joys of a tiny lightweight coupe.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          They could go the C8 route and remake the Miata as a mid-engine. Then an I6 would fit. Fiat could sell it as a new X1/9 or Montecarlo/Scorpion. If they want to go upscale, why not a car that can compete with the 718 at the high end?

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I have driven an old (1972) 124 Spyder. It was sublime. From my perspective, it did not need more power. Any effort to change it could ruin it.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    “On page 25 of the 57-page doc, Mazda details its investments for “brand value improvement.” There, beneath the subheading of “large architecture,” the automaker lists a straight-six Skyactiv-X engine and a straight-six Skyactiv-D diesel engine, both with longitudinal layouts and ability to handle all-wheel drive applications.”

    That just sounds way too good to be true. But if it is, it’s brilliant. Maybe Mazda has been seeing the positive press Ford has been getting from the RWD Explorer and Aviator. Instant cred boost.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I wanna see a 2.5L-3.0L V8!

    Honestly, they’re probably just brainstorming and that’s as far as it has gotten.

    On the other hand I know BMW, and maybe Mercedes, is going with the 0.5L/cylinder model and you just tack on additional cylinders as necessary. so with BMW, it is anywhere from 1.5L 3 cylinders up to 3L 6 cylinders. There might be economy of scale here for Mazda to copy that. Wasn’t FCA also talking about I6s recently as well? Wonder if the BMW model is the one to copy.

    Hope not, hate 3 cylinders.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Mazda has strange logic. Bring out the 6 with a turbo, but no AWD. Then bring out a new 3 with AWD but no turbo. Yus indeed, that’s thinking. Two obvious things to correct and claw out some sales, but instead they say, let’s wander off into the inline 6 arena of star-gazing. Mazda got hosed on foreign exchange losses last year which hammered profit, so there’s $350 million they don’t have for development.

    Still there is hope on another front. Mr Willems, still unable to understand how SkyActiv-X works, managed to sneak in the word
    “sparkless” as in “sort of sparkless”, but manages to at least quote Mazda this time: “The SKYACTIV-X engine uses a spark ..”. One has to ask oneself how “sparkless” and “uses a spark” can compete in one article. Perhaps it should be a rule that people writing about cars for a living should have some basic clue about what’s going on inside an engine. There’s no shortage of You Tube videos to assist.

  • avatar

    Any expenditure on ICE engines is the waste of money. They should start seriously working on BEV. ICE engines will be soon outlawed in most of the world and rightly so.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Oh? All aircraft? Ships and tugs, too? All military vehicles? Commercial graders and packers that actually make the roads? All cars and trucks in every far-flung corner of the World? I didn’t realize that one can make things up of that magnitude then authoritatively post such utter mindless drivel in public. I’m gobsmacked.

      • 0 avatar

        I did not know Mazda makes ships and jets with 6 cylinder engines.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          “Any expenditure on ICE engines is the waste of money. They should start seriously working on BEV. ICE engines will be soon outlawed in most of the world and rightly so.”

          Oh, you meant that only Mazda should stop making ICE engines, as only Mazda ICE engines will be ‘outlawed in most of the world’? Still bunk.

          • 0 avatar

            I said any company investing money in ICE development wasting money which would be better spent on development of BEV. Because Congress is dead serious about making illegal anything burning gas oil and other sources emitting CO2 into atmosphere. And the same in Europe and China.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The ICE world is freaking out right now – turmoil, chaos, flailing about.

  • avatar
    Morea

    “a mill widely regarded as the classiest engine type”

    Nah, that title still belongs to the V-12. Two I-6 engines in one.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if the inline six is dropped into an updated Mazda pickup for the North American market? That could complete a fully rounded out product lineup.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    “That’s a neat car she’s washing. You think that’s a straight six?”


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