Although cagey on the topic, the man in charge of all-wheel-drive development for Mazda reckons there’s no reason the new 2016 MX-5 couldn’t be fitted with an AWD system - if the driving dynamics weren’t affected, and if the market wanted it.
Tetsushi Marutani is the Assistant Manager for Drivetrain and Powertrain Development at Mazda Motor Corporation and, with a personal garage that includes an NA MX-5 and a Series II RX-7, it’s safe to assume he’s a driving enthusiast who understands the brand's DNA.
“There are many factors to consider, including the timing of programme development,” Marutani tells CarAdvice at this week's all-wheel-drive showcase event in snow-covered Colorado, when we ask about an AWD Mazda sportscar.
“In Japan, we have Mazda 2, Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 with AWD as well as the CX-3, CX-5 and new CX-9. For MX-5, this is also possible, but there are many factors to consider first, especially that the car must deliver driving pleasure.”
The way Marutani sees it, the MX-5 is perfect the way it is, in RWD guise. “Brands like Audi and Subaru use AWD as a direct strategy to sell cars,” he says.
“And there is no doubt AWD is good, but 2WD can be more economical and cheaper. Both have their strong points. The way I see it, the MX-5 is perfect with RWD. I prefer it.”
AWD in more Mazda models?
Marutani keeps quiet when pressed about the appearance of a CX-4 or similar vehicle, running the next-generation i-Active AWD system. “Maybe within five years you will see the next AWD system, but I can’t tell you anything about the new programme for something like the CX-4 for example,” he says.
“We are working on new vehicles, obviously, and crossover vehicles have to be AWD, so that is something important.”
Rotary revival remains a hot topic
The stunning RX-Vision concept that wowed the world’s press at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show has ensured talk of a new Mazda rotary engine is buzzing - pun intended.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the rotary engine, while 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of Mazda, so it’s fair to assume the brand might be working on something significant to mark the milestone.
“In time... We have asked about the rotary engine, and we are developing numerous new engines we hope to be able to release in time,” Marutani says.
“We hope to have those kinds of vehicles in the future.”
The obvious question is whether that potential rotary engine will be assisted by a turbocharger to boost power and drivability. “Rotary engines, in my personal opinion, are weak at low RPM,” Marutani says. “They make less torque at low RPM, so a small compressor, an efficient turbocharger would help that low down performance.”
“We have a passion to achieve what I call the ideal result,” Marutani says. “There is always a gap between ideal and real though.
"In time we develop new technology, we focus, and we imagine what our ideal is. We want to get closer to the ideal with vehicles we release though. That is our aim.”