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20th Anniversary Mazda MX-5 Miata

Will be rolled out globally across entire product line by 2015

In May of this year, President Barack Obama proposed a 35.5 mpg nationwide average fuel economy standard that would be achieved by 2016. The average for cars will be raised to 39 mpg, while the average for light trucks will be raised to 30 mpg.

Mazda is currently known for its line of sporty vehicles, but is currently lagging its competitors in fuel economy. To remedy that, the company is implementing a complete redesign of its four-cylinder engines that will see them paired with new small and light six-speed automatic transmissions.

The new direct-injection gasoline engines will have a combination of smaller displacement, higher power output, and greater efficiency. The fuel injector is placed in the combustion chamber of a direct-injection engine, as opposed to the intake valve in a conventional fuel-injected engine. Mazda is also combining its direct-injection engines with a new electric high-pressure fuel pump and variable intake and exhaust valve timing that will allow more optimal combustion in a wider rev range. The company plans to incorporate these developments into its rotary engines.

Seita Kanai, the head of Mazda's R&D department, said that the redesign of Mazda's 2.0 liter four-cylinder engines paired with the new transmissions would result in a fuel economy increase to 32 mpg from 22 mpg in the city. Highway fuel economy would increase to 42 mpg from 32 mpg.

While not confirming the use of dual-clutch technology, Kanai stated that the next-generation automatic transmission would provide the quick, direct shift quality of a double-clutch transmission system. "No slip means there won't be wasteful heat generation," enthused Kanai.

Idle-stop engine cut-off, regenerative braking, electric power steering, and electric water pumps are just some of the technologies also being considered for inclusion in the company's quest for fuel economy. If Mazda does decide to adopt these technologies across its entire production line, economies of scale could enable the company to bring them to market at a lower cost than other vehicle manufacturers. BMW has already implemented many of these technologies in its "EfficientDynamics" program.

Mazda was particularly enthusiastic last year about idle-stop technologies when it talked about its plans last year, but has been forced to scale back its hype. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't account for the technology during its fuel economy testing, which can reduce fuel consumption by up to ten percent. Mazda doesn't want to foot the bill for installing it if it can't market it to consumers.

Weight reduction is also an important component of Mazda's plan. An additional 3-5 mpg could be achieved through the use of lighter structural materials and new bonding technologies. Mazda will also use its single nanotech catalyst, which reduces the need for expensive palladium and platinum in the catalytic converter by 70-90 percent.

There is a catch though to all of the new technologies though. Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Mazda's North American Operations R&D, said that the new powertrains cannot be retrofitted to any of its existing product lines. Therefore, the new engines and transmissions will be incorporated into the company's new models as they are developed and introduced.

The redesigned MX-5 Miata convertible or Mazda5 are the most likely to integrate the new technologies first. The entire model lineup will be equipped with the new engines by 2015.
"We want to provide this technology to all owners, not just through a few eco-friendly vehicles," stated Kanai during a media briefing.

Mazda is also considering bringing new diesel engines to the North American market. However, it does not currently have an automatic transmission for diesel engines.

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Auto transmissions
By randomposter on 8/25/2009 8:53:03 AM , Rating: 2
Mazda is currently known for its line of sporty vehicles ... four-cylinder engines that will see them paired with new small and light six-speed automatic transmissions.

Sporty and auto don't mix.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Brandon Hill on 8/25/2009 8:56:51 AM , Rating: 5
Mercedes SLR...

And would you call a dual-clutch tranny an automatic as well? It is after all computer controlled and can be set into an auto-only mode.

If you include those, you're throwing out "sporty" cars like the Ferrari Enzo/430 Scuderia/etc, Bugatti Veyron, Nissan GTR, Audi R8, and just about any $100,000+ sports car/supercar.

RE: Auto transmissions
By callmeroy on 8/25/2009 9:43:57 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the over all advancements in auto transmission technologies --- just a little more development and you'll be hard pressed to tell any performance edge from a manual and and auto -- except from maybe the most skilled of manual drivers (let's face it speed shifting is a skill not all master, in fact most do horribly bad at).

RE: Auto transmissions
By Emma on 8/25/2009 9:50:21 AM , Rating: 2
There are plenty of twin-clutch auto's that will beat the manual version no matter how fast you are at shifting. They change gears in 100's of a second, transferring torque immediately to the next gear.

