Motor Trend has already tested the new Focus ST against the MazdaSpeed3… and the ST won. But car buying is more than just numbers or styling – the unanswered question until you buy and begin to live with it is what the car would be like in ownership. Day-to-day driving, bad traffic, the occasional blasts down back country roads, cruising down the highway or even squirting the car from stoplight to stoplight. That’s the part that magazines almost never cover.
If you decide you can live with the styling of the Mazda3 family, you can certainly live with the engine and transmission. The engine is a nearly state-of-the-art turbocharged and direct injected 2.3 liter engine. You might literally say that the MazdaSpeed 2.3 was an EcoBoost engine before there was a Ford EcoBoost family. Not only is the engine a Ford engine design underneath, Ford owned the majority of Mazda when the engine was originally developed. But the biggest problem is torque steer, wildly absurd torque steer. In a chassis that was obviously never designed for this engine. Can you live with it… and if you choose the next-gen version of this same chassis – the Focus ST, can you live with the diminished torque steer that is still present in that car (and to one large degree or another, all front wheel drive cars?). Motor Trend set out to compare the two.
Yes, the older design looses again, and badly. We know that a new Mazda3 is coming very soon, spy pictures have shown a similarly sized vehicle being tested and we also know that the chassis is all-new. What we don’t know is if a MazdaSpeed engine will even be offered, and what we won’t be able to find out until that question is answered and a MazdaSpeed3 is delivered is if Mazda will tame some of it’s likely torque steer.
And, just in case Mazda decides not to offer such an engine again, here’s a link to our high-res image of the MazdaSpeed3 engine. Click on the image!
Follow this link to see how a 2009 MazdaSpeed3 achieved >500 horsepower on pump gas, using meth injection, a FP HTA3582R, and Cobb Tuning AccessPORT tuning.
Our reaction? Incredible… and this is likely the record so far. Of course, don’t even think about the torque steer – much less traction. This is where AWD would be necessary to make this streetable. But this is a great achievement… and look at the nice spread between the torque peak and the HP peak. The factory MazdaSpeed3 (or MazdaSpeed6, which we once owned) drops dead at just under 6k. This would be a nicely flexible engine for the street, keeping the revs in the range of 4k to 7k.
The first spy pics of the new MazdaSpeed3 have appeared – and as a bonus to potential buyers it’s being tested at the Nurburgring. The previous car wasn’t tested there, and as you know the track punishes cars thoroughly. Which is a good thing: testing under these types of conditions yields a car that will handily survive the rigors of daily driving for a lot of miles or track events in high-heat conditions (such as here in Texas).
Rumors abound as to the powerplant… some folks are assuming that the Ford of Europe Escort 2.5 liter 5-cylinder DOHC turbo engine will be used. This may be a misinterpretation… note that the existing Mazda 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine has been moved up to 2.5 liters. More important is the question of whether the Escorts trick RevoKnuckle will be used. Remember that the Escort and Mazda3 are the same car underneath. And that the RevoKnuckle would go a long way to eliminating most of the torque steer the current MazdaSpeed3 is infamous for.
Interesting pictures from AutoBlog: note the larger wheels and tires, the dual exhaust, and the much needed larger brakes. The brakes are especially a weak point in the current MazdaSpeed3. Another weak point is the top-mounted intercooler… sitting on top of the engine subjects it to extreme heat soak. Mazda has mitigated the problem this time out by adding a very large air scoop before the intercooler. That’s not the ultimate fix, nothing beats a front-mount intercooler – although that would make it considerably more difficult to survive crash damage and the Federal Gov’t has standards covering requirements in that area.
Apparently the car is still FWD, which is a problem. Ford and Mazda both have the hardware to get around that problem but are apparently not using it. The AWD MazdaSpeed6, for the short period of time it was in production, was the high-water mark for Mazda drivetrain sophistication.
Follow the link in the title of this post to Autoblog.com for more info.
Full official pics and specs will be available next week after announcement at Frankfurt.
There is some question as to which V-6 will be used… a variation on the current 3 liter (enhanced by Mazda), or the new corporate 3.5? I’ll add a note that the CX-9 switches to a 3.7 liter variant for 2008. That may be the V-6 to be used across the line…?
