An Inside Look at CorkSport R&D

All CorkSport products go through an extensive process to ensure they are the best fitting, looking and performing parts that they can be. As a product development engineer, I see all of these steps on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t often talk about how an idea evolves into a CorkSport part.  Sit back and read on as I give you a glimpse of what goes on during CorkSport R&D.

Concept and Planning

All parts start out as an idea. They come from many sources: employees, forums, car shows.  One of our biggest sources of ideas is YOU! Check out the blog on submitting product ideas for more info on how our customers give us their thoughts.

At the beginning of each quarter, all product ideas are evaluated to determine which are feasible and which are going to be pursued moving forward. After the extensive list is narrowed down, they go into a more in-depth evaluation.

This includes defining the scope of the project, how many man hours it is expected to take, evaluating all expected costs of production, and setting a retail price. Without this evaluation, we would encounter all sorts of roadblocks along the way that would delay getting parts out to you all. If everything is looking good, the project is approved and moves forward.

R&D Begins

At this stage, it’s time to get our hands dirty (literally in some cases). First, we investigate the car the part is for and the scope of the project to understand exactly what the goal of the part is. Doing this allows us to find all design constraints and look for things we may not be expecting. Replacement part diagrams and factory service manuals can be vital here, especially if we do not have a Mazda or Mazdaspeed readily accessible.

By now we usually have a good idea of what features we want the part to have and can move forward with creating an “MVP”. A minimum viable product is just what it sounds like. Not necessarily pretty or optimized yet but good enough to get to see if an idea will work and to check fitment. During MVP creation we have to consider all design constraints, desired features, integration with other CS parts, and even how to manufacture the part. Check out the changes below from an early MVP to the final design for our GEN3 TMM.

If the part can be 3D printed, we print the initial MVP and test fit. Test fits are by far the most unpredictable part of the whole process as sometimes we discover an issue that can change an entire design. Depending on the part, we can have one test fit and be good to go or four and still have work to do. Once we have revised the MVP to a point where it fits well, looks good, and can be manufactured relatively easily, a functional prototype is produced.

Functional Prototypes

This is where the fun really begins; test fitting is a 3D print is one thing, having the part made out of metal is a whole new story. Depending on the part, we sometimes have to skip directly to this stage as it cannot be easily printed in-house. We always have to be careful doing so to limit the number of expensive prototypes we have made. Sometimes this goes well, other times not so much… This swaybar prototype was limiting suspension travel.

A functional prototype also allows for any testing that we may do. Whether it be on the dyno, track, or on the street, all CorkSport parts are used and abused to ensure they hold up to what you can throw at them. Check out an early CS Throttle Body getting tested on a flow bench.

If we are happy with a prototype, this is where you all can get involved again. We often use “Beta Testers” to get another opinion on the part and to see if they come across any issues. From here we sometimes have revisions that need to be made and another prototype produced but ideally, we are ready to move on.

Manufacture & Prep for Release

From here we move to getting the parts made. Sometimes this is a process that only takes a few weeks, other times it takes many months to complete. The manufacturing method, type of part, and order quantity play a big role here. Additionally, some products have a lot of different parts to make up a whole CS product, so each individual part takes time. Sometimes, we even get to see something unexpected, like these Command Wheel Covers before getting anodized black.

While all of this is going on, we are also preparing the product for release. That way, when our manufactured parts show up, we are ready to send them out to all of you. Installation instructions are created, QA checks are set up, laser etch files are set up, product images and video are taken, the web page listing is set up, and so on. Any and all of the content you see on a product is all created in-house. Engineering school definitely did not prepare me for shooting high-quality photos and video!

Check out a “behind the scenes” look at one of our videos:

At this point, we are pretty much ready to bring the new CorkSport Mazda or Mazdaspeed part out to you all. Throughout this process, we are constantly thinking about the experience someone has when they buy the part to ensure it is something that we would be proud to have on our own cars. After all, we build our dream cars using CS parts just like you do!

