Yes, the Toyota Camry. Read why.
Mazda has carved out a niche for itself as the Japanese automaker for those who love driving. For many years, BMW was the brand Mazda benchmarked which makes absolute sense considering the German automaker's Ultimate Driving Machine mantra. However, according to AutoGuide, Mazda has identified a new benchmark in place of BMW, and it's one of the least likely vehicles you'd ever pick. Well, assuming you read the title above, you already know that vehicle is the new Toyota Camry. The Toyota freaking Camry. Why?
AutoGuide spoke with an engineer working on the Mazda's new SkyActiv-X compression ignition engine technology during a recent tour of its Irvine, California R&D facility when the subject of benchmarking came up. This unnamed engineer admitted he spends a lot of time looking at and taking apart competitors' vehicles, and that BMW was a frequent benchmark (emphasis "was"). But now Mazda is no longer as interested in benchmarking BMWs because it's found something else that's far more intriguing and impressive, the new for 2018 Camry. It even has Mazda concerned. "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!"
Remember, the latest Camry is built on a new platform capable of giving the sedan some much-needed attitude. Until now, the Camry was probably one of the dullest cars to drive. However, it was extremely well-built and very reliable. Toyota has now, at least in Mazda's view, managed to combine the best of everything in an affordable package. Affordable, well-built, and fun to drive – all Mazda attributes. Now you understand Mazda's Camry concern? Fortunately, Mazda's continued SkyActiv-X development is going well and this technology has some game changing potential, especially for those who prefer internal combustion over hybrids and/or EVs.
Both BMW and Toyota are investing heavily in the latter, so it makes sense for Mazda to continue positioning itself as an equally fuel efficient gasoline-engined alternative. Question is, will Toyota continue as Mazda's benchmark or will it drift back to BMW? Who knows, perhaps Mazda will be the one being benchmarked in the very near future.