Remember back in the day when rotary RX Mazdas and turbocharged Mazdaspeed motors were a big deal? Those were glorious times, filled with crazy top-mount intercoolers, boatloads of boost, and heat-soak that can only be summed up by using the words “RX-7″ and “twin-turbo.” Granted, while these vehicles were fun to drive, they were by no means perfect, and I’ve met quite a few Mazda enthusiasts who lament all headaches associated with keeping these machines running right. Despite this, the people who still own and drive forced induction Mazdas really love them, and from the looks of things Japan’s quirky underdog might be gearing up for another round of turbocharged insanity sooner than later.
Code-named “MZ-2.0T,” the race-spec engine in the Prototype cars seen here owes its name entirely to its configuration, as “MZ” refers to Mazda, “2.0″ references its two-liter displacement capacity, and the “T” represents the Garret turbocharger that makes it all go. Arranged with an inline four-cylinder layout, this new motor is built upon a foundation set by the “MZR-R,” a potent powerplant that was co-developed by Mazda and Advanced Engine Research Ltd. (AER) back in 2006. Fortunately for us, the relationship between these two companies has remained strong, and 10 years later Mazda continues to work closely with AER on both the current version of the MZR-R engine, which powers the entire field in the increasingly popular Indy Lights series, and the new motor.
John Doonan, Director for Mazda Motorsports of North America, discussed the newly developed MZ-2.0T powertrain in a press release earlier this month, highlighting what many feel will be the ultimate engine ever to bear the Mazda badge.
“We gained immense knowledge from three years of racing a stock-block diesel engine. That knowledge will improve the next generation of Mazda diesel engines,” Doonan explains. “But, with the impending rules changes in 2017 [which won’t allow a diesel-fueled option], a purpose-built racing engine was our best choice to reach our long-term goals and contend for race wins and championships.”
After extensive testing, the MZ-2.0T engine not only proved to be extremely fast, but surprisingly reliable as well. Jonathan Bomarito, a key driver for the Mazda Prototype team, further elaborated on his experience behind the wheel: “The drivability of the engine is incredible. The first thing you notice is how smooth the power is delivered in every gear through the RPM range. There is great low-end torque with zero turbo-lag, which is very impressive. All race tracks are different and the gearing is never perfect for every corner, so having an engine where you can short-shift or stretch a gear longer is very important. The MZ-2.0T does this easily.”
Marcus Shen, Mazda’s Chief Engineer for the Prototype team, says the MZ-2.0T has “transformed everything,” and believes “the engine has improved every aspect” of the team’s overall performance. “A gasoline, direct-injected engine – like many of the Mazda passenger cars – helps with the horsepower and throttle response and yet still produces great fuel economy,” Shen explains. These are encouraging words to hear, even if they’re about vehicles that none of us will ever be able to drive or own; because eventually, this technology could make its way into future Mazda production models.
It’s pretty remarkable stuff, especially considering that a lot of the technology found in the average Mazda passenger car is getting cross-threaded with full-blown race technology. According to Mazda, the MZ-2.0T creates roughly 285 horsepower per-liter, or 570 horsepower total, a considerably higher output than the 110 horsepower per-liter numbers found in 5.5-liter V8 Daytona Prototype engines, which tend to be heavy and unwieldy at times.
But the only issue we see now is how long will it take for this technology to “recycle” all this back into the mainstream, offering Mazda lovers the triumphant return to the force-fed engines that they’ve been craving. The RX-Vision concept is out of the question, as Mazda announced last fall that it will get a rotary engine, a very appropriate move, as that’s what those machines were bred to bare beneath their bonnets anyways.
This leaves us with the potential return of a Mazdaspeed hatch, and virtually any other worthy platform that needs a swift kick in the pants. Naturally, a street legal version of the MZ-2.0T motor would be considerably de-tuned to meet emissions and noise restrictions, but if Mazda can keep it anywhere between the 300-400 horsepower mark, you bet your sweet ass people would be jumping for joy. Personally, we’d love to see the MX-5 Miata get a MZ-2.0T motor option, along with the aforementioned Mazdaspeed, or perhaps even a CX-3 model in order to give the automaker a chance to compete with the forthcoming Honda Civic Type-R and the Focus RS.
It’d also be great to see the triumphant return of the Mazdaspeed 6, a sport sedan that was only released for two years, and was way more of a contender than one might think. Rocking the rear differential out of the RX-8, a 2.3-liter, 274 horsepower turbocharged engine, and a series of all-wheel drive settings that could be adjusted for normal, sport, or snow settings, this unassuming ass-kicker is a car that Mazda fans would love to see make a triumphant return. If Mazda turbocharges the Mazda 6 (something it desperately needs anyway), pairs it with its six-speed manual, and resurrects a number of other features from its performance car past, you better believe it’ll have our undivided attention. Who knows, maybe there will be a lot more “Zoom-Zoom” in the future after all…