-Daniel

Mazda’s Game Changer

Recent news has been circulating about the new Mazda and Toyota joint production plant and what will be built there.  In a few news articles, Masamichi Kogai has been quoted saying Mazda will introduce a new and different type of CUV (crossover utility vehicle).

I have been thinking about that statement about a new and different type SUV. Looking in the marketplace, you have pretty much everything out there in size, shape, and quality.  I think there is something which is getting lost in the translation of this message.

My bet is it will be something totally new for Mazda.  

Back in 2015, Mazda showed off the Koeru concept which was hinting to future models of crossover SUVs.

Looking at the current styling and the concept cars Mazda has laid out at the Tokyo Auto Show with the Mazda 3 Kai concept this year.

The front end styling has been sharpened on this concept car, but it isn’t too far outside of what Mazda is currently offering. The changed roofline at the rear points is designed to maximize cargo space, but in a good-looking package.

I will go out on a limb and guess that Mazda is probably working on a new motor to power whatever the upcoming CUV is going to be.

The most powerful motor Mazda offers right now is the 2.5 Skyactiv turbo engine, which powers the Cx-9 and soon to be offered in the Mazda 6. This motor is based on the older Skyactiv tech though, and with Masamichi saying the new vehicle will something new, my guess is that we should expect to see another tech marvel being produced.

The last thought I have on this with Mazda is this:

If they’re coming out with something new, we may see a large-sized vehicle to go up against the truck-based SUVs from other manufacturers. It is a direction Mazda has not gone before and lines up with the statements they are giving us.

Time will tell!

-Derrick

CorkSport BIG Turbo

Mazdaspeed 3 big turbo upgrade

Good day boosted enthusiast!

We wanted to take some time to give you all a quick update on one of the many projects we have brewing up here at CorkSport Headquarters.

The project I’m referencing, in general, is our 2nd turbocharger upgrade for the Mazdaspeed 3, Mazdaspeed 6 and CX-7. This unit is a substantial upgrade over our current 18G turbocharger. This Turbo will cater to those looking to take their performance and power goals to a higher level.

Not only will it be capable of putting you well into the 465whp range but this CorkSport Turbo upgrade will be able to do it without giving up on reliability and throttle response.  

It will be very beneficial to those who have mildly-built blocks and a supporting fuel system that will allow them to get higher in the HP range.

So, let’s talk about some of the features you can expect on the upgrade and why we decided to utilize them.

 

 

Let’s start at the heart of the Turbocharger.

The new CorkSport turbo will take full use of a GTX3076R center housing and rotating assembly (CHRA). The unit is equipped with a fully sealed ball bearing cartridge, which is a nice upgrade when compared to a standard journal bearing unit. We chose to go with a ball bearing unit for a few reasons.

  1. The enclosed design of a ball bearing system allows us to eliminate the need for a thrust bearing, which can account for about 40% of the bearing system drag on the turbos rotor assembly.
  2. Ball bearings reduce the viscous drag, which allows a ball bearing unit the ability to spool up about 15% faster than its journal bearing equivalent.

The next thing you will notice on the new Mazdaspeed Turbocharger upgrade is the holes that are drilled into the compressor cover. These little holes are known as anti-surge ports and are intended to expand the turbochargers compressor map. The ports function to move the surge line further left on the compressor map which gives the Mazdaspeed turbo some more headroom before it falls out of its efficiency island. Anti-surge ports are becoming increasingly more popular in modern performance turbochargers and with great reason. They offer some unique benefits as mentioned and will be fully integrated into our unit.

 

Last but not least, as with our CorkSport Turbo, this bigger Mazdaspeed Turbo will once-again be a true drop-in unit; minus the 4” compressor inlet.

There will be no cutting, modifying, sourcing oil and coolant lines, running to the store to buy couplers, etc. This unit will come with everything you need to have a trouble-free install. As with the current CorkSport 18G turbocharger, the new Garrett-based design will come with all studs, gaskets, washers, and knowledge that you need to have a nice weekend install.

So keep your eyes peeled as we get closer to delivering more performance for the Mazda community!

– The CorkSport Team

 

SOURCES: Miller, Jay K. Turbo: Real World High-Performance Turbocharger Systems. CarTech, 2008.

