BERLIN – All-new gasoline and diesel engines, a new automatic transmission, a next-generation short-throw manual transmission and improved steering, braking and suspensions figure prominently in the long-term product plan for Mazda Motor Corp.
At a media event here to unveil these new technologies, Mazda executives make it clear the auto maker will do nothing to diminish its “zoom-zoom” brand character, even in the face of a 35.5-mpg (6.6 L/100 km) U.S. fuel-economy mandate by 2016, with steeper regulations to follow.
Although most auto makers globally are preparing to launch electric vehicles to help reduce their fleet averages, Mazda is driving the path less traveled by expressing little near-term interest in electric vehicles, unless those vehicles can uphold the brand’s sporty driving characteristics.
Instead, Mazda is embracing the internal combustion engine, confident its next-generation gasoline and diesel powerplants will meet and exceed U.S. and global emissions requirements.
In the U.S., Mazda currently offers eight gasoline engines ranging from the 1.3L Renesis rotary in the RX-8 to a 3.7L V-6 in the CX-9.
One of the engines, the 2.3L DOHC direct-injection I-4, is turbocharged in the CX-7 and MazdaSpeed3. An Atkinson cycle 2.5L I-4 also powers the Mazda Tribute Hybrid, which is being discontinued, executives tell Ward’s. A ninth engine, a 1.5L gasoline I-4, is available now in the ’11 Mazda2.
The new direct-injection Sky-G gasoline and Sky-D diesel engines, developed for global markets, will replace most of these U.S. powerplants in the coming years. Executives tell Ward’s the Sky-G and Sky-D families could provide about 75% of Mazda’s engines worldwide within five years.
The first Sky-G engine, a 1.3L 4-cyl., arrives in Japan in mid-2011. Three months later, the high-volume 2.0L 4-cyl. bows in Asia, North America and Australia.
In early 2012, Europe receives both the 2.0L Sky-G and the 2.2L Sky-D. The diesel engine then hits the Japanese market three months later and debuts in North America in early 2013, executives say.
In the future, 1.5L and 2.5L variants of the Sky-G are expected.
Mazda’s manufacturing plant in Hiroshima will be flexible enough to produce all four gasoline engines, as well as the diesel, on the same assembly line, Kyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda’s executive officer-product planning and powertrain development, tells Ward’s.
Current gasoline and diesel engines are produced on separate lines at the plant. Likewise, the new automatic and manual transmissions will come off the same assembly line in Hiroshima.
If diesel demand rises in any market, Fujiwara says Mazda is flexible enough to add diesels smaller than the 2.2L.
“We already are making some drawings and doing some investigation, so we can do it if there is demand,” Fujiwara says.
Mazda is not saying which vehicles will receive the new engines, but the prototypes driven here were derived from the current-generation Mazda6.
Both the gasoline and diesel engines are plenty powerful for wide-open-throttle cruising on the autobahn at speeds well above 125 mph (200 km/h). As a testament to the composure of the engines, most of the noise at such speeds comes from wind buffeting the windshield and A-pillars.
Robert Davis, senior vice president-quality, research and development at Mazda North America, says the engines are powerful enough for even the largest vehicles in the auto maker’s lineup, the CX-7 and CX-9 cross/utility vehicles.
That raises the question: Is there a future for V-6 engines at Mazda? Davis says the 3.0L and 3.7L V-6s will remain in the lineup for the near future, but declines to speculate further.
When they arrive in production vehicles, executives say the Sky 4-cyl. engines will be oriented both transversely and longitudinally for front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive configurations.
A unique aspect of the Sky-G gasoline engine is its 4-2-1 exhaust manifold design, which helps to scavenge hot residual gases. And the high compression ratio of 14:1 boosts low-end torque and provides diesel-like fuel economy.
But the unwieldy routing of the exhaust pipes requires additional space in the engine bay. As a result, the Sky-G cannot fit in the engine bays of the current-generation Mazda3 and Mazda6 sedans.
The diesel engine, with twin turbochargers, offers an unusually low compression ratio, also 14:1. And like its rival, the 2.0L I-4 turbodiesel from Volkswagen AG, Mazda’s 2.2L Sky-D can meet oxides of nitrogen emissions requirements in Europe and the U.S. without an expensive urea aftertreatment system.
Although preliminary, the Sky-G is expected to achieve 30/40 mpg (7.8-5.8 L/100 km) in city/highway driving, while Sky-D is anticipated to get 32/43 mpg (7.3-5.5 L/100 km).
Based on the New European Driving Cycle, the Sky-D with manual transmission could be rated as high as 57 mpg (4.1 L/100 km).
The 2.2L diesel engine tentatively is rated at 173 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) of torque, while the 2.0L Sky-G produces 163 hp and 155 lb.-ft. (210 Nm) of torque.
For the near future, Mazda does not intend to add turbocharging to the gasoline engine to avoid the added cost, weight and complexity, says Seita Kanai, Mazda’s director and senior managing executive officer-R&D and program management.
And although Mazda is banking its future heavily on the internal combustion engine, Kanai says the auto maker will continue developing stop/start, regenerative braking and, later on, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and, perhaps, hydrogen-fueled vehicles.
In California, for instance, Mazda may have no choice but to offer an EV to meet California Air Resources Board zero-emissions regulations.