How Will Toyota Benefit From Mazda’s new RWD-Based Platform and Inline-Six Engine?
There are a lot of possibilities on the tableby Robert Moore, on
Toyota has found it quite frugal to partner up with different automakers to keep costs down while delivering amazing cars. If you’ve paid attention to what’s been going on, then I don’t have to tell you about the obvious benefits these partnerships have provided to Toyota over the past few years. I’m talking about, of course, about the Toyota 86 and the Supra, both of which probably wouldn’t exist – at least not at a reasonable price point – without Toyota’s partnership with Subaru and BMW. Now, it looks like Toyota is getting into bed with Mazda in hopes to make use of the brands upcoming RWD platform and new inline-six engine. But, what does this actually mean for Toyota? Will such a partnership lead to an all-new Toyota sports car? Could it lead to the rumored and highly-desired rebirth of the Toyota MR2 name? Or, will this partnership birth a Mazda-powered Lexus IS a little further down the road? This partnership could lead to any number of outcomes, and I’m going to explore what some of them might be.
The Story Behind Mazda’s New RWD Platform and Toyota’s Involvement
Before I get into the potential outcomes brought forth by a partnership between Toyota and Mazda, I should probably enlighten you a bit about how we got to the point.
Back in May of 2019, news of Mazda developing a new inline-six and RWD platform became the controversial subject of water cooler talk between journalists from all over the world. After all, some believe it’s risky to develop an all-new engine with relatively high displacement in a world where emissions regulations are getting stricter by the day as are the taxes we’re forced to pay when we own cars with larger engines continue to climb.
Plus, it will be offered in diesel and gasoline form, which raises concern even more given the continuous crackdown on diesel fuel usage in some European countries.
These concerns are really a conversation for another time, though, as there is more to this story than meets the eye.
It’s been said that Mazda’s new inline-six engine will be designed with longitudinal mounting in mind, all thanks to that new RWD-based platform. The platform and engine combination will allow Mazda to offer AWD and a 48-Volt mild-hybrid system, the latter of which may be the key to making the all-new inline-six engine possible in terms of emission and fuel-economy regulations. What does all of this have to do with Toyota, though?
Up until this point, Toyota’s involvement with Mazda in developing this new RWD-based platform or inline-six engine has been highly speculative at best. A new report from Best Car in Japan has said that Toyota, Lexus, and Mazda will share both the new platform and inline-six engine. And, when you factor in the news that Mazda and Toyota are teaming up on that new factory in Huntsville, AL, things start to tie in together.
That plant will be used to built Toyota Corollas and a new crossover, the latter of which could be the first fruit of joint relations between Toyota and Mazda.
For what’s its worth, Toyota and Mazda have had a love affair before – back when they built the Scion/Toyota iA and the Mazda 2.
What Will Mazda Do with the New RWD Platform and Inline-Six Engine?
As far as Mazda is concerned, there are two possibilities for what this new platform and engine combo could lead to, at least in the short term. We know that they will both be put into service for that new crossover that is being built in Alabama, but where else could Mazda go with this?
Well, it could be used to underpin the next-gen Mazda6, or Mazda could build an all-new yet supplemental premium sedan.
Then again, maybe Mazda is looking to create a new sports car as well. We would all love that. Mazda’s plans aside, what we’re really interested in is what Toyota might get out of this whole partnership, and there are some possibilities that you don’t want to miss.
Mazda’s New RWD Platform Could Underpin the Next-Gen Toyota Land Cruiser or the Next-Gen 4 Runner
A quick run-down of Toyota’s lineup tells us two things. First; Toyota has a bad habit of letting its SUVs live much longer than they should and, second, that SUV being built in Alabama won’t be an all-new model to the lineup but a replacement for one of its withstanding models. Right away, you can rule out a next-gen Toyota CH-R as it’s only been on the market for a couple of years. The Toyota RAV4 was just revamped in 2018, and the Toyota Highland saw a major update in 2019.
A next-gen RAV4 or Highlander won’t be due until at least 2025 at Toyota’s current rate of evolution, so scratch them off the list for now too.
That leaves us with three potential models: The Toyota Sequoia, Land Cruiser, and 4Runner. The current Sequoia and Land Cruiser trace their roots back to 2007, and the 4Runner went through its last generational shift in 2009. Clearly, they all need an update, but which will roll off the Mazda-Toyota line in Alabama? Well, you can rule out the Sequoia right away. Sure, it’s the oldest of the crop, but it’s traditionally been based on the Tundra, and Toyota knows better than to deviate from that recipe. So, it will end up being the next-gen Land Cruiser or the next-gen 4Runner.
Since we know that Mazda is planning to use this platform to support the next-gen Mazda 6, which has a wheelbase similar to that of the Land Cruiser (111.4-inches and 112.2-inches, respectively), then our money is on the next-gen Land Cruiser. There is one turd in the punch bowl, though. See, the Land Cruiser, aside from the 1GR-FE V-6, is usually found with a 4.6-, 4.7-, or 5.7-liter V-8.
As such, Mazda’s new inline-six would have to be able to provide similar power and torque output to actually be feasible here.
So, if it can’t match the capability of Toyota’s withstanding V-8s, then that new SUV coming out of Alabama could actually be the next-gen 4Runner which has been issued with either a 2.7-liter four-banger or, more dominantly, a 4.0-liter V-6. Keeping that in mind, maybe the 4Runner is the more likely candidate after all.
The Mazda-Toyota Partnership Could Lead to the Rebirth of the Toyota MR2 or the Toyota Celica
I know, this sounds absolutely crazy, but it’s still possible that this Mazda-Toyota collaboration could rebirth the MR2 or Celica name.