 

Kill The Nannies

Nannies. One thing we have discovered while racing our Mazda 3 is that the OEM safety systems in the newest generation of Mazda 3 work well, too well in fact for racing.

Each year, new safety features are added by Mazda which make the cars safer and reduces the risk of collisions. This is great for day to day driving and commuting, but it presents a problem if you plan to take your car to the track to race it.

The OEM system in the car really frowns on lifting a rear tire off the ground, or when you get wheel spin accelerating out of a slow speed corner. They design the cars against these things happening for safety purposes (understandably). However, Mazda does give you a button on your dash to turn off the traction control. This gets us racers around the limitations to a certain degree.

Let me explain:

When you disengage traction control, the system which measures yaw/pitch and ensures your car has all the wheels on the ground is actually still working, even with the button off. What the button does essentially is give you a sort of leash with more leeway, until the computer thinks you have gone too far of course, then it will kick in traction control again.

So, how do we get past these nanny systems so we can push our cars for maximum performance?

Can you simply unplug the computer which controls the this? I wish it were that simple, but you cannot. The systems in the car are all tied to each other, and the car may not start, it may not run safely, or it may run in a limp mode. A good example of this in our 2015 Mazda3 is: if you unplug the rear view mirror the car won’t start. The ABS is also controlled by the same unit, and this is very handy to have on the track.  The ABS is very good in the Mazda3 by the way, so I recommend you keep it.

The solution we’ve come up with at CorkSport is pretty simple: Leave the computer plugged in and turn it over.

That’s it, simple, nothing else is required. What happens when you turn the computer upside down is the computer loses its physical reference point, so it defaults by turning off the stability control and nannies, but most-importantly, the ABS still functions.

A big word of caution: The computer which controls the nannies also runs the airbags. If you race your car on the track, the airbags will have been removed from your car already. DO NOT drive your airbag-equipped car with the module flipped over.

The reason this solution works for the track is that our Mazda 3 race car has additional safety equipment installed, with the 6-point harness and halo seat, along with the rest of the driver’s safety gear, that keep you from injury in the event of any wrecks.

FYI: When using this “hack”, your Mazda 3 dashboard will light up like a Christmas tree from all of the warnings; but that is a small price to pay for the improved performance while racing.

–Derrick

DISCLAIMER: This modification is for racing purposes ONLY. Doing so will render many of your car’s safety systems ineffective. Installing other safety systems after this modification is essential.

 

FACEOFF: 2018 Mazda 3 Touring vs 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport

As a car guy, I can appreciate any newly-released automobile despite my individual taste and opinions. I believe every car has its own style, character, and soul, and should be given a chance to win you over.

With that being said, let’s compare the style, character, and soul of two different cars that have found a way into my life this year and see how they measure up against each other.

In one corner of the ring, we have a 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport trim, equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. In the other corner I have a 2018 Mazda 3 Hatchback Touring trim, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

I realize these two cars don’t provide a perfect “apples-to-apples” comparison, but I think the differences will make for an interesting comparison, so let’s roll with it.

Exterior Overview:

Walking up to the Civic Hatchback Sport gives me a rush of being a teenager with a new car, as if I was 17 and my dad just gave me the keys to his coveted R34 GTR (maybe that’s pushing it, but you get the idea).

There’s an overwhelming urge to jump in and fast-track the chiseled 4-door to the nearest curvy canyon back road; not to return till the E light brings me back to my senses.  

The hard lines, pronounced fenders, and smooth roofline from hood to end of the hatch tell you that the civic hatchback is here to party, but then there’s more.  Bump it up to the Sport Trim to add a little attitude with the piano black finishes, grill, hatch spoiler, and matching front/rear lips and side skirts.

Now that I’ve had my teenage fun, it’s time to throw on the button-up and head into town for an eventful evening… with the Mazda 3.

The Mazda3 gives me a different feeling than the Civic: the more refined and sophisticated appreciation of being a car guy. I walk up to the Mazda 3 Hatchback smiling; wondering which German exotic I’ll be mistaken for today and knowing that I can enjoy cruising the strip just as much as the autocross course at the local track.

