2006 Mazda MX-Crossport

    The Mazda 6 sedan seems to have, in automotive terms, the flexibility of a gymnast. Not only has it spawned various new sedans for Mazda's parent company, Ford, such as the upcoming Ford Fusion, Lincoln Zephyr, and Mercury Milan, it's also the basis for this Mazda crossover concept. The MX-Crossport's bulging, muscular exterior lines even were penned by the 6's chief designer, Iwao Koizumi, who describes the new concept as having "the speedy and athletic image of a sports car, plus the toughness of an SUV." As far as the sports car imagery goes, there is definitely some of the RX-8 in the front of the car, especially the quarter-panels. The big, five-spoke wheels, which evoke Mazda's RX-01 show car from a decade ago, and the tires are, as in most show cars, a prominent feature of the MX-Crossport's profile. Mazda even refers to the Japanese word "karuma" to describe the concept's footwear, which literally means "tire and wheel" and which is, in Japan, a common term meaning, simply, "car." Another visible feature is the beltline, which boldly kicks up where it meets the rear quarter-panel, creating a distinct division between the passenger space and the cargo hold. "It's significant that we're showing this concept at Detroit," says Mazda's global design chief, Moray Callum. "We want to do a vehicle like this. Due to our [small] size, we don't have the luxury of doing frivolous show cars; ours tend to be more realistic." Take that to mean that, if the MX-Crossport is well-received on the show circuit, it is likely for production. However, a production version would be at least two years away, which means 2007, likely as a 2008 model. Production powertrains have not been determined, but it is likely that it would use some version of the 6 sedan's V-6. The MX-Crossport sure looks good, but it is basically the same size as the existing Tribute and, with only two rows of seats, does nothing to put Mazda into the segment all mainline manufacturers want and need to be in these days: mid-size SUVS with three rows of seats.