A Mazda RX-9 Without a Rotary Engine? It Could Happen
Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad, it seemsby Robert Moore, on
It seems like every 6 months or so, a new rumor about the Mazda RX-9 or the revival of Mazda’s famous and iconic rotary engine comes to life. Kicking off a new decade comes a rumor that says a Mazda RX-9 is, in fact, happening, but it comes with a major caveat – it won’t feature a rotary engine. Word has it that the RZ-9 will feature Mazda’s new RWD platform and inline-six instead, the same setup that was rumored to underpin the next-gen Mazda 6 as well as Toyota’s next-gen Land Cruiser and 4 Runner. This is, as of now, just a rumor with zero confirmation from any credible sources, but it does beg the question: Is a Mazda RX really an RX if it doesn’t feature a rotary engine?
If the RX-9 Rumors Are Real, It Will Be a True Sports Car
If you can look past the fact that the rotary engine is destined to be nothing more than a range-extender for EVs, an RX-9 could be a nice addition to the sports car market. The inline-six in question isn’t one derived