The rotary engine was the brainchild of German engineer Felix Wankel, and Mazda was the first automaker to put the Wankel invention into production vehicles. Mazda has been producing rotary engines and using it to power its cars since 1963, despite its few drawbacks. Over the years, the company has worked on this concept to make even better rotary engines, which culminated with the Renesis series of naturally aspirated rotary engines.
Since the demise of the Mazda RX-8 , the company has put the rotary engine production on hold as newer models moved onto cleaner and more efficient powerplants. Today, the rotary engine does not appear in any Mazda product. An now, the only car maker in the world that has embraced the Wankel engine might be on the verge of putting it to rest for good. We hope that does not happen but that’s what new CEO at Mazda, Masa-michi Kogai alluded to in an interview with Automotive News.
In an interview with the publication, Masa-michi San emphasized on the commercial proposition of the rotary engine. The company would have to generated a sales volume of 100,000 units per year in order to make the rotary engine a viable business option. Masa-michi San also said that generating profits for the company will be a priority and sticking with rotary engines does not seem to be the right path to take, at least for the moment.
The previous boss at Mazda Motor Corp. had hinted at a possible rebirth of the rotary engine in a future hybrid vehicle. The engine would be used to generate electricity to charge a set of batteries. Since then, we haven’t seen a single concept or even an official blurb from Mazda , which begs the question, have we seen the last of the Mazda Wankel rotary engines?
Click past the jump to read more about the Mazda RX-8
In its day, the Mazda RX-8 was unlike any other sports car available on the market. Powered by a Renesis rotary engine, the RX-8 was actually a four-door, if you may call it, as a set of reverse-hinged doors offered access to the rear seats.
The engine was regarded as one of the finest rotary units. The engine was compact and yet produced enough power to make the RX-8 go sideways if you really pushed it. The unique power delivery characteristics of the motor meant, the driver had to work hard to get the best out of the engine. And that’s what made it so special.
The Renesis engine revved to 9,000 rpm and was normally aspirated unlike previous versions of the engine. It produced 232 horsepower, which was plenty for the RX, but its 159 pound-feet of torque was a bit of a sore spot for numbers guys. Howver, to get all of this from just 1.3 liters of displacement was rather unheard of.
The Mazda RX-8 was an all-out sports car with a unique character provided by the finicky engine. On one hand, you had the almost perfect suspension setup and chassis balance and on the other, you had the Wankel rotary engine that struggled at low revs and delivered less-than-desirable fuel economy for the output.
Once you got the rotors spinning at around 6,000 rpm, the RX-8 woke up and became the sports car that we all wanted. Needless to say, it was the Jekyl and Hyde of the automotive world, hence its fall from grace in the U.S., where a V-6-powered Mustang would crush in a straight line, plus it was cheaper to buy, maintain and fuel.