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April 8, 2023

Why Did Mazda Opt For A 3.3-liter Inline-6 In The CX-60?

When Mazda first unveiled the CX-60 SUV last year, some eyebrows were raised particularly when it comes to its engine. In a world of downsized four- or even three-cylinder engines, why did the carmaker opt to go for a 3.3-liter inline-6?

Naohito Saga, Mazda’s General Manager of product strategy division answers that by going back to the carmaker’s Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 plan first announced in 2017.

As a refresher, the Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 plan is their long-term vision that aims to solve issues facing the earth, people, and society all while creating vehicles with a singular goal: offer the joy of driving.

One of the goals announced in the plan was the reduction of carbon emissions—about 50 percent compared to Mazda’s 2010 figures by 2030, and a 90 percent reduction by 2050. And unlike other carmakers who’re focused mainly on reducing tailpipe emissions, Mazda is looking to reduce its emissions from a “Well to Wheel” or Life Cycle Assessment perspective. This means that the entirety of the vehicle from sourcing of raw materials to its eventual disposal must be considered.

Since Mazda does business in over 130 countries, the company realizes that regulations, policies, power generation methods, and charging infrastructure conditions vary greatly. This led them to adopt a multi-solution approach offering everything from fuel efficient conventional combustion engine models to pure EVs. The development of the Large Product Group, where the CX-60 belongs to, is part of Phase 2.

Whereas the Small Product Group which includes the Mazda3 and CX-30 employs a 24-volt mild-hybrid system, Mazda has gone with a 48-volt mild hybrid setup for the Large Product Group. In general, a 48-volt system uses half as much current to get the same power allowing it to be more efficient and recuperate energy faster.

Connected to the 48-volt mild-hybrid system is the CX-60’s pièce de resistance: a 3.3-liter inline-6 in both gasoline and diesel variants. Now, Saga-san understands that most people would focus on the large displacement and six-cylinder nature of the engine; a worry especially when you’re after fuel economy. However, he explains that it’s the result of “right sizing.”

In coming up with this engine displacement, the team answered one basic question: how can fuel be burned most efficiently? In their tests, Mazda found out that fuel consumption is very good when an engine is running at peak torque with low strain.

The results speak for themselves: the CX-60 is capable of returning 13.51 km/L on a combined city/highway cycle—identical to the non-turbo Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport. On the other hand, the 3.3-liter turbo diesel is no less impressive with a combined fuel economy figure of 20.4 km/L. For those who’re concerned about performance, the gasoline variant does the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 6.9 seconds, while the diesel does it at 7.3 seconds.

And when viewed from a Well to Wheel perspective, the CX-60 emits about 36.3 tons of CO2 emissions assuming a total travelled distance of 240,000 kilometers or a 16-year lifespan; at par with the Nissan Leaf’s emissions and besting the Subaru Outback’s 70.3 tons. Even on a per kilometer basis, the CX-60 emits 151 g/km compared to the Outback’s 293 g/km and the Leaf’s 153 g/km!

Saga-san has reiterated that Mazda has been focusing on improving the fuel efficiency of the combustion engine more than 30 years ago when they first introduced the Mazda Millenia and its Miller Cycle engine. Of course, in 2011, when Skyactiv was first introduced, it helped them realize the joy of driving in a sustainable world. Their new family of 6-cylinder engines is an extension of that effort, and is their unique answer as they continue to pursue the perfection of the combustion engine.


  1. Does a mild hybrid system work? Why Mazda isn't going the route of BEVs yet?

    1. Basically, a mild hybrid can't propel a vehicle on electric power alone. It merely provides an electric boost, typically when the internal combustion engine is at its most inefficient. It uses an ISG or integrated starter generator to recapture kinetic energy during braking or deceleration and stores it in a lithium-ion battery.

      Advantage: smaller, more lightweight than a "strong hybrid." Driving feel more similar to a regular ICE car (no adjustment necessary). It's also easier to package and deploy in terms of development.

      Disadvantage: not as fuel efficient as strong hybrids.

  2. Mazda is right.... There's no replacement for displacement.

    1. So true. Nothing (yet) competes with capacity.

  3. You can really feel Mazda's passion with their craft when driving their vehicles.


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