RE: Auto transmissions
By BrandtTheMan on 8/25/2009 10:07:20 AM , Rating: 4
I'd much rather have a older sporty car with a regular manual tranny... there's more of a connection between the car and the driver.

RE: Auto transmissions
By axeman1957 on 8/25/2009 10:17:51 AM , Rating: 2
I have always owned a manual, so I agree, but what i think sounds pretty sweet are the cars with a CVT. One gear that can constantly keep you in the power band durring acceleration then gear way down for maintaining speed... can't wait till they get just a bit more reliable

RE: Auto transmissions
By gstrickler on 8/25/2009 12:13:34 PM , Rating: 2
CVTs are very efficient, but they're not great at handling very high torque or power. Honda proved they can handle more torque and power than previously thought, but no one has produced one that can handle the power and torque you're likely to find in a sporty/sports car. Maybe one day, but not now.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Suntan on 8/25/09, Rating: -1
RE: Auto transmissions
By Steve1981 on 8/25/2009 3:56:04 PM , Rating: 2
2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5i: 6 speed is rated for 19/27mpg while the CVT is rated for 23/31mpg.

Nissan Sentra 2.0: 6 speed is rated for 24/31mpg while the CVT is rated for 26/34mpg.

RE: Auto transmissions
By matt0401 on 9/7/2009 2:42:16 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't even know Nissan's run-of-the-mill family cars had optional CVT's available. The Versa, Sentra, and Altima all have CVT options. That's impressive that Nissan would be bold enough to try to market that.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Mojo the Monkey on 8/25/2009 1:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the CVT in the new maxima felt pretty solid/responsive, especially when in the sporty mode or using the shifters. I think it has almost 300hp.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Starcub on 8/26/2009 11:35:23 AM , Rating: 2
The new hybrid busses our county is buying also have CVT transmissions. I imagine their engines generate quite a bit of power and torque.

RE: Auto transmissions
By on 8/27/09, Rating: -1
RE: Auto transmissions
By FITCamaro on 8/25/2009 10:54:16 AM , Rating: 3
Automatics are always still heavier than manuals. And rob more power.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Brandon Hill on 8/25/2009 10:58:41 AM , Rating: 5
If I'm not mistaken, there is no "robbing of power" with dual-clutch trannies and they are almost always faster than their manual counterparts (which is usually why most high-end sports cars come with them).

Now traditional automatics as you say -- that's a different story, especially with weight. However, IIRC, isn't the standard Corvette (base model) faster with an auto than it is with a manual?

RE: Auto transmissions
By inperfectdarkness on 8/26/2009 2:45:06 PM , Rating: 2

but not only that, the c6 mtx corette was compare to an slk350 atx--and the slk was 0.10 sec faster in the 1/4. this, dispite being 150lbs heavier, 50 less hp, and 45 less lbs torque than the corvette.

in fact, all top-level drag racers use atx transmissions. if anyone uses a's most likely a sequential. conventional "H" geared mtx's are woefully mis-suited to the task any more.

don't get me wrong, i can understand why some people like rowing through gears. for me, i'd rather not have to do it while navigating stop & go traffic.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Spuke on 8/26/2009 5:59:36 PM , Rating: 2
but not only that, the c6 mtx corette was compare to an slk350 atx--and the slk was 0.10 sec faster in the 1/4.
Dual clutch trannys are not the same as traditional automatics.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Fireshade on 8/28/2009 9:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
Oh come on, please don't call a dual clutch transmission an automatic transmission. It's still the driver who decides when the thing shifts gear. That hardly qualifies as "automatic".

RE: Auto transmissions
By Finnkc on 8/25/2009 10:14:59 AM , Rating: 2
Race spec sequential gear boxes with automatic clutches are not even close to the same as the traditional automatic transmission in your grandmothers Chevy.

that being said ... it is about controlling the relationship between the engine and the wheels ... heal and toe, match reving, double clutching ... all skills people who drive automatics will never know.