There is also a 6-speed manual available on the high-end models! With between 265 HP (3.5) and 275 (3.7) HP available, this eclipses at least one facet of the earlier MazdaSpeed6 models.
According to AutoWeek (8/21/2007), the MX-5 “Miata” will finally get the MazdaSpeed 2.3 liter turbo engine next year!
The MazdaSpeed3 configuration of this engine is shown to the right (click on the link for a super high-res image). Of course the intercooler would have to be moved and some other plumbing would change. The HP and torque ratings could go up or down depending on these changes; it is known that a 300 HP version has been built for the future MazdaSpeed6 featuring a slightly larger turbo. Even without it, the HP and torque of the Miata could go up by 100 each.
The new Miata has an excellent suspension that will easily be up to the power increase. A little firmer tuning (or by providing the sport suspension as standard) and some additional negative camber up front would be desirable. To learn more about how the Miata is built, take our extensive cutaway tour of the Miata here: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?page_id=6524
Before moving to the high-powered turbo (and very light weight) Miata, it’d be a good idea to visit Skip Barber: http://www.skipbarber.com/racing_school/racing_school.aspx The school would also be useful for S2000 or Solstice/Sky owners because of the similarities between the three cars.
Now let’s discuss the competition:
- The Solstice/Sky will get an increase in power, add a 6-speed manual, and offer an optional fixed to couple configuration in the 2009-2010 timeframe. The 6-speed has already been shown by Pontiac; the increase in power has already been discussed (the engine is certainly capable of more), and the coupe has already been announced. Hopefully, the terrible ergonomics of the car will improve int he same timeframe as well.
- The Honda S2000 soldiers on pretty much as is for probably 2 years more. The CR model is new for 2008, although it will be in very limited release (~1400/yr) and most dealers probably won’t have one. An eventual all-new S2000 has been discussed and is believed to be closer to a Miata competitor. Look for a 200 HP K engine to be the likely standard engine – it’s mass-produced and will go a long way towards reducing the cost of the car (versus the current hand-built engine). If we’re lucky, the Acura turbo 2.3 will be an option, enabling the car to compete one-for-one with the MazdaSpeed Miata and Solstice/Sky. If we’re not, the car will be relegated to a secretary special, like the current Miata. It’s hard to believe Honda could leave the S2000 at that.
According to today’s press release from Mazda:
- The MazdaSpeed6 has been discontinued for 2008.
- The MazdaSpeed3 is unchanged for 2008.
The Mazda6 Sport Wagon is also cancelled for 2008.
Note that it’s well known that a newly redesigned Mazda6 is coming very soon, so it’s typical that the line has been simplified at the last moment. The all-new 6 may come out in the spring of 2008. We’ll probably know in January.
There isn’t much out there yet for this 5k/year car… but experience is being built up and very slowly parts are arriving. Just released: Brembos.
We can’t see tracking this car, except as a substitute for your usual track car on rain weekends, but it would clearly make a great daily driver if you wanted a small car with lots of carrying room. The seats are great, too – it would make a good travelling car.
MZR 2.3-liter engine
Mazda engineers have taken all the knowledge they have learned about 4-cylinder engines over the decades and applied it to the new corporate MZR 2.3-liter engine. Presently this engine is the range-topper powerplant in the MAZDA3, and is also used in the MAZDA6 i and in slightly modified form in the 2005 Tribute i. This engine has all the goodies, starting with all aluminum-alloy, deep skirt construction, DOHC head, Variable Induction System, lightweight pistons and connecting rods. The MZR 2.3 runs exceptionally smooth, even at high rpm with dual balance shafts, and passenger car versions gets an additional power boost with variable valve timing. In this form, the engine is good for all 50 states with 160 hp @ 6500 and a peak torque of 150 @ 4500 rpm.
The MZR 2.3 features a precision gravity sand-cast cylinder block of high-grade aluminum alloy with cast-iron cylinder sleeves cast directly into the block ensuring a tight seal between the cylinder block and cylinder head. An aluminum alloy, ribbed ladder frame construction, mates with the cylinder block for optimized stiffness.
Variable Induction System (VIS)
The VIS is based on using the power of resonant frequency, to push the air fuel mixture into the combustion chamber. Resonant frequency occurs when a wavelength matches the length of a closed area. It is the fundamental principal behind the trombone and any other brass instrument. Guitar players recognize the effect as string