The Mazda RX-Vision concept car revealed at the Tokyo motor show signifies Mazda’s intentions to launch a new range-topping sports car powered by a rotary engine.
Three years after the RX-8 exited production, Mazda has revealed its intention to launch a new rotary-powered sports car, confirming that its concept car at the Tokyo motor show will be powered by an engine called Skyactiv-R.
Mazda president and CEO Masamichi Kogai confirmed, “one day rotary will make a comeback”. He added: “This gives form to our brand's vision of the future. It expresses our intention to make rotary. There are many issues to overcome but we will continue our efforts. We're working steadily. Keep your eyes on Mazda."
The RX-Vision measures 4389mm long by 1925mm wide, with a height of 1160mm and a wheelbase of 2700mm. Those dimensions make it marginally longer and wider than Jaguar’s F-type coupé sports car, and significantly lower, something the compact nature of the rotary engine has allowed.
Mazda’s first rotary engine prototype was developed in 1961 and was born out of a technical co-operation between Toyo Kogyo, as Mazda was then known, and Wankel engine developer NSU Motorenwerke.
The rotary engine really came of age with the launch of the Savanna RX-7 in 1978. Notable for more than its looks and motorsport prowess, the RX-7 made a big leap forward in fuel economy, coming in a decade plagued by fuel crises and increasingly stringent environmental targets, particularly in North America.
Further developments to the rotary engine were made throughout the 1980s to improve performance and fuel economy, including the launch of the turbocharged second-generation RX-7 in 1985.
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Many of the developments and improvements were the result of proving the technology in motorsport.
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Mazda’s next big step came in 2003 with the launch of the Renesis rotary engine in the RX-8 in 2003, a time when Mazda was under Ford ownership. During this period, Mazda says rotary was “of immense symbolic value to the brand”.
The RX-8 went out of production in 2012, with no direct replacement lined up, the engine faced ever-tightening emissions regulations. However, Mazda has kept a core engineering team alive by building a prototype turbocharged RX-8, but that car would have failed to meet European requirements too, and its further development could not be justified on Japanese sales alone.
This next-generation rotary engine has been named Skyactiv-R, a nod to its place in Mazda’s future line-up under its suite of Skyactiv technologies that underpin the brand’s models. The new engine is said to answer the “fuel economy, emissions performance and reliability” problems that have plagued rotary engines in the modern era.
Timeline – Mazda’s rotary highlights
1961 – first rotary engine prototype
1967 – first production rotary engine (10A) in Cosmo Sport
1968 – Familia Rotary Coupe launched
1968 – fourth place for Cosmo Sport in 84-hour Nurburgring endurance race
1969 – Luce Rotary Coupe launched with 13A engine
1970 – Capella Rotary (RX-2) launched with 12A engine
1973 – Savanna (RX-3) launched
1975 – Cosmo AP (RX-5) launched with cleaner ‘Anti-Pollution’ 13B engine
1978 – Savanna RX-7 launched
1985 – Second-gen RX-7 launched with turbocharged 13B engine
1991 – Mazda 787B wins Le Mans
1991 – Third-gen RX-7 launched with 13B-REW engine
2003 – RX-8 launched with Renesis engine
2015 – Concept launched with Skyactiv-R engine