Mazda seems to get a real kick out toying with the emotions of its fans. They unveiled an honest-to-goodness stunning two-door coupe concept car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show called the RX Vision, getting everyone hyped about a possible new rotary-engine successor to the RX-8.
Following that, the company seems have gotten all shy about about showing it off in the first place, pretty much insisting that such a car would make little business sense in today’s automotive landscape nor would it fit within Mazda’s immediate plans for its line-up.
Now, as previously rumoured, they’ve reignited flames they previously extinguished by confirming (in time for the 50th anniversary of their first rotary-engine car) that a new RX concept car is indeed headed to the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show and that they intend to introduce it as a full production model. That is, according to some new reporting from AutoExpress.
Specifically, the crucial information was exchanged in the throws of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show where the UK automotive portal spoke to Matsuhiro Tanaka, Mazda’s vice president of R&D, who uttered these very encouraging sentences:
“With the Tokyo Motor Show we will be introducing a new design concept - you can think of it as an evolution of theme of the RX Vision. When we introduce a concept our intention from the engineering and design community is to make it a reality. What I will say is that we are making the utmost efforts to try and make this a possibility.”
So, yes. That’s happening.
But what could a present-day RX be like? After all, it would enter a world of much tighter regulations on emissions and fuel consumption. Rotary engines, historically, have a fractious history of being very smooth revving and powerful for its displacement, but at the cost of a big appetite for both petrol and engine oil.
Ironically, Mazda recently unveiled their roadmap to become a much more sustainable and environmentally sensitive company, with their compression ignition SkyActiv-X line of engines being key to its successful execution. A high-performance RX coupe goes against many, if not most of, the principles detailed in their “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” manifesto.
To reduce the environmental impact that a high-revving, gas/oil-guzzling Mazda RX could potentially incur, Mazda is very likely choosing only to proceed with a production version having found a way to drastically improve upon these inherent engine design drawbacks, particularly over the naturally-aspirated RENESIS 13B-MSP under the hood of the RX-8.
Work on this new RX model was feverishly underway at Mazda’s headquarters in Hiroshima, which head of R&D Kiyoshi Fujiwara admitted at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show involved overcoming challenges that were key to the car being given the green light. And despite not having any rotary-powered cars in their current line-up, a team of “more than 10 staff and fewer than one hundred” are reported to be solely committed to its development.
Of course, turbocharging cannot be ignored and there’s a high chance that the next rotary motor (SkyActiv-R?) will indeed feature forced induction akin to the twin-turbocharged third-generation RX-7. Given that the adoption of electrified powertrains will be essential to their sustainability goals, introducing it in a halo model such as the next RX would be wise - a move similar to that employed by BMW with their i8 to warm their base of enthusiasts to the advantages of a hybrid sports car.
However, back in Los Angeles, Fujiwara was hesitant to fully endorse electrification as a way to solve the rotary engine’s inefficiencies as that isn’t what the fans would want. And he’s probably right.
We’ll have to wait until the doors open at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show to get a clearer picture of what Mazda has in store for their all-new RX. The event is scheduled to begin on October 27th. The hype begins now.