RE: Auto transmissions
By dubldwn on 8/25/2009 12:58:53 PM , Rating: 2
For an engaging and enjoyable drive, I really need a third pedal, "dual clutch" or not.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Jeffk464 on 8/25/2009 11:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
I drive a tractor trailer and am all too familiar with double clutching and manually matching gear speeds(no synchros) and I can tell you it sucks.

RE: Auto transmissions
By tastyratz on 8/25/2009 10:57:30 AM , Rating: 3
We are walking a line here Brandon,
The problem is intelligence. No automatic transmission can ever anticipate a drivers next move fully, they are always reactionary by nature after the driver has already begun. While new transmissions have improved this by more accurate modeling, they will ALWAYS be a step behind. This leaves something to be wanted in the car/driver connection.

While new high end expensive sports cars are often equipped with no holds barred automatic transmissions - the people driving those cars are generally not true race car drivers and rich yuppies who want the race car driver experience. Taylor to your audience and you have a car that can bring 90% of drivers to 90% capacity instead of 10% of drivers to 100% capacity.
While auto transmissions today are faster shifting, etc - they are again still only reactionary. REAL manual transmission cars are much better than that corolla 5 speed - ecu programming (decel fuel cut, etc) and drivetrain weight are largely responsible for generic consumer grade cars and slow shifting.

RE: Auto transmissions
By bldckstark on 8/25/2009 12:34:45 PM , Rating: 3
Many of the people posting here are confusing fast automatic transmissions with dual clutch manuals. A dual clutch transmission is not an automatic transmission. It has a clutch that must be used at starts and stops. Shifting is still done manually by the driver. They are used in the F1 series among others, and high line sports cars such as Ferrari.

A paddle shifting automatic transmission can be very close in shift time to a dual clutch manual, but it still loses power to the hydraulic system required to perform the slip and lockup of the gears. It does not have a clutch, and it has thus far always been slower than a comparable dual clutch manual transmission.

RE: Auto transmissions
By bldckstark on 8/25/2009 12:41:45 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, I decided to re-inform myself on the current state of DCT's and found that I was sadly mis-informed. Please ignore my previous post.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Jeffk464 on 8/26/2009 1:20:13 AM , Rating: 2
True but most cars now lock up the torque converter when not shifting or at least once up to cruising speed. This really cuts down on the inefficiency of autos.

RE: Auto transmissions
By GlobleWarmingisbunk on 8/26/2009 1:22:46 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing can replace the feel a manual transmission. It is the perfect blend of man and machine.

If you include those, you're throwing out "sporty" cars like the Ferrari Enzo/430 Scuderia/etc, Bugatti Veyron, Nissan GTR, Audi R8, and just about any $100,000+ sports car/supercar.

What about:

Koenigsegg CCX, Saleen S7.

RE: Auto transmissions
By Spuke on 8/26/2009 2:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
And would you call a dual-clutch tranny an automatic as well?
Those are not traditional autos (you know torque converter). Those are manual tranys with auto clutches. BTW, the Mercedes "dual clutch" is a traditional auto with a clutch replacing the torque converter.

RE: Auto transmissions
By drycrust on 8/25/2009 2:54:16 PM , Rating: 1
I beg to differ.
For maximum acceleration (which, apart from racing rules, is really the only reason people need a manual transmission in a sports car) the right time to change gear isn't just a matter of getting the engine to the maximum revs, which is what a lot of drivers think, but rather to the point where the torque of the wheels at the next gear is greater than the torque in the current gear. The sports car engine is designed to have maximum torque at high rpm, so getting the engine to a high rpm does give maximum acceleration, but only because that is the way that engine is designed. If the engine isn't designed to give maximum torque at high rpm, and this is common in diesels (and probably in this car as well, since it is using similar technology), then to pushing the engine to maximum revs won't achieve maximum acceleration.
A good auto gearbox computer is able to measure things like engine power output, vehicle load, grip on the road, etc, and to map it against every gear for that speed and acceleration, so it knows not only when to change, but whether to go (in this case, for maximum acceleration) to just the next sequential gear (which is what most drivers think) or to skip one or two gears.

RE: Auto transmissions
By andrinoaa on 8/25/2009 5:09:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think everyone missed the elephant in the room. Mazda plans to role this tech stuff out in 2015. Everyone else has it or will have it next year, doh. Lots of marketing BS.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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