The body lines of the Mazda 3 emphasize the beauty of simplicity: long defining curves, with just a bit of a sharp edge, follow the natural shape of the hatchback from front to rear. The curves tie-in with the front and rear fenders, headlights, and the hood line providing a fluid motion style.

The 3rd Gen Mazda 3 Hatchback does not immediately scream “speed”, but it does whisper “sweet nothings” in your ear. What more could you ask for? However, if you are looking for a little more of an aggressive look, then opt-in for the piano black lip and side skirt kit available from Mazda.

Interior Overview:

Now that we have made it past the sleek curves of the Mazda3, let’s take a seat inside to get a little more up-close and personal.

The first impression of the Mazda3 Touring Model interior is great, to say the least. Strapping in, the black leather seat is plush and supportive with functional but conservative side bolstering. The brushed nickel style accents are purposeful and not overwhelming in the steering wheel, dash, doors, and center console, with the all-black interior broken up with tasteful chocolate/maroon leather in the door panels and center console. Lastly, the beautifully simple exterior curves are brought into the cabin from the door panels and up through the dash. If there wasn’t a large chrome “M” on the steering wheel, I might begin to mistake the Mazda 3 for a more exotic automobile.

Back to the Honda Civic and its more aggressive visual language.

That same language carries into the interior, but in a less-refined manner than the Mazda 3 provides. The Civic’s interior is full of sharp edges, much like the body, and some touches of brushed nickel and carbon fiber print to give it a sporty feel. The seats follow a more functional style with the sports-inspired cloth material, carbon print inlay, and conservative side bolstering. They do the job in creating a sporty look, but leave something to be desired in terms of higher-end quality.

Power:

Both platforms have two engine options, both of which are a naturally-aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder, producing around 155 hp each. Lucky for me, neither the Honda Civic nor the Mazda 3 have those lowly-base model engines.

The Honda Civic Hatchback Sport comes equipped, standard, with the turbocharged 1.5L 4-cyl, putting down an impressive 180 hp and 177 lb-ft, according to Honda. Most inspiring of all is the spirited 1.5’s ability to produce the torque from a meager 2000 rpm and carry it to 5000 rpm before beginning to fall off. Pair this with the slick 6-speed manual gearbox, and a curb weight of just 2868 lb, and you have a very fun daily driver.

Jumping back in the Mazda 3 Hatchback, we have the 2.5L Sky-Activ G 4-cylinder laying down 184 hp and 185 lb-ft, according to Mazda. The naturally-aspirated 2.5 provides alert throttle response and power that continues to build through the RPM range. The peppy feel of the hatchback could be improved a bit if you opted for the 6-speed manual transmission, unfortunately the automatic takes away from the responsiveness a bit. With similar power, the Mazda Hatchback comes in with a curb weight of 3098 lb for the AT, and 3046 lb for the MT.

Looking at the dynographs, you may notice an issue:

Honda’s claimed crank horsepower and torque match our measured wheel horsepower and torque. Did Honda sandbag their numbers? I can neither confirm nor deny, but we are not the only ones to see this in testing. The Mazda 3 dynograph shows a more typical drop in power and torque to the wheels, as the drivetrain does have some parasitic losses that rob power.

Honda vs Mazda Dynograph  |  Red = HondaGreen = Mazda

Handling:

Enough about the style and looks, let’s dive into how do these automobiles drive.

Looking at the chassis and suspension, both the Civic and Mazda3 have a 106.3 in wheelbase, 18 in alloy wheels, MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspension for the rear. Other than the curb weight, we have two very similar vehicles. However, we really start to see differences in the driving experience.  

Tossing the Hatchback Sport around corners feels almost effortless; the 5-door is nimble on its feet and eager to respond to every input. The steering is light, bordering on almost numb feeling, but does not show any sign of wandering with inputs. The chassis likes to move around, whether diving into a corner or with body roll through a corner. Despite the moving body, the Civic is predictable and confidence-inspiring. It wants you to rip around low-speed corners with a smile on your face.

