Mazda Reaffirms Next RX Sports Car in Development, But Delayed
Keep your hopes up, Wankel fans, but don't expect the new RX any time soon.
Back in September, we received that promising news that Mazda was still developing the next generation of rotary engine, with the intent of utilizing it in a sports car. This week, at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda executive Kiyoshi Fujiwara conceded to Australian publication Drive that the next RX sports car, based on the RX-Vision concept car, remains a focus of Mazda, but time and resource restrictions have delayed the project.
The RX car will, according to Fujiwara, not be out by 2020, as effort was diverted from the program into the company's groundbreaking Skyactiv-X compression ignition engine. Mazda reportedly hopes Skyactiv-X will allow it the financial leeway to market the RX sports car.
Fujiwara confirmed one new detail on the RX car: It will be available both in exclusively Wankel-powered form, and with a hybrid electric assist supplementing the rotary. An electric assist—particularly at low RPM, where Wankel engines tend to lack torque—would aid Mazda in meeting both performance and emissions targets.
Other advancements researched by Mazda to improve the Wankel design include experimental ignition systems, such as laser and plasma, as well as a variable exhaust port, capable of evening the engine's torque band. Stop-start has been implemented for the system, too, which eliminates wasteful idling.
Mazda has invested in numerous additional technologies unrelated to the development of their rotary engine, which would seem to be ideal complements to the Wankel design. One example is Mazda's complex electric twin-charging system, revealed in a patent application, which utilizes a combination of an electric supercharger and a pair of turbochargers to provide both the instant boost and throttle response of a supercharged engine and the efficiency and power output of a modern turbocharged engine.
It will likely be years before concrete details beyond hybridization about the next RX car's powertrain are revealed. The longer we wait, though, the higher our expectations get, so Mazda could have a Half-Life 3 situation on their hands by the time the next RX car is in showrooms.