Mazda Executive Interview Leaves RWD Mazda 6 Sedan in Doubt

Will they, or won’t they? That’s the question many observers, enthusiasts, and analysts are asking after reports surfaced of a Mazda executive throwing cold water on the tantalizing notion of a new rear-wheel-drive Mazda 6 sedan powered by a I-6 engine. But what isn’t clear—yet, at least—is whether this hypothetical, BMW-like vehicle is dead in the water, on hold, or only nixed in one market.  

You see, the executive is Joachim Kunz, Senior Management Development & Engineering of Mazda Europe, and speaking to Autocar (the print edition, in the U.K.) he cast ambiguous doubt on the whole notion.

“It would be very nice… to have the FR [front-engine, rear-driven] concept and six-cylinder engine for a Mazda 6 successor or a large sports coupe. We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs,” Kunz said. “This SUV trend is continuing, and even more for Mazda. It’s what’s selling best.” (Quote via CarBuzz, which first spotted it.)

That’s disappointing. You see, we were fairly sure Mazda would do a rear-wheel-drive-based Mazda 6, helping elevate the brand even further upmarket (where it has obviously been headed for a while) and giving it a true rival to those sport-sedan stalwarts, the Germans. As a prestige play, rather than a maneuver for maximum sales, you can see the rationale. And despite an industry-wide push into SUVs, Mazda has kept the 6 interesting, giving it a turbocharged 2.5-liter I-4 and slinky styling right up until it announced the sedan’s death. So, maybe the RWD-based 6 makes some sense, a four-door Miata to teach BMW and Mercedes-Benz the meaning of jinba ittai.

Given Mazda’s high-profile but ill-fated powertrain moves of late—the sad, disappointing tale of the Skyactiv-D neutered by regulations, or the cutting-edge compression-ignition-adjacent Skyactiv-X fizzling out in our market—maybe Mazda’s making a mistake here. But that’s only if you read Kunz’s statement in absolute terms. There’s enough ambiguity there to drive a brand-new CX-60 through. Could Kunz mean the 6 is just on hold? Maybe it’s not coming to Europe but may arrive in other markets? Maybe it got shuffled to the back of the line, sensibly, so Mazda could make some badly needed dollars on SUV sales before resurfacing it later?

Simply put, we don’t know. But we are going to ask, and if Mazda tells us anything substantive, we’ll let you know. We should also point out that if there is indeed a pause, or a cancelation for that matter, in the 6’s future, it’ll mean there will be a gap in the line. The current, aging 6 is set to go out of production at the end of the 2021 model year—once those are gone, that’s it for now. Mazda is a tiny company, and it could be that the math just doesn’t add up to revive the company’s largest sedan as a premium RWD sedan inspired by the Vision Coupe concept. We’re not looking over their accounting books to see if it would pencil out, but as drivers and enthusiasts, we hope it will.  

In the meantime, we should point out that both the RWD-based Large Vehicle Architecture platform and its attendant I-6 gas and Diesel engines are very much alive. The new 2022 Mazda CX-60 may be a Euro-only model, but it closely previews the chassis, powertrain, and design attributes of the larger CX-70 crossover we will be getting. The PHEV model uses the company’s familiar 2.5-liter I-4 gas engine with a 100-kW e-motor and a 17.8-kWh battery, good for a total of 323 horsepower. There are RWD, I-6 and diesel I-6 models on the horizon for Europe. We think a PHEV and a gas I-6 model (with AWD) are likely for our shores.

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