Mazda: Rotary Sports Car 'Still Our Dream' But Climate Decline Could Prevent RX-8 Successor

Mazda’s design chief says the company is "racing against time" to bring back a rotary sports car before burning gas becomes a taboo of sorts.

Mazda

Since the RX-8 was discontinued in 2012, fans of Mazda's Wankel-powered sports car have been clamoring for a successor. Rotary diehards may be on the verge of disappointment, however, as new statements from Mazda officials suggest the automaker is at a crossroads that lead either to a new RX sports car...or the program's wholesale cancellation.

"It's still our dream," said Mazda's Senior Managing Executive Officer Ichiro Hirose in an interview with Cars Guide at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. 

"We never give up on that dream," reaffirmed Mazda's chief designer Ikuo Maeda. Nevertheless, he was unsure that an RX-9 would ever reach the market because of the globe's worsening climate situation, which he speculated could make the inherently inefficient Wankel design socially unacceptable, or could taint Mazda's image of corporate responsibility.

"I don't know if we are having an RX-8 replacement, we have to see what the society thinks of that and what the environment is like in terms of accepting the idea of a sports car,” Maeda continued. "We understand that we are racing against time. But if the notion of driving a sports car causes people to think negatively about the pressure that is putting on the global environment, if having a sports car itself is seen as a negative thing, then we don't want that."

Mazda's hesitance to declare a future for the rotary engine outside the role of range extender is something of a surprise given its conservative stance on the phaseout of internal combustion engines (ICEs). While automakers such as Volvo and Volkswagen are firm believers that electric powertrains must be adopted as quickly as possible, and have slowed or ceased ICE development entirely, corporate documents leaked in May show that Mazda will continue to develop both gasoline- and diesel-burning engines for at least one more product cycle.

Mazda's failure to mention the rotary engine whatsoever in those documents painted a dim future for the idiosyncratic Wankel, but fans of weird engines can take heart knowing that an equally odd Mazda is in the cards. Everything points to Mazda releasing a larger, rear-drive model with a supercharged Skyactiv-X inline six in the early 2020s, so it's not as if eccentric sporting Mazdas will be a thing of the past.