Earlier in April, Toyota announced that it has performed the last rites for the Toyota Mark X. The world paid its respect, and grumbled that yet another rear-wheel drive sedan is bowing out as consumers migrate towards crossovers and SUVs. The enthusiast driver is a dying breed.
The Mark X was predominantly sold in Japan, although it’s also available in small markets like Hong Kong. Despite being not officially sold here, the Mark X nameplate is familiar among enthusiasts as many units found their way to Malaysia via grey imports.
The Mark X was also sold in China as the Reiz. It’s best known as the preeminent Japanese sports sedan and the Mark GRMN was also available with a 6-speed manual, mechanical parking brake included.
Now, it seems that the Mark X is merely taking a temporary leave of absence. The rumour mill in Japan is churning strongly, with several sources suggesting that Toyota will return to the segment with Mazda’s assistance.
Recall earlier in May this year when Mazda announced that it is investing into a platform for a large, rear-wheel drive sedan powered by an inline six-cylinder engine – available in both as a petrol and diesel. The latter suggests that sales in Europe are part of the plan.
Prior to the announcement, Mazda has already previewed the Vision Coupe sedan concept, which we have confirmed to be rear-wheel driven.
The keen driver in us rejoiced but at the same time, we also wondered how Mazda is going to pull it off. It has been fairly well understood that sedan buyers are diminishing while SUVs/crossovers are gaining in popularity. Apart from the minority of keen drivers, most consumers don’t care if their vehicle is front- or rear-wheel driven.
The latest rumour suggests Toyota is the answer. Mazda will co-develop the sedan with Toyota, thus spreading the cost over a wider base and increasing the chances of the project’s commercial viability.
Over the last five years, Toyota and Mazda have forged closer alliance and both companies’ now cross-own shares in each other’s company.
The longitudinal Mazda engine in question is rumoured to be a 3.0-litre six-cylinder but a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (most certainly with SkyActiv-X technology) will also be available, also driving the rear wheels. An all-wheel drive variant will also be offered.
While the both companies will share the same mechanicals and underpinnings, each car will have its own distinct styling. Not just that, the two brands will have their own distinct interior, thus avoiding the same result as the BMW Z4/Toyota Supra project.
As both Toyota and Mazda share the same Japanese heritage, the working relationship should be easier than Toyota’s experience with BMW.
The rumour also says that the partnership could be extended to the Lexus IS and RC. Mazda’s intentions to move upmarket have been well publicised and a Mazda-Toyota co-developed Lexus IS could give Mazda the entry point to the premium segment.
The co-developed Lexus RC might also finally allow Mazda to realise its dream of making a successor to the Mazda RX-7/RX-8, last previewed as the Mazda RX Vision.
The BMW 3 Series rivalling Lexus IS is overdue for a replacement while the Lexus RC competes in a segment that’s fast becoming unprofitable, just like sedans.
BMW has discontinued the 6 Series and repositioned its successor, the 8 Series to be closer to a Porsche 911. Audi has culled its R8 and TT and the future of the A6 Coupe doesn’t look promising. The E-Class Coupe will continue until this generation ends but beyond that, it's hard to say.
Where the Germans are giving up on engines and exiting the small enthusiast cars market to focus on electric and driverless cars, President Akio Toyoda and the band of non-conformist keen drivers at Mazda will continue to fly the flag for the minority of enthusiast drivers. The next decade will be an interesting one.
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