Daily driving the Hatchback Sport is also a pleasurable experience; the suspension is not too harsh, perhaps more on the soft side, providing an easy and no-jarring cruise along the interstate. Looking at the lineup Honda has for the Civic this makes sense. The Sport Hatchback stays under the “sport” level of the Civic SI, and if you really want a canyon and track toy, you opt for the Civic Type-R. I do have one major complaint about this model: the clutch engagement is really… disappointing. Tighten this up, and provide a bit more feedback and you can have a real winner.  

Now, how does the Mazda 3 hatch stack up against the Honda?

Driving the Mazda 3 again inspires confidence with it’s tidy and playful response to steering inputs, however the steering feels a bit heavier than that of the Civic. The steering provides a bit more feedback and a desired amount of effort; it reminds you that you are driving a full size car instead of a go-kart. The Mazda3 really comes alive through the corners, and you begin to understand why the ride quality has just a bit of stiffness for a daily commuter. The “3” dives into corners with great steadiness, then plants and pulls through the apex. However, the extra 230 lb can be felt, as the car just feels like it’s trying to move more weight around vs the Civic.

For the daily routine, the Mazda 3 hatchback is a joy to drive through the city or on road trips. The slightly-stiff suspension reminds you that the Mazda is willing at any moment to kick it down a gear and have fun, but is still refined enough to sit back and relax. The only criticism I can really comment on is that it feels like the Mazda 3 is really trying to be a “jack of all trades”, unlike the Civic Hatchback Sport.  Perhaps, if Mazda brought back the Mazdaspeed or equivalent to the lineup, they would be able to offer more specific performance setups for customers to truly choose what they want, leaving the base Mazda 3 to be a little softer.

Coming back to my earlier sentiment: every car has a style, character, and soul that should be given a chance to be appreciated by any gearhead. Both the Honda Civic and the Mazda 3 have loads of each and love to show it.

When faced with the decision to choose between the two, it’s a difficult choice.

I’m a performance-oriented car guy and I love the fact that the Honda now has a turbo engine in the line-up, so that’s a huge selling factor for me, as well as the boy-racer in me who jumps to put pedal-to-floor every time I look at it. The Mazda 3 Hatch reminds me that I could have my cake and eat most of it too.  The exterior is still edgy enough to keep me hooked as a speed-fiend, and the interior is just great, far above what you would expect at the $20k to $23k price point.

Pricing: Honda = $21300  |  Mazda = $21890

SPECIFICATIONS
  2017 Honda Civic
Hatchback Sport
2018 Mazda 3
Hatchback Touring
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
POWERTRAIN:
Engine Type: turbocharged & intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block & head, direct fuel injection naturally aspirated DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block & head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 cu-in, 1497 cc 151 cu-in, 2488 cc
Manufacturer Claimed Power: 180 hp @ 5500 rpm 184 hp @ 5400 rpm
Manufacturer Claimed Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Chassis-Dyno Recorded Power: 180 hp @ 5750 rpm 160 hp @ 5900 rpm
Chassis-Dyno Recorded Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 3100 rpm 175 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
CHASSIS:
Transmission Type: manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed w/manual shift & sport mode
First Gear: 3.643 3.552
Fourth Gear: 1.024 1.000
Final Drive Ratio: 4.105 3.389
CHASSIS:
Wheelbase: 106.3 in 106.3 in
Curb Weight: 2871 lbs 3100 lbs
Front Suspension: MacPherson strut
w/stabilizer bar
MacPherson strut
w/stabilizer bar
Rear Suspension: multilink
w/stabilizer bar
multilink
w/stabilizer bar
Steering Ratio: 10.93:1 14:1
Brakes F/R: 11.1 in / 10.2 in 11.61 in / 10.43 in
EPA-ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY:
Fuel Type: Regular Unleaded Regular Unleaded
City: 30 25
Highway: 39 34

To make a long story short, you can accomplish many of the same goals with both candidates, but in two very different ways.

So, whether it’s the brand, the trim, or the balance of style and performance, ask yourself: which one speaks to you?

Let us know in the comments!

-Barett, CorkSport Engineering