Talk to anyone at Mazda and it’s clear that they love cars, driving, and everything related to automobiles. This is especially true in the engineering and benchmarking side of things.
During an event last month at Mazda’s R&D facility in Irvine, California, AutoGuide.com was paired with an engineer who was tasked with telling us all about the upcoming SkyActiv-X compression ignition engine technology. When asked about other projects he works on, he explained that he does a lot of benchmarking, meaning that the company will take various competitor products and see how Mazdas compare to them.
In the past, the engineer explained that Mazda frequently held BMW as a benchmark — the German automaker is supposed to be famous for building Ultimate Driving Machines, cars that are engaging, fun to drive, and focus on the driver. It’s fair to say that Mazda has a similar philosophy for its cars. The products from the Japanese automaker always impress by their engaging driving dynamics and how they handle.
But as many car enthusiasts will tell you, things have changed, and BMW seems to no longer prioritize driving joy. The German automaker is often criticized for the way it approaches steering feel, engine and exhaust noise, and weight these days. Simply put, the cars tend to feel artificial, which really robs them of any engaging feel. There’s not much connecting the driver to the car in today’s BMWs, and they’re not that much fun or engaging anymore.
Apparently, Mazda has noticed this and is no longer using BMWs as a benchmark. You’ll never guess what automaker and car Mazda is smitten with now: the Toyota Camry.
Now riding on a new architecture, the Toyota Camry is unquestionably sharper and more engaging to drive than it ever was (and it was always known for having an uninspired drive).
The Mazda engineer was really concerned, stating, “If the Camry sold so well before when it was so boring to drive, they now actually have a good handling car on their hands!”
It says that a lot that Mazda, an automaker that makes brilliant cars, is concerned about the Toyota Camry and not a BMW.
While we’re sure Toyota will be happy to hear that it’s impressing its rivals, we wonder if BMW will ever get back to being the benchmark.
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