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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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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.

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