Mazda has been quietly filing patents over the past couple of years for an inline-6, 8-speed automatic, and rear-wheel-drive platform. These are typically items you find in premium cars, and soon they could be gracing models from the Japanese automaker—starting perhaps with the next Mazda 6.

Car and Driver reported Monday that the next 6 will arrive at the tail end of 2022 boasting rear-wheel drive and a longitudinally mounted inline-6. That's a big departure from the current 6, but Mazda has been making moves over the years to provide its vehicles with a more premium look and feel through stunning design and technical innovations.

In the case of the new 6, Car and Driver said to expect a design similar to the Vision Coupe unveiled at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. The sleek sedan concept with its long, low hood and short rear deck lid is the embodiment of rear-wheel-drive proportion and is just begging to be put into production.

As for technical innovations, Mazda has hinted in the past at an inline-6 with the automaker's SkyActiv-X technology. This is the name Mazda uses for spark-controlled compression ignition technology which enables a gasoline engine to offer diesel-like economy without some of the key drawbacks, such as the nitrogen oxide emissions. There will also be a diesel version of Mazda's inline-6, as well as mild- and plug-in hybrid configurations.

Interestingly, Mazda is unlikely to develop a new platform and engine family for just one model. Another possibility is a production version of 2015's stunning RX-Vision sports car concept, which like the Vision Coupe is a design that's simply too good to waste. There's also the closer integration between Mazda and Toyota (Toyota owns shares in Mazda and the two are already collaborating on platforms and production facilities), with Car and Driver suggesting that Mazda's inline-6 could eventually make its way into some Lexus models.