For years, we’ve wondered, hoped and speculated exactly what form Mazda’s next true sports car would take. Would there be a new RX-9? No, probably not. Last year, though, Japan’s Best Car magazine among others laid out a curious set of rumors surrounding a new rear-wheel drive setup and a straight-six SkyActiv engine. Now Car and Driver published their own report that confirms this car for 2022, according to their sources.
Where is Mazda heading?
If you’re an old-school Mazda fan, you’ve without a doubt scratched your head once or twice over the past few years as to where exactly the company’s going. Are they actually going to go back to their sports car roots? Or are they on a fool’s errand trying to move the brand more upmarket to take on German luxury cars? The brand’s image has drastically shifted over the past decade as it shook loose from Ford, and there’s always a chance you can lose the thread when you try to shift toward something new without having the market on your side.
With this revelation, Mazda’s intentions become clearer. The next-generation Mazda6 will reportedly use a SkyActiv-X-based six-cylinder engine as well as a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Car and Driver reports seeing 350 horsepower from the powertrain, which is a substantial bump on the current model’s 250 horsepower. It will also use a bespoke platform, and by all accounts it will take its styling cues from the elegant Vision Coupe concept the company’s been kicking around for the past few years.
“But wait!”, I hear you shout at your computer screens. “Straight-six engines, new rear-drive platforms, that must cost a fortune! Definitely more than refining the rotary engine.” On the surface, this looks like a huge cash-burning endeavor, and with their current sales down substantially Mazda probably shouldn’t sink all that cash into what is, for the moment, a unique design. In recent years, the answer to back-breaking R&D costs is a deeper relationship with Toyota.
For its part, the world’s most valuable automaker may end up adopting Mazda’s straight-six engine for some of its next-generation models, like the RC coupe. With Toyota money behind them, we may actually see this project come to fruition in the next Mazda6. At this point, with the model selling just 4,500 examples so far this year, it’s probably not a bad time to shoot for that rear-wheel drive sports sedan after all. Just as long as it actually arrives in 2022 and we don’t have to wait several years for it, like we did with their SkyActiv-D diesel engine.