Earlier this week we brought you a preview of Mazda's SKYACTIV technologies which will be entering the Mazda lineup over the next few years. One big question remains, how will the Mazda SKYACTIV vehicle drive?
During our time with Mazda in Vancouver we were able to get some seat time in some early development SKYACTIV prototypes, as well as Mazda’s current vehicle offerings on the famed Sea to Sky highway.
Click the jump to see what our first impressions on SKYACTIV were.
Mazda brought four right hand drive prototype vehicles to Vancouver valued at approximately one million dollars each. These vehicles featured all of the SKYACTIV technologies including the different engine and transmission combinations that will be available to the public. I’m not going to lie, it took us a few minutes to get use to the right hand drive configuration but we soon got the hang of it.
First we had the chance to drive the SKYACTIV-G prototype and compared it to the current Mazda 6 sedan. First thing we noticed is that the SKYACTIV-G 2.0 liter gasoline engine has more torque and more pep over the current generation 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine. We were impressed with the SKYACTIV-G engine but wonder what it would be like to drive in the upcoming 2012 Mazda 3 SKYACTIV.
The new 6-speed transmission is vastly improved over the current 5-speed automatic. The SKYACTIV 6-speed automatic features quick smooth shifts. When in manual mode, the downshifts become lightning quick allowing you to get the most out of the vehicle. Compared to the current generation 5-speed automatic transmission, we noticed that the new SKYACTIV transmission had very minimal power loss. When you first depress the accelerator with the new 6-speed automatic the rpms match the speed you are traveling. The new manual transmission really shows that the engineers benchmarked the Mazda MX-5, as the throws are really short and precise.
SKYACTIV body and chassis changes were difficult to detect on these SKYACTIV prototype vehicles. One noticeable change that we detected is the increased steering feel over the current Mazda 6. The SKYACTIV prototype had excellent steering which was precise and direct with the right amount of weight. This allowed us to feel more of the road. After our drive in the prototype an engineer told us that Mazda has not performed final calibration on the steering system and could have even more feeling for the driver.
Mazda also brought two SKYACTIV diesel prototypes to Vancouver. The diesel engine really showcases Mazda’s engineering capabilities and we quickly fell in love with this motor. The engine feels almost car-like with a 5200 rpm redline. One aspect that we love is the power delivery of this diesel motor. Torque is produced right from 0 rpm all the way to the 5200 rpm redline. On the twisty Sea to Sky highway the torque was welcomed as we could put the prototype through its paces. It did not matter what gear you selected, the SKYACTIV diesel engine always had ample torque. We also had a chance to compare the new diesel engine to the current diesel offered in Europe and noticed substantial gains. Mazda will introduce this motor next year, and it will definitely be worth the wait.
SKYACTIV technology is still in the early stages of development. Although we cannot comment on the final product, driving these early SKYACTIV Prototypes makes us think that Mazda might have a winning formula here while also keeping true to their Zoom Zoom heritage. The first vehicle with all of the SKYACTIV technologies will be the new CX-5 compact SUV, which will be debuting in Frankfurt this fall.
Click here to view the Gallery of the SKYACTIV Mazda’s we drove.