Final Rotary: The Last Mazda RX-8 Was Built a Decade Ago Today
The RX-8 was the last vehicle fitted with a wankel motor driving the wheels. The future of that style of engine is still unknown.
Rotary engines don't feel like a thing of the past, but in terms of production cars powered by the high-revving intricacies, they've been gone for a while. A decade ago on June 21, 2012, the last rotary engine intended for a production car was built. A day later on June 22—exactly 10 years ago today—the last rotary-powered Mazda RX-8 rolled off the assembly line. There haven't been any production vehicles built with rotary engines since then.
In today's automotive industry it seems almost impossible that a rotary-powered car could be sold to the public; a feeling exacerbated by the fact that 2012 really wasn't that long ago. Since then, Mazda has been debating reintroducing the rotary as a range extender for its electric vehicles, but so far that plan has yet to materialize, at least in the United States.
The last rotary engine to be put in a car available to the general public was a two-rotor, 1.3-liter "Renesis," an evolution of earlier Mazda rotary engines. In its hottest state of tune, the naturally aspirated unit produced 238 horsepower at over 8,000 RPM. Despite having improved emissions and fuel consumption characteristics over older rotaries, it still couldn't compete with conventional piston engines, though.
Ironically, customer deliveries of the Tesla Model S, the California automaker's first ground-up electric vehicle, also began the exact same day the final RX-8 was built. In a single day, the automotive landscape shifted dramatically. Nobody could've predicted that a decade down the road we would be in the place we are. If anyone did, they're probably rich.
The rotary may never truly return, but one thing is certain: It is an engine dearly missed by enthusiasts. If it was to make a comeback driving the rear wheels of a production Mazda, the Japanese automaker could charge whatever it darn right wanted for it. People would be lining up for a chance to own one of the high-revving, hair-raising engines once again. Wouldn't you?
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