16 July 2004

Mazda will unveil this high-performance, near-150mph version of the 6 saloon at September’s Paris Motor Show. Scooped with only light disguise while hot weather testing in the US, the 276bhp Mazda 6 MPS is expected to hit UK dealers in mid-2005.

Clearly visible in our photographs are the aggressive new front bumper, grille and bonnet bulge that distinguish the hot 6 from standard versions.

Mazda revealed a design study for the MPS at the Paris show in 2002 and the production version is very close to that restrained look (right). It was created in Germany under British design chief Peter Birtwhistle.

The cooling ducts in the lower bumper are identical, although the grille has changed slightly to incorporate a horizontal central bar. At the rear are sporty twin exhausts neatly routed under the bumper, new tail-lights with smoked black tints and a subtle lip spoiler for the boot. The wheels remain an impressive 18in, although the wheelarches appear to have been gently toned down compared with the concept’s.

At the heart of the 6 MPS road car is the concept’s muscular turbocharged powertrain, six-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel drive. Peak power from the twin-turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-litre four-cylinder is tipped to match the concept’s 276bhp. Thanks to the turbocharger, it should develop a useful amount of torque for effortless performance. Expect a peak of around 265lb ft, developed at an accessible 3500rpm – that’s 5lb ft more than a BMW M3 but delivered 1400rpm lower down the rev range.

If Autocar’s sources are correct, the twin turbos deploy sequentially, the smaller boosting at low revs, the bigger across the rest of the range. This design keeps turbo lag to a minimum by using two fast-spinning turbos. Because both are smaller than one big blower, they have little inertia and therefore respond more quickly to throttle inputs. Four-wheel drive should make the MPS a highly effective cross-country drive, particularly since the concept’s electronically controlled centre diff and limited-slip rear differential are expected to make production.

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The MPS will cost around £24,000, undercutting opposition like the less powerful 250bhp Alfa Romeo 156 GTA.

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