Illustration by Ben Summerell-Youde/Fox SyndicationCar and Driver
- The next-generation Mazda 6 will adopt a new platform with a longitudinal engine layout and rear-wheel drive.
- A Skyactiv-X inline-six engine with a 48-volt hybrid system is rumored to be under the hood.
- The new 6 should be on sale by the end of 2022.
This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Car and Driver, which was produced in February and early March. The information was gathered before the auto industry began feeling major effects of the coronavirus pandemic. As many automakers are now delaying or pausing development programs, the debut and on-sale dates reported here may change.
Mazda’s recent upmarket ambitions had us worried. The mid-luxury market stopped being friendly about 40 years ago. (How’s Oldsmobile doing these days?) But just when we thought Mazda had truly lost the plot, the company looks ready to redeem itself. Most automakers competing in the middle ground dress up mainstream mechanical bits in browner leather and offer sheetmetal shaped by a more pretentious designer.
Bucking that trend, Mazda plans to adopt the blueprint of a full luxury model and hang a lower price on it. The next-generation 6, which should be on sale by the end of 2022, is set to get a full Bavarian, transitioning to a longitudinal-engine platform with rear-wheel drive and an inline-six.
That engine won’t just be a new layout for Mazda. It will incorporate the company’s Skyactiv-X sort-of-compression-ignition gasoline technology as well as a 48-volt hybrid system. We’ve seen numbers approaching 350 horsepower thrown around. If that sounds like an unrealistic R&D load for a company Mazda’s size, well, yeah, it is. However, Mazda has lately been deepening its ties with Toyota, which may adopt the six-cylinder Skyactiv-X for the next-generation Lexus IS and RC. With Toyota’s budget, Mazda engineers could probably welcome Elon Musk to Mars with a locally sourced shrimp buffet.
You already have a pretty good idea of what this car will look like. Reflect on Mazda’s Vision Coupe concept, which debuted at the 2017 Tokyo auto show. That long-hood, short-deck showpiece was clearly projecting rear-drive intent, cloaked in an evolution of Mazda’s seductive styling language with softened lines and subtler forms.
There’s even a chance that Mazda will mimic Lexus and put the inline-six into both four- and two-door bodies. Rewind two years prior to the Vision Coupe and you get the RX-Vision, a Mazda sports-car concept with a hood way longer than necessary for the Wankel rotary the company was imagining at the time. Few things cement an upmarket image better than a rear-drive sports coupe. But a rear-drive sports sedan is a fine start, too.