Rumors of a new Mazda sports car packing a rotary engine have been swirling ever since…well, pretty much the moment the carmaker announced the last Wankel-engined Mazda left showrooms. (Which, for the record, was the RX-8 in 2012.) The odds of such a vehicle coming to being have ebbed and flowed, but so far, it’s always felt more like a matter of possibility more than probability.
But we may be a little closer to finally seeing a new successor to the beloved RX-7. Mazda bigwigs have gone on record saying recent developments at the company have pushed the needle closer to approval for a new rotary-powered sports car.
“The flexible rotary engine is a major solution for electrification technologies. It’s compact and lightweight with outstanding [noise, vibration and harshness characteristics],” Mazda research and development head Ichiro Hirose told Autocar. “By using the rotary engine in a variety of ways, we can improve the cost efficiency — that means we can lower the hurdle of putting the rotary engine on a sports car.”
“I really wish that we can justify this car,” he added. “We have that dream, of course.”
Credit the MX-30, Mazda’s first electric vehicle — or rather, the forthcoming plug-in hybrid variant, which will combine a battery pack with a range-extending gasoline-powered rotary engine. That motor marks the first of a new lineup of the spinning engines, whose unique characteristics make them well-suited to serving as generators feeding electricity to batteries and electric motors. (You can read more about the rotary’s specific traits in our previous story here.)
An RX-9 (or whatever a rotary sports car would be called) might also see the beloved niche engine paired with electric motors and a battery pack. Not only would those features help smooth out the low end of a rotary’s peaky power delivery, but they’d also help it meet ever-rising fuel efficiency and emissions standards that a fuel- and oil-sucking rotary would have trouble reaching otherwise.
“If we just look at the rotary engine, to meet current environmental requirements, technology-wise, it will be difficult for a rotary to meet these,” design head Ikuo Maeda told Autocar. “It is hard just to focus on studying high-performance sports cars with a rotary engine, but we wanted to see how we can evolve the technology by going through this type of trial [with a range extender].”
So while nothing may be confirmed yet, it seems clear Mazda has both the technology and the desire to whip up a successor to the RX-7. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to include an ask for an RX-9 in your letter to Santa this year.
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