Earlier today I was invited to the Mazda R&D center in sunny Irvine, CA to meet and greet with some of the newest champions in the Mazda “Road To Indy” Motorsports Ladder. After a nice informal lunch and a round of questions a group of journalists (including myself) were taken down to the “basement” to see the unofficial Mazda Museum, which was pretty much an underground parking garage filled with cars that would make any Mazda fan faint from over-stimulation. There was everything from vintage race cars to custom one-off show cars. However, two cars really stuck out like a sore thumb. I saw a Lotus Elise and a late model BMW 3 series parked next to each other as you can see below in the thumbnail.
Someone must have saw me scratching my head because soon after, a Mazda associate filled me in. I was told that whenever Mazda is working on a new car they typically procure a competitor’s car to use as a “benchmark”. As you might guess, the Lotus Elise was the benchmark used in the development of the last few generations of the Mazda Miata. The BMW 3 series was used as a benchmark during development of the Mazda 6. After it was explained to me, it made a lot of things clear. This is how Mazda continues to punch above their weight with their offerings, by benchmarking cars that are tens of thousands of dollars above the products they want to put out. It is a pretty good strategy when you think about it.
After the tour was over and the group made its way outside I noticed out of the corner of my eye a rather large car under a cover. Once I turned my head it was clear to me that this covered car was in fact a Nissan GT-R. The moment I recognized the Nissan I immediately thought back to what the associate had told me earlier. Is the Nissan GT-R the benchmark for Mazda’s next sports car? Why else would they have a car like that at their R&D center? Even the Mazda associate confirmed that it really was a GT-R under the cover but they refused to elaborate on why it was there.
Is this the reason why Mazda really killed off the RX-8? Because they have been planing a GT-R killer all this time? Color me curious!