When the RX-7 hit near supercar status in the 1990s, the Rotary engine was a thing of beauty and Mazda had all but perfected it. The only remaining downfall was the fuel required to keep the rotors inside the engine spinning. This fuel consumption, plus a restructuring of Mazda’s U.S. market, led to the deletion of the RX-7 and its perfected rotary following the 1995 model year.
When the rotary engine made its way into the sexy, yet fairly flabby, RX-8 in 2004, the rotary enthusiast clamored over its 238 horsepower without any turbo. However, hiding in deep within the engine was its biggest sore spot, a puny 159 pound-feet of torque that sucked up a gallon of gas after only about a dozen miles. Through the RX-8’s life, Mazda refused to turbocharge the 1.3-liter rotary and the new Renesis rotary engine was effectively to blame for the RX-8’s disappearance following the 2011 model year.
This all brings us to today, as Mazda finally closes the chapter on the RX-8 by rolling the final rotary engine off of its production line and into a special edition Mazda Spirit R, which is only available in Japan. This closes one chapter in the life of the rotary engine, as Mazda has no plans to develop a replacement for the failed RX-8, despite rumors of an RX-9.
Even if the rotary is to make a comeback in the future, it will likely not come back as a gasoline engine. We would likely see it used in a gasoline/hydrogen hybrid system, as Bloomberg is reporting that Mazda is currently testing out how this Wankel works on hydrogen.
As much as we once loved the rotary engine, we think it is time to put this old dog down and let us remember the good old days of the 255-horsepower, 217 pound-feet of torque twin-boosted 1.3-liter rotary. The only way we could agree with bringing the rotary back is in a turbocharged sports car platform, like this engine is intended.