Mazda’s RX-7 and RX-8 rotary sports car are two of the most beloved sports cars from Japan. Aside from their terrific road balance and agility, these sports cars are powered by the Japanese carmaker’s equally iconic rotary engine. Thus, when news leaked out that Mazda is mulling a rotary sports car, many customers, fans and enthusiasts became thrilled and excited for the arrival of the successor to the RX-7 and RX-8.
However, Mazda’s top honcho, chief executive Masamichi Kogai has other things in mind. He is not just postponing or deferring such project. In an interview with Automotive News, Kogai has dashed hopes that a sports car powered by a rotary engine would be build and offered by Mazda. This effectively killed previous indications that a rotary sports car was in the works. For instance, sports car chief Nobuhiro Yamamoto was said to have confirmed that a rotary sports car project was underway in 2012 – the same year that Mazda ended production of the last RX-8.
Hopes that a new Mazda sports car was on the way were further boosted when the Japanese carmaker unveiled the Mazda RX-Vision Sports Car Concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. As the name of the concept suggests, this front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports concept represents a “vision” of the future that only Mazda could have provided with its rotary engine, made sportier and stylish by its elegant proportions and awe-inspiring lines.
Rotary engines are usually considered unconventional powerplants, employing the rotational motion of triangular rotors in order to generate power. On the other hand, conventional engines employ reciprocating pistons to generate power. The RX-Vision is powered by what could have been its next-generation rotary engine – the SKYACTIV-R rotary engine.
Earlier this year, the 31st Festival Automobile International named the Mazda RX-Vision as the “Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year.” This added to optimism that the concept would eventually become the new RX sports car, which could have been named the RX-9 if Mazda’s naming sense is followed. But all of that is gone now with the confirmed demise of a rotary engine-powered sports car.
Kogai told Automotive News that if Mazda would restart production of the rotary engine, it has to ensure that such a revival wouldn't be short-lived. First, the rotary engine has to comply with future emissions regulations. If there is good news, it would be that Kogai has also confirmed that Mazda is still working with its r&d team to overcome any issues on the rotary engine regarding emissions and fuel efficiency.
Kogai remarked that currently, Mazda’s focus is on electrification as it considers it as a technology that it should introduce in the near future, especially with the existence of zero-emissions vehicle regulations. Thus, Mazda’s top honcho added, rotary engine could be used a range extender to its electrified offerings. But when it comes to sports car, a spiritual and actual successor to the RX-8 is now off the planning table, as he prefers an MX-5 (Miata) powered by either a 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter conventional engine since it provides a more exhilarating experience with its power and acceleration.
So, for now, a rotary sports car remains a dream, with the production version of the RX-Vision becoming a hallucination.