1999 Mazda RX-7Enlarge Photo
Recently, we heard Mazda was planning to launch not one but two rotary-powered sports cars within the decade. The first was to launch in 2017, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cosmo Sport, Mazda’s first rotary-powered car, while the second was to arrive in 2020 to mark the automaker’s centenary.
Given the difficulty mainstream automakers have developing sound business cases for sports car projects, it was always unlikely a smaller automaker like Mazda would launch two. Instead, we may see a new rotary-powered sports car concept unveiled in 2017 to celebrate the Cosmo Sport and then a production version unveiled in 2020 for Mazda’s centenary.
The latest rumor is reported by Motoring, which cites an anonymous Mazda executive.
“We want to surprise everyone in 2017 with something special to celebrate the birth of rotary," the exec is reported to have said. "Then, to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday, we want to take it to another level in 2020."
This certainly makes more sense and follows a path rival Japanese firms Honda, Nissan and Toyota have either taken or are taking with their own sports car revivals. You’ll recall that the R35 GT-R first appeared as a concept years before the production version arrived, and that's also the case with Honda’s new NSX (an Acura for U.S. readers) and Toyota’s Supra successor.
And like its rivals, Mazda will likely position its new sports car as a technology flagship, which suggests it will use an all-new RX-9 name instead of the famous RX-7 nameplate, both of which Mazda has trademarks for.
The biggest hurdle remains getting the fuel-thirsty rotary engine to comply with the strict emissions regulations while also boosting output. Mazda’s last rotary sports car, the RX-8, had just 232 horsepower but a V-8-like thirst.
To get around this issue, Mazda is said to be looking at several technologies that we have heard about in the past. One is an advanced turbocharging system aided by an electric motor that spools up the turbo's compressor at low revs, similar to systems recently revealed by Audi and Volvo. Another is combining the rotary with an electric drive system to make the new sports car a hybrid. We could see either one technology or both on the new rotary sports car from Mazda.
Sadly, 2020 is a very long way off. By then, it’s likely the goalposts will have moved again.