Most of the cars we know today are powered by versions of the same engine technology. There have been attempts to revolutionize this market and one of the most notable efforts were Mazda‘s rotary engine powered sportscars.
Although not without drawbacks, they were rather impressive machines, some of which became iconic. Mazda even went racing with its rotary engine and won 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991. Now in 2015 Tokyo Motor Show Japanese automotive manufacturer is presenting a Mazda RX-VISION sports car concept, which gives some clues how Mazda‘s sports car will look in the near future.
Company does not even try to deny it – they are hoping to build a car based on this concept. This is very good news to automotive enthusiasts, as the last Mazda’s rotary engine powered car RX-8 was very well received, but ended production back in 2012. Rotary engine is a big part of Mazda’s identity, as it still is the only company to ever mass produce this type of engine.
It is a very challenging task, as actual buyers of new cars usually rely on more conventional technology. There are other problems as well, with fuel economy, maintenance and so on. But the truth is, Mazda has been developing rotary engine technology for so long there is nothing to be worried about.
Rotary engine has unique construction, generating power through the rotational motion of a triangular rotor, which allows smaller capacity engine to produce more power, but proposes many technical difficulties. These difficulties prevented other major manufacturers from trying, but not Mazda. It had time to prove its rotary engine excellence, as first car was introduces back in 1967.
It was the Cosmo Sport, also known as Mazda 110S, which started the era of rotary-powered sports cars in the Mazda range. It was light and, most importantly, it was different. Then over the years Mazda introduced an array of cars with rotary engines – Cosmo was followed by Savanna, RX-3, RX-7 and, finally, RX-8.
There were claims that rotary engine simply is not good enough to compete with conventional cylinder engines, because they may be unreliable or inefficient with fuel consumption. However, Mazda proved its rotary engine capabilities in terms of power output, fuel economy and durability by taking overall victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans with a rotary engine-powered race car in 1991. However, at the meantime mass production of rotary engine is on hold as company currently does not produce any rotary-powered sports car.
But there are plans as Mazda RX-VISION sports car concept demonstrates. It is said to represent a vision of the future that Mazda hopes to one day make into reality. This “reality” is going to be a front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car, and styled using company’s KODO design-based proportions.
The concept looks rather great, with its elegant lines, long bonnet and recognizably Mazda design cues. Furthermore, it does, in fact, look like it could be a production car as design is not too crazy and it is easy to imagine such car on the road. Mazda says it would be powered by the next-generation SKYACTIV-R rotary engine.
Although mass production is on hold, research never stopped. Through the development efforts for the rotary engine, Mazda is trying to develop engine that would meet requirements we set for the modern engines. Mazda hopes to use experience got developing SKAYCTIV TECHNOLOGY to make it a worthy sports car. Mazda’s Representative Director, President and CEO, Masamichi Kogai, said: “Mazda will continue to take on new challenges in an effort to build a special bond with our customers and become their ‘one and only’ brand” and such determination has to be respected.
This is as much as we can tell now. It is unlikely to see the RX-8 successor soon on the road – even if company will put this new sports car into production, it will take years till it will reach customers, as it is still very early stages of development. However, for now we at least know that rotary engine is not dead and we may hear its distinctive sound on the road again.