Mazda Is ‘Launching Rotary Engine Development’ for Sports Car: CEO

It’s been a long time coming.

byJames Gilboy|
Mazda Iconic SP concept
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The Mazda Iconic SP concept of the 2023 Japan Mobility Show was the sign of a new Mazda sports car that we've been awaiting for a decade—no, two. The Wankel rotary-powered, popup headlight-equipped coupe in the spirit of the legendary FD RX-7 was a sign that the dream of the RX-Vision hadn't been forgotten. Apparently, Mazda was blown away by the world's response, because it has announced it's developing a rotary engine that could bring the concept to life.

"I am very happy and deeply moved by all the support and encouragement I have received for the compact sports car concept. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all," said Mazda President and CEO Katsuhiro Moro at the 2024 Tokyo Auto Salon, as reported by Drive. "With your encouragement, we are launching a rotary engine development group on 1 February to move closer to this dream."

Mazda Iconic SP concept. Mazda

To reiterate: Mazda is putting together a team to develop an engine to power a new rotary sports car. That said, be ready for the potential offspring of this program to be a big departure from the RX-7, if it ever materializes at all.

While Mazda has teased a new RX car since before 2015's RX-Vision concept, it has also pointed to climate change (and therefore emissions regulations) as an obstacle to its revival. Rotaries are inherently inefficient engines, which translates into increased emissions. Mazda also has a more self-serious image to contend with, not to mention the business case of such a car. Until the reboots of the Toyota Supra and Nissan Z, the prospects looked weak—and may still with Supra sales tanking.

Mazda Iconic SP concept. Mazda

Should the next RX car proceed despite those factors, it probably won't be an analog three-pedaler. Mazda hasn't shared specifics of the Iconic SP's drivetrain beyond a twin-rotor engine, but its current products and recent patents give us some idea of what could come.

Mazda currently offers a single-rotor range extender in the MX-30 EV, where it functions as a series hybrid that generates electricity for the either the battery or the wheels. A more powerful version of that, potentially with two or three rotors or even quick-swappable battery modules, could make it all the better. This hybridization reduces a rotary's emissions while filling in for its weak low-end torque, killing two birds with one stone.

But this is all speculative for a car that we only know Mazda is considering. Rotary development doesn't mean the RX series will return, as the reasons above all still apply. Still, we have hope from on high, and it'll have to tide us over until the next Mazda RX is confirmed—or the rotary is dead for good.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

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