MAZDA will soon have a sedan with enough grunt to rival the outgoing V6 Commodore.
The new Mazda6 will get a sportier edge with the arrival of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the second half of next year.
But Mazda boss Vinesh Bhindi says the brand doesn't intend to specifically target buyers of the now extinct local sedans with its new 175kW/400Nm turbo.
"With the changes in local manufacturing there is the question of where those customers go. Whether they go to an SUV or sedan is unknown but we're not going to pitch on performance. This isn't a boy racer car, it's for executives who want a bit of performance," he says.
He doesn't predict a big jump in sales with the arrival of the new engine, which is likely to be reserved for the more expensive GT and Atenza models. Cheaper versions will get an upgraded version of the existing four-cylinder petrol engine with cylinder deactivation to save fuel.
The mid-size sedan market is struggling and competition is cutthroat, with many makers looking to improve performance to attract new buyers. Holden will have a four-cylinder turbo and a top-spec V6 model available on its European-built Commodore, while Ford, Volkswagen and Skoda already have turbo four-cylinder offerings.
Bhindi says there remains a place for the sedan in the local market, despite the trend towards SUVs.
"This is our flagship sedan and a number of people still prefer sedans. There will still be a place for sedans," he says
Bhindi says Mazda won't be chasing volume via fleet sales and will be pitching the '6 as a premium offering, although not targeting luxury brands. It's a strategy that has worked with the CX-9 SUV, where the upscale modes make up roughly 60 per cent of the sales mix.
The turbo will cost more than the base petrol engine, but he wouldn't be drawn on what that might be.
To fit with the premium push, engineers developing the new 6 have focused on refinement as well as performance.
As with the CX-9, the body and suspension have been revised for a more comfortable ride and quieter cabin. Thicker sheet metal in the rear wheel wells, more body bracing and thicker suspension mounts are claimed to have reduced noise in the cabin, while the steering has also been tweaked for more feel.
Mazda says the turbo offers ample low-down torque "on par with a 4.0-litre V8 engine".
Inside, Mazda says the interior is all-new, with only the steering wheel and some trim carried over. Atenza models get a mix of wood, Nappa leather and suede on the doors, seats and dashboard.
New technology includes a 360⁰ view monitor, a new infotainment display, radar cruise control, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and head-up display on the windscreen.