Mazda looks unlikely to expand the use of its brand new 2.5-litre turbocharged engine to models beyond the just-launched CX-9 crossover any time soon, though it says it would be entirely possible to do so.
Adding weight to the idea of performance Mazdas beyond the MX-5, utilising its new turbo-petrol engine, is the admitted fact that key regions, not simply limited to Australia, are keen on any such vehicles.
Despite offering sporty upmarket design, Mazda has for some time relied on its 129kW/420Nm SkyActiv diesel engine to be its performance leader. Despite its ample torque, it’s no MPS program replacement, which has been an obvious issue for Mazda Australia.
When Mazda revealed the new CX-9 — the final piece in its range-wide reinvention under the SkyActiv umbrella — it premiered a brand new turbo version of its existing 2.5-litre petrol engine suitable for the car’s weight, and for the US market that eschews diesel.
Naturally, its 170kW/420Nm outputs got many of us in the Australian press speculating: given the platform commonality among Mazdas, might this new engine at some point be put into the Mazda 6, or even the Mazda 3 and CX-5, as a rebirth for MPS?
No. It won’t. It appears that Mazda has decided to focus on its volume core instead, given its diminutive size on global terms, and the fact it has only recently returned to profitability. As the company’s senior executives say, the Japanese way is to think long-term, not short.
Australian media this week, including CarAdvice, spoke with Mazda’s global marketing chief, recently appointed Mazda US boss, and company heavyweight Masahiro Moro. The obvious question regarding proliferation of the 2.5 turbo attracted a negative in response.
“At this moment no,” he said. “We have very good lineup finally completed, the new CX-9 is about to arrive. So we have big transformation in the line-up, all six models are built, we really focus on these six models to improve potential business for the next 2-3 years, which is my first priority rather than go to a different territory.”
However, Moro did admit that a 2.5-litre turbocharged Mazda 6 — a natural rival to the 180kW Hyundai Sonata, for one — would be possible. Logically, this idea could expand downwards.
“I think technically [a turbo Mazda-petrol Mazda 6] possible if you see the marketability, it could be one possibility in the future, but I think a majority or centre of gravity of that segment is [naturally aspirated] 2.5-litre. which I think is obvious in US,” he said.
He added that the Mazda 6, with annual US sales of about 55,000 units, sold in fractional numbers compared to the segment’s big player (Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord), and that his first step would be to add the clean diesel instead.
So, the summary? Mazda could make turbocharged high-performance petrol versions of its passenger cars, and even its CX-5, if it saw how it could be good business. But as a small company, it must pool its resources and focus them on its core.
Nevertheless, we asked Mazda Australia’s marketing director Alastair Doak if our region (one of the world’s biggest for Mazda) would want some more performance cars. Remember, Australia is proportionally perhaps the world’s leading performance car market.
“Not talking specifics about that engine, but we've continually requested some sort of replacement for the MPS strategy, and MC (Mazda Corporation) are very much aware of that,” he said.
“In terms of performance I think there’s definitely room for a higher performance Mazda 6 even above the diesel… the diesel engine gives us 420Nm of torque and pretty good performance, but in Australia there’s certainly a market for even higher-performance variants.
“[But] there’s no firm plan… it’s something we keep talking about. Let’s see what’s happening. Other markets are keen for it as well. Mazda is a small company - engineering resources are not endless and we have to prioritise where we’re at.”
Doak pointed instead to the recent RX Vision rotary concept as a potential future sports car. But having multiple performance models would clearly boost Mazda Australia (already the market’s second top-selling brand, which is unprecedented elsewhere globally) significantly.
MORE: New 2017 CX-9 revealed