Mazda MPS Models Not On The Horizon

If you were hanging out for a high-performance MPS or Mazdaspeed version of the Mazda3 or Mazda6, we’ve got bad news for you.

In fact, if you had a hankering for a performance-tuned version of any existing Mazda vehicle then you can stop holding your breath – it ain’t gonna happen.

Speaking to Australian media at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai confirmed that performance-oriented derivatives of the Japanese brand’s mass-market models are not a part of the current product plan.

“What we have done with the current-generation models is incorporate that kind of performance across the board so that customers can be happy with performance,” he said “Therefore we don’t need to have any specific vehicles that we’d call Mazdaspeed.”

Asked if there was any intent to bring out dedicated Mazdaspeed versions of its current cars in the future, Kogai’s answer was vague but negative.

Following the reveal of the all-new CX-9 and its turbocharged 2.5 litre SkyActiv-G 2.5T engine, many will naturally be wondering whether Mazda will drop that motor into something smaller to add a little extra zip.

After all, the discontinued CX-7 made use of a powerful 2.3 litre turbo that also saw service in the Mazda3 MPS, why wouldn’t the same strategy work with the SkyActiv-G 2.5T?

Yet while that engine was tuned for performance (and very much reflected that with its fuel consumption, as CX-7 owners will attest), the SkyActiv-G 2.5T is instead optimised for low-end driveability and good fuel economy.

It might have a healthy 169kW of power and 420Nm of torque, but the bulk of that torque happens around 2000rpm. Unlike many turbo petrol motors, it doesn’t sustain that peak torque figure in a broad plateau – it tapers off steadily as revs rise.

It’s not a good engine for a hot hatch, in other words.

And that’s the message we got from senior Mazda engineer, Dave Coleman. Speaking to TMR at the preview drive of the new CX-9, Coleman confirmed that the 2.5T engine is not the fire-breathing turbo motor some may have been expecting.

“We could have actually made more power with a smaller-displacement engine, believe it or not,” Coleman said. “But we wouldn’t have been able to make the torque and response that we needed, which turned out to be more important in a car like [CX-9]”.

And while it has 2.5 litres of displacement to play with, that’s more so that it can spool its turbocharger up quickly to reduce lag and boost low-speed driveability.

Mazda CX-9

Mazda CX-9

Same again for its clever 4-3-1 exhaust manifold, which helps extract burned gasses by smoothing exhaust gas pulses out, but are sized small to keep gas velocity high at low RPM – not to flow bulk amounts of gas to produce big peak power figures.

“The limiting factor on how much power we can make with this engine is in the cooling system, in the space between the bores,” Coleman continued. “If you have a wider bore spacing you can have coolant passage between the cylinders, so if we had done a smaller bore we could take higher RPM to another power level. But since nobody uses that, we didn’t. “Because we’re looking at real-world driving we went for a bigger displacement engine that sacrificed high-rpm [power].”

So, while the SkyActiv-G 2.5T’s engine is fine for schlepping about town in a big SUV, it’s not so suited to hard laps around a racetrack on a warm day. Its design goals do not align with those of a hot hatch.

“All of our engines have the bore spacing tight enough that you can’t have those cross-drilled coolant passages, so if we were to play that [high-output turbo] game, we’d have to ground-up develop a new engine. We could use the same pistons, but that’s about it.”

Mazda RX-Vision concept

Mazda RX-Vision concept

While the SkyActiv-G 2.5T will physically fit in any engine bay from the Mazda3 and up, neither Kogai or Coleman indicated that there were any plans to do swap it into something like the Mazda3, Mazda6 or CX-5.

Nor are there any plans to replace the brand’s existing SkyActiv-D 2.2 litre diesel either – despite the new turbo petrol engine making 40kW more power and the same peak torque as the oiler.

Mazda’s new turbo engine may outperform its diesel cousin, but Mazda isn’t about to abandon diesel tech just yet.

But hope is not lost for Mazda fans. While Kogai expressed little enthusiasm for MPS or Mazdaspeed products, he was bullish about the potential posed by the RX-Vision concept that was revealed at Tokyo last month.

Believed to be a precursor to the next-generation RX-7, the RX-Vision concept is expected to spawn a production version that could make its debut as early as 2017.

“Globally there are more than 1 million rotary customers,” Kogai said. “Many of them still own and drive rotary vehicles, and those customers are eagerly awaiting the next rotary vehicle. For those customers we wanted to show that we are still building rotary.”

Note: Rendering by Theophilus Chin.

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