After all, it has been said that Toyota wants to bring the three brothers back to the Toyota lineup. We would love to see Toyota offer the Supra, Celica, and MR2 again but, if this partnership does rebirth either name, there will be one hell of a caveat included.
Both the Toyota Celica and the MR2 met their demise around the same time in the mid-2000s, just a few years after the Supra was discontinued globally in 2002 (it was sold in Japan from 97 to 2002 despite being discontinued elsewhere in 1998). The thing is, both cars were extremely underpowered compared to the Supra, and if either will come back to life, Toyota might have to flip around the original hierarchy. So, let’s look at the numbers.
The most powerful Supra prior to discontinuation was the European model that offered up 326 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque through 1998. Japan’s model that was sold from 1997 to 2002 offered up just 276 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The MR2, on the other hand, was the smallest of the three and only offered up 138 horsepower and 126 pound-feet at the time of its discontinuation. The Celica wasn’t much better, offering somewhere between 140 and 188 horsepower, depending on the market and trim at the time of its discontinuation. The new Supra offers 335 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque from its BMW-derived inline-six and is rather compact itself. Toyota simply can’t have three small sports cars with similar power outputs, and Mazda’s new inline-six will likely come close to the Supra’s output and may even exceed it.
I guess it doesn’t look good for the MR2 or Celica name, right? Wrong. Toyota has a couple of options here.
First, Toyota could use the Celica or MR2 name on a larger vehicle that could be even more powerful than the supra.
The MR2 could, in theory, be slightly smaller than the Supra and have a detuned version of Mazda’s new inline-six. As long as it is sold exclusively as a roadster as overhead is kept low thanks for the collaboration between Mazda and Toyota, it could actually work. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. If either name comes back, the more likely scenario is that Toyota will use a shortened version of Mazda’s new RWD-based platform to underpin a new MR2 and simply use a different engine. Yeah; Toyota has generally kept the engines that came along with borrowed platforms, but it doesn’t have to.
The Toyota-Mazda Partnership Will Probably Yield the Next-Gen Lexus IS
I know what you’re thinking – Lexus just revamped the third-gen IS in 2016, and a next-gen model right now wouldn’t make sense.
Rumors even say that the next-gen IS will migrate to Toyotas TNGA platform which should disqualify it from the running altogether, but what if it doesn’t?
What if this partnership allows Lexus to extend production of the current IS and skip moving it to the TNGA platform altogether? Think about it; Mazda’s new RWD-based platform will underpin the next-gen Mazda6, and the size of the IS means it’s a good fit for Mazda’s new platform too. For this to work, however, the current IS will have to last until at least 2021 with the next-gen model – which will rock Mazda’s new platform and inline-six – hitting showrooms for the 2022 model year. This would save Toyota and Lexus a lot of money in terms of development, it would give the IS a fresh source of power and, probably, better handling characteristics.
Lexus Could Offer a New Coupe That Slots Between the Lexus RC and Lexus LC
Lexus could, in fact, extend its offering by dropping a third performance coupe into its lineup. The Lexus RC currently starts out at $41,145 while the larger LC and it’s 471-horsepower V-8 strikes the wallet for more than $92,000.
Sure, placing something in the middle in terms of power is a little difficult, but Lexus could offer something that starts out around $50,000.
It couldn’t go much above that as the RC F starts out around $64,000 with a 472-horsepower V-8, but a $53,000, 380-horsepower coupe that slots in the middle would be very ideal to some and it’s very doable with Mazda’s new RWD-based platform and inline-six. Plus, Lexus could offer it with AWD and make use of the mild-hybrid system as well. Again, it’s kind of a long shot as that’s a rather small gap to fill, but there could be a market for it.
If the Mazda-Toyota Partnership Yields a next-gen Lexus IS, the Next-Gen RC Coupe Won’t be Far Behind
In case you didn’t realize it, the Lexus IS and Lexus RC Coupe actually share some of the same DNA.
So, if the Toyota-Mazda partnership leads to a new Mazda-based Lexus IS then, by 2023 or so, a Mazda-based Lexus RC Coupe will also hit showrooms.
The base model would likely make use of the same inline-six engine that will land in the next-gen Lexus IS and Mazda6, but Lexus will rework its V-8 to fit on Mazda’s new platform for the next-gen RC F. Mazda’s new inline-six will be capable of producing some good power, but hoping that it will be able to match the current RC F’s 472 horsepower is a stretch. Then again, that inline-six and a mild-hybrid system could mean that the next-gen RC F won’t be offered with a V-8 at all.
Why Does Toyota Keep Partnering Up With Other Automakers
The truth is that designing a new car isn’t cheap and, when it comes to niche cars like the Toyota 86 or Toyota Supra, partnering up and sharing costs only makes sense.
If Toyota didn’t, both the Supra and the 86 would be far beyond the affordable range for their caliber. That’s why the Supra is based on the Z4 and why the next-gen Toyota 86 will be built in collaboration with Subaru. And, you can expect more of this to happen in the future, especially if the MR2 and Celica do come back to life. Basically, any new model from Toyota that won’t fit on the TNGA platform will be built in partnership with another automaker. It’s a good thing, though, because it opens the door to some big possibilities.
Toyota fanboys want the MR2 back while Honda guys want the S2000 to make a comeback. Well, since Toyota willingly partners up these days, a Honda-Toyota collaboration to bring these two mini sports cars back to life isn’t exactly out of the question. I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath, but with two automakers working together, it just might be possible.
Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Supra.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Toyota MR2.
Read our full review on the 2000 - 2005 Toyota Celica.
Read our full review on the 2018 Mazda 6.
Read our full review on the 2018 Lexus IS.
Read our full review on the 2019 Lexus RC.
Read our full review on the 2019 Lexus LC.