Will Mazda finally, after many years, put a new diesel vehicle on sale in the U.S.?
If the announcement the automaker made today at the New York auto show is any indication, deliveries of the Mazda CX-5 diesel will start this summer.
It’s been a long, long time since Mazda made the business case to bring a passenger-vehicle diesel to the U.S. market.
That was in the early part of this decade—before the Volkswagen diesel crisis. After more than five years of delays Mazda announced today that it’s finally arriving: as the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD with Skyactiv-D 2.2.
DON'T MISS: Mazda gets California approval for CX-5 diesel
The CX-5 diesel will reach U.S. customers this July, the company says, carrying an EPA rating of 27 mpg city, 30 highway, and 28 mpg overall, at a price of $42,045, including a $1,045 destination fee.
The diesel is essentially a monospec vehicle at this point and will be offered in four colors—black, white, red, and gray, only with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.
2019 Mazda CX-5
Prior to the start of the New York auto show media days, Green Car Reports sat down with Masashi Otsuka, Mazda’s North American VP of R&D and design (although recently promoted to lead the company’s Alabama operations)—to get some context on the years of delays and how Mazda sees this vehicle fitting into its strategy today.
“After the scandal our discussion with CARB and the EPA changed,” recalls Otsuka.
According to Otsuka, after the diesel scandal the EPA and CARB wanted to try tests that were outside the normal tests—essentially real-world tailpipe tests. “We understood...that it’s a real-world situation and this is reasonable,” he said. “The deep discussion is how to maintain a low emission number even in a real-world situation.”
So in order to meet increasingly stringent NOx levels—and, likely, the increased scrutiny—the company decided to add such a system.
The fuel economy result was lower than Mazda expected, but Otsuka insists that the engine’s real driving efficiency is unchanged. He confirmed the dip in the official ratings was related to the engine’s cold-start cycle, which had been tweaked to cut emissions without a sacrifice in performance.
In production CX-5 diesels, the 4.2-gallon urea tank should be topped off every 10,000 miles—equal to the oil-change interval.
In U.S. spec, the 2.2-liter diesel 4-cylinder—with two sequential turbos—makes 168 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, and it has a rather high redline for a diesel of 5,500 rpm. Otsuka said that the engine is a popular combination with a manual transmission in Europe, and it’s working on the possibility of bringing that combination here.
Mazda SKY-D Engine
In the past five years, since the diesel was first on deck for release in the Mazda 6, Americans’ attitudes about diesels have changed a lot. there’s probably less pressure for diesels to be compatible with biodiesel blends. The new engine is good for b5 (5 percent biodiesel), Otsuka confirms, but the company wants to study b20, especially because in the U.S. it comes from so many varied sources.
Otsuka called biodiesel “a good opportunity to offset carbon” but noted that the use of some higher-biodiesel blends can result in higher levels of NOx, which the automaker worked so hard to reduce.
Mazda confirmed to Green Car Reports that the Mazda 6 will be next, slated to arrive as a 2020 model—requiring no additional CARB and EPA certification but needing new EPA fuel-economy results, of course.
2019 Mazda MAZDA6
Those results will be significantly higher for the Mazda 6 than the CX-5, confirmed Otsuka—especially on the highway—although he couldn’t confirm how much better.
Mazda considered offering the diesel in just a few states. However, after finding that interest in a diesel was significantly higher in ten geographically scattered states (Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, Washington, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon, and Ohio), it decided to offer the vehicle in all 50 states. Dealers aren’t required to order diesels, though.
Diesel development: not dead yet either
Otsuka confirmed that diesel engine development is definitely not dead at Mazda, and the automaker is at work on a next-generation diesel that will, he hinted, incorporate some of the thinking that went into its Skyactiv-X engine on the gasoline side—like variable compression, perhaps.
Diversifying its green lineup with an upcoming extended-range electric car and hybrid, as well as a fully electric project that’s a few more years out, is looking increasingly like it might be more important to Mazda’s future than diesel, however. Another decade’s too long.