Despite Mazda ending the production of the RX-8 five years ago, its brand identity still lies with its rotary engines.
Enthusiasts have rallied around Mazda’s rotary-engined sports cars for the past four decades. The RX-7 stands as Mazda’s most legendary car, and one of the greatest Japanese sports car of all times. It’s descendant, the RX-8, carried on the rotary tradition from 2004 until its demise in 2012. For the past five years, Mazda’s lineup has been devoid of a model to carry on Felix Wankel’s design. That is, until now!
…Well, sort of. Mazda, bless them, have always been rather deft in stoking the hype regarding a new generation of high-revving rotaries. They’ve been teasing its comeback for years. The bosses have excelled at seducing enthusiasts with the likes of the “RX-9”, the “new RX-7”, and most recently, the “RX-Vision Concept”. Rumors continue to circulate that Mazda is developing a successor to the 13B engine (dubbed “SkyActiv R”) to power such a car.
However, every time we get our hopes up, Mazda’s CEO Masamichi Kogai tells us it’s not really happening. He suggests that the rotary engine – given its inherent drawbacks – isn’t feasible to put into production right now. Mazda, like any other manufacturer, needs to shift units to survive, so their CEO is focusing on developing the SkyActiv platform instead. It makes sense, but if you’re a Mazda enthusiast like me (I’m currently on my third Mazda), that news leaves you a bit disappointed. Now though, it seems hopes of a new rotary engine may come to pass – just not in a way we expected it to happen.
Mazda is finally bringing back the rotary engine – just not where you’d expect it.
Now, the rumor that the rotary engine is coming back has been confirmed, but not as a primary powerplant for a new RX sports car. Rather, following Mazda’s recent tie-up with Toyota, it will produce an electric car in 2019. Mazda’s global powertrain chief Mitsuo Hitomi suggested that this electric car will feature a rotary engine as a range extender. Not the news enthusiast wanted to hear, perhaps, but interesting nonetheless. Considering the rotary’s inherent up-sides – it’s compact and powerful – it could be a winner as a companion to electric propulsion.
It’s a more natural progression, as Mazda has toyed with this idea before. Back in 2013, Mazda introduced a Wankel range extender for its Mazda2 (also known as the Demio). However, that car never made it to production. Now, it seems, they’re keen on seeing that technology through with a new electric model.
What are your thoughts, TFLcar community? How do you see this latest rotary news as part of Mazda’s brand identity? Are you looking forward to a new rotary-powered sports car, if indeed it ever happens? For those of you pining for the days of yore, check out this oldie but goodie video of the RX-8 playing in the snow!