Japanese Patents Suggest Mazda Is Working on a New Rotary Engine for a Modern RX-7, But…

...I'm skeptical we'll ever see one.

2016 Mazda RX-VISION concept
Mazda’s RX Vision Concept has stirred the rumor mill about a new RX-7/RX-8 successor for years…but nothing has come to fruition. (Images: Mazda)

Here we are again: Another report suggesting Mazda is working on a replacement for the legendary RX-7.

It’s been more than a decade since we waved goodbye to the last full-on rotary-powered Mazda, the RX-8. Or, if you don’t really count that car because it was too soft or too compromised to fully realize a decades-long reputation, then it’s been two decades since the RX-7 bade us farewell. Now, newly discovered documents with the Japanese Patent Office (by way of CarBuzz editor-in-chief Roger Biermann) suggests Hiroshima hasn’t given up on bringing us a true rotary sports car.

Mazda Japanese patent - rotor example

For reference, three specific patent documents (here’s the first, second and third) point to rotary designs. Interestingly, they show a double-rotor design rather than the single-rotor range extender we currently see in the MX-30 R-EV, so it could actually be the powertrain for some future car.

Among many things CarBuzz notes in their coverage, cracking the Wankel’s fuel efficiency problem is one of Mazda’s top priorities here. Doing so would potentially make it viable for production. The first three patents focus on the air intake for a rotary engine, suggesting the automaker is also working to curb emissions — another rotary Achilles’ heel.

Look guys, I want to believe it.

As a fan, though, not to mention a repeat customer over the past decade, Mazda really did me and other hopefuls dirty when it comes to new cars and powertrains (at least for the U.S.). What happened to SkyActiv-X? We did a “will they, won’t they” dance for years while Mazda promised us a diesel SkyActiv engine, only to kill it after just a couple model years (while yoking it to the most expensive CX-5 trim).

Then we finally hear about a rotary, only…psych! It’s coming as a range extender to cure the fully electric MX-30’s abysmal driving range. As an enthusiast, I want to believe that Mazda engineers will prevail and overcome the rotary’s drawbacks and bring us an RX-9 (or whateer the company would call it). I do believe the engineers are pulling out all the stops to make it happen — the folks on Mazda’s engineering team are some of the most knowledgeable, driven and passionate folks I’ve come across in my time covering the industry.

All that being said, I don’t believe Mazda, the corporation, will actually bring a new rotary car to production. Apart from the fact that it’s not the world’s largest automaker with near-infinite resources, it’s made distinctive moves over the past few years to position itself as an upmarket, premium-adjacent brand. It’s ambitions are to evolve into a company that can take on the likes of Germany’s luxury trio (Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz), as well as its domestic rivals like Acura, Infiniti and Lexus.

Never say never, though: Perhaps Mazda will make hay of internal combustion’s twilight years to eke out another RX model before the door shuts and we truly face an all-electric future.

Thanks to Roger at CarBuzz for the information and insightful analysis.