Mazda has long been known for its challenger spirit and the drive to challenge the world’s largest automakers by creating better vehicles. As part of that challenger spirit Mazda’s engineers also challenge themselves to improve their vehicles every day, even down to the smallest details. There’s a great example of this in the newest SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine, found in the 2017 CX-5 compact crossover SUV. Mazda has implemented several key changes to make this engine more responsive, efficient, refined and even a hair more powerful.
“We’re obsessed with continually increasing fuel economy and also increasing the core Mazda value of Hashiru Yorokobi, or driving pleasure,” said Jay Chen, Mazda powertrain engineer. “The 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine is the one we use the most here in the United States. This is our bread-and-butter engine, so we want to give it the best efficiency.”
To give you an idea of what Mazda engineers are doing, the latest developments include several detail-level improvements over previous engines.
First, there’s a new oil control ring mounted on the pistons. The new ring has an asymmetrical shape that reduces resistance as the piston moves and delivers better performance. The top of the piston is also new, with an innovative stepped shape designed to help eliminate engine knock and optimize how efficiently the fuel combusts in the engine. Finally, Mazda engineers redesigned the bottom skirt of the pistons to reduce engine noise and friction inside the engine.
“From an engineering perspective, what a lot of people don’t realize is that we do take the time to continue to develop and refine our existing engine platforms,” Chen explained. “So even though the end consumer might not realize the value of continued development on the oil control ring, for example, we take the time and energy to put that work into the engine. This improves real-world fuel economy, and that’s a really big factor for us. Our goal is to squeeze every single little bit out of this engine that we can.”
Knowing What You Need
Another way that Chen and his team are improving efficiency happens in the SKYACTIV-DRIVE automatic transmission used in the new CX-5 and throughout Mazda’s product line.
“We’re using predictive technology to help understand the driver’s intentions, to help know what the driver will need in the next few moments,” Chen said. “For example, if we can tell that you’re accelerating on a freeway on-ramp, we know that it’s better to hold the gear until you’ve merged with surrounding traffic. Even if you let off the accelerator for a moment to match speeds, you still need to have that power available.”
By focusing on the details, Mazda has been able to deliver premium performance while still maintaining its prized EPA ranked position as the most fuel-efficient automaker in America every year for the last four years.
“The bigger picture is that we believe we can pull additional efficiency out of the internal combustion engine and that we can still be near the same ‘well-to-wheel’ emissions and consumption levels as a hybrid or even a full EV,” Chen said. “The SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter engine is our first stepping stone towards that overall vision and goal.”