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."

New Mazda RX-8 features a well-sculpted exterior that exudes a sense of originality, since all of the design enhancements implemented on the latest iteration were all meant to lend the car a fresh appearance without altering its basic design theme.

These design enhancements include its restyled front bumpers, front fascia and high quality headlamps. Likewise, the new Mazda RX-8 features restyled rear bumpers, high quality taillights and larger exhaust pipes (90 mm across).

In addition, the new RX-8 is provided with taut muscular lines that lend it the appearance of an athlete in motion. This allowed the new RX-8 to retain its classic sports car proportions while adding a Zoom-Zoom edge. Moreover, the latest RX-8 now rides on a new five-spoke wheel which design pays tribute to rotary engine. These new wheels feature different spoke layouts for every size.

Thanks to "freestyle" four-door design, the new RX-8 proves that a true sports car doesn’t have to compromise space or convenience just to attain performance. Its rear-hinged rear doors are designed to allow for a large door opening, which means easy ingress and egress for rear occupants. This also means that it is now easier to secure a baby or a small child in the back seat. Interestingly, the rear cabin is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate four full-size adults while its trunk is large enough to carry their luggage.

Overall, the new Mazda RX-8 comes with an exterior exuding a genuine sports car as well as interior with a smart and comfortable designed cabin. Its interior isn’t just simple but also functional. The center instrument panel now dons a redesigned shape while the tachometer now features a variable red-zone rises as the engine comes to operating temperature. Moreover, the new Mazda RX-8 is provided with a new steering wheel as well as redesigned front and rear seats.

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