Mazda readies new SkyActiv-X inline-6 engine

In an industry focused on electrification and alternative powertrains, Mazda is prepared to buck the trend. The Japanese automaker confirmed it has a new inline-6 engine in the pipeline.

Yes, a much smaller automaker with a fraction of the profitability is readying the same kind of engine Toyota opted to not develop for its fifth-generation Supra, citing production and vehicle costs. Jalopnik first discovered news of the SkyActiv-X inline-6 and reported Thursday that the new powertrain was found hiding in a seemingly mundane “Fiscal Year 2019 March Results” online presentation. Page 25 clearly states Mazda’s “large architecture” will be treated to a “straight-six SkyActiv-X engine” as well as a diesel version. Mazda called the inline-6 diesel its second-generation oil burner.

2019 Mazda MAZDA6

2019 Mazda MAZDA6

The Japanese automaker confirmed the news with the website and Mazda said in a statement, “We’re excited to bring these powertrains to our future vehicles as we continue on our path to premium.” The statement went on to declare models that will receive the inline-6 engines, performance specs, and more details will be disclosed at a later date. If you didn’t believe the news before, the company’s confirmation cements it.

Mazda 2.0-liter SkyActiv-X engine with spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI)

Mazda 2.0-liter SkyActiv-X engine with spark-controlled compression ignition (SPCCI)

Mazda already has a Skyactiv-X 4-cylinder engine, and it is mentioned in the same slide as the “straight-six Skyactiv-X engine.” SkyActiv-X is the brand’s name for its latest engine that uses Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. The system uses sparkless ignition (like a diesel engine) to light a rich mixture of air and fuel that compresses a lean mixture for the rest of the cylinder. However, when necessary, the spark plug will function conventionally to leapfrog previous Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engine hurdles. Both engines are mentioned in the same slide. The 4-cylinder version is listed under “small architecture,” while the inline-6 version is listed under “large architecture.”

Mazda inline-6 confirmed via investor documents

Mazda inline-6 confirmed via investor documents

It is unknown what vehicles could get the new engine, but Mazda provides a hint that it or they could be be based on a new rear-drive-based platform. The same slide says longitudinal layout (including all-wheel drive). The only current Mazda with rear drive is the MX-5 Miata and that is no large architecture. A new rear-/all-wheel-drive platform would fit with Mazda’s recent indications it intends to move upscale.

The slide also lists 48-volt mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid as bullet points under the large architecture heading, so perhaps the inline-6 will also get those technologies. No mention is made of turbocharging, though we would expect that, too.

Mazda’s Skyactiv-X technology promises diesel-like fuel economy from a gasoline-burning engine, which is no small feat. The inline-4 Skyactiv-X engine launches in Europe next month while the brand holds off on the U.S. for awhile longer. Yet, color us excited for the next SkyActiv-X engine.

—Senior Editor Kirk Bell contributed to this report

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