Mazda Bets Big On Diesel With The All-New 2014 Mazda 6 – Forbes

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mazda Bets Big On Diesel With The All-New 2014 Mazda 6 – Forbes
Mazda 6

Mazda Bets Big On Diesel With The All-New 2014 Mazda 6

2014 Mazda 6 (Credit: Mazda)

While most other automakers are pursuing hybrids and electric vehicles as the way to a more fuel-efficient future, Mazda is focusing on diesel technology. It’s a critical decision as the Japanese automaker works to transform itself from an underdog into a market leader.

The company announced at the L.A. Auto Show that the U.S. version of its Mazda 6 midsize sedan, which got a major redesign for the 2014 model year, will offer a new four-cylinder diesel engine, in addition to a conventional four-cylinder gasoline engine.

Though Mazda was upstaged in L.A. by all the hype around Honda’s new Accord Plug-In Hybrid and electric cars from BMW, Chevrolet and Fiat, offering a diesel engine in the Mazda 6 marks a significant milestone for the company. The previous version of the Mazda 6 did not give U.S. buyers a diesel option, and the 2014 model will be one of only two midsize sedans available with a diesel engine stateside, the other being the Volkswagen Passat.

Mazda is so confident in its diesel technology that it will race a version of the diesel-powered Mazda 6 capable of making more than 400 horsepower in the Grand-Am Road Racing series next year, starting in January. The car will compete in the newly created GX class.

Mazda has not said how much power the consumer version of the new diesel four-cylinder will generate. But it did say that the engine is 10 percent lighter than a 2.2-liter diesel engine currently sold in markets outside the U.S. and that it runs clean enough not to require complicated exhaust treatments to meet emissions regulations.

Though Mazda is not offering a hybrid version of the new 6 sedan, it is including some fuel-saving technology that is unlike anything currently available. A regenerative braking system it calls i-ELOOP, which stands for Intelligent Energy Loop, uses a capacitor to gather and store kinetic energy generated while braking and decelerating.

Current regenerative braking systems use an alternator or electric motor connected to a battery pack. By using a capacitor instead, Mazda saves weight and space and, unlike a battery, it can charge and discharge instantly without deteriorating during prolonged use.

The capacitor will power electrical components such as the air conditioning and stereo, which are normally powered by an alternator connected to the engine. Mazda says it expects i-ELOOP will improve fuel economy, but how much depends on road conditions and driving habits.

Mazda 6

Even without the fancy technology, the stylish new Mazda 6 is appealing. It has a more premium look and feel than the model it replaces, as discussed in more detail here. The gas-powered version, which makes 189 hp, goes on sale in January with the diesel following midyear. Both will be front-wheel drive.

Pricing has not been announced.

The redesigned Mazda 6 made its debut at the Moscow International Motor Show in August, but the L.A. Auto Show marks its first appearance in the United States.

2014 Mazda 6 (Credit: Mazda)

It competes with midsize sedans such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion. Honda Accord. Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima. Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.

But the Passat is the only competitor with a diesel engine, which represents about a fifth of its sales.

Diesels and hybrids make up a very small percentage of U.S. auto sales, but their popularity is on the rise. In the first half, diesel sales increased roughly 28 percent over the same period last year, and hybrid sales increased nearly 64 percent, according to data from the Diesel Technology Forum. That compares with a 15 percent increase in overall car sales during that period.

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