Mazda is offering a new service in Japan that unlocks some untapped potential from your 3 or CX-30. Called Mazda Spirit Upgrade, it makes software updates to the car's ECU, or engine control unit, the computer that governs the motor's functions, to add power and improve the car's accelerative abilities.
The upgrade isn't some nominal amount, either. The first release, called Spirit Upgrade D1.1 for Japan-market turbocharged 1.8-liter SkyActiv-D diesel engines, bumps output from 114 to 128 horsepower, a 14-horse improvement. The reflash also modifies the exhaust gas recirculator programming to reduce turbo lag.
While there's no increase in torque, the upshot of all this is that the torque curve is broader, providing more grunt between 2,800 and 4,300 rpm. What's more, the torque delivery more closely matches the accelerator pedal angle, which means less bog and a more consistent and predictable feel when taking off from a stop, going in for an overtake or slingshotting from an apex.
The Spirit Upgrade costs $420 and can be done at any Mazda dealer in Japan. Mazda also adds that the upgrade adds power without affecting fuel economy or warranty. However, once you get it, it can't be undone. So if you prefer the way your car drove with less power and torque, there's no way to go back.
Given the nomenclature, it certainly appears the diesel upgrades are just the first step. Mazda has stated they will provide software upgrades to SkyActiv-X-equipped cars in Japan as well with a date TBD. Volvo has offered a similar program with Polestar-branded ECU upgrades on a wide range of their models as well. We've reached out to Mazda North America to inquire if a similar program might be offered in the U.S. and will update when we hear back.
The updates aren't limited to power, either. Mazda has confirmed updates that raise the speed of the Cruising and Traffic Support system, which allows the car to follow at a set distance from the car in front and, when applicable, self-steer to maintain lanes. A different update to the radar cruise control smooths out the acceleration and braking of that system.
It's certainly nice of car companies to give owners a way to retrofit their cars with newly unearthed features without having to buy an entirely new car. However, we hope this doesn't lead some of the more, shall we say, subscription-happy companies from artificially sandbagging their cars so they can upsell customers later on.
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