The RX-9 name had been bandied about under former Mazda design global design chief Lauren Van den Acker, with the project intended as a sort of spiritual successor to the RX-7 featuring an up-rated 16X Renesis rotary engine and possibly a dual-clutch transmission, pointing at halo-car aspirations. It now appears that when Maeda took over as lead designer at Mazda in April of this year, the RX-7 rebirth turned a corner to become precisely that: a rebirth of the RX-7.
The key constraint on Maeda's desire: the market. As always, a new car from Mazda must have a business case behind it, perhaps now more than ever. Speculation on what the RX-7 successor might eventually look like is just that, but it can almost be guaranteed to feature two seats instead of the Mazda RX-8's four, and a rotary engine.
Looking as far back as 2007, the modern revival of the RX-7 was being foretold in general terms with the Taiki concept, a two-seater which featured the same 1.6-liter, 270-plus-horsepower 16X Renesis rotary expected for the next-gen car, though the latest news says the RX-7 might exceed 300 horsepower. The concept's materials and design also hint at a lightweight goal for the car, possibly as low as 2,600 pounds--a figure almost unheard of in today's age of crash testing, pedestrian safety and full-featured interiors.
In February of this year, rumors re-emerged of work for the RX-9, confirming the previous iterations of the rumor in terms of hardware and goals. A patent application from May of this year also revealed Mazda's work on direct injection in the rotary form factor, yet another indication that work behind the scenes is already well underway.
It will still likely be several years until any potential production model is revealed, however, as the car must go through prototyping, concept and testing stages first. If Mazda decides the market might bite on a new RX-7, however, expect to begin seeing test mules and prototypes in our spy shots soon, with the 2010 Tokyo Motor Show its earliest appearance before sales in 2011 or 2012.
To get a completely unofficial idea of what a successor to the RX-7 might look like, check out Reuben Zammit's X-3 Concept rendering.