Last Mazda RX-8 marks the end of the iconic rotary engine

Article by Anita Panait, on June 26, 2012

Mazda has halted production of its Mazda RX-8 sports coupe, the last of its models that uses the legendary rotary engine. The last Mazda RX-8 rolled off the assembly line last Friday at its plant in Hiroshima, where the company also holds its headquarters. The rotary engine was immensely popular due to its ability to provide more power than traditional engines of the same size.

Originally developed by German engineer Felix Wankel in 1957, the rotary engine, once known as the Wankel engine, was licensed by Mazda in 1961 from Audi NSU Auto Union AG. The rotary engine consists of a three-cornered rotor in an oval chamber and has fewer moving parts.

The rotary engine provides additional power and acceleration compared to heavier same sized piston counterparts. The rotary engine that sits in the Mazda RX-8 sports coupe could reach 8,200 revolutions per minute before hitting the maximum level. The figure is much higher than the engine that powers the Toyota 86 sports car, which only allows up to 7,000 revolutions per minute.

The only downside for the rotary engine is that it uses more fuel, making vehicles running with the powerhouse not so attractive to those who prefer fuel-efficient cars.

That could be the main reason why Mazda has halted its production, as the consumer demand has shifted towards environmentally friendly vehicles.

Struggling Mazda is now focusing on environment-friendly cars, which the carmaker hopes could help it log its first profit in five years. Mazda president Takashi Yamanouchi remarked that although production of the RX-8 has ended, the rotary engine “will live on as an important part of Mazda's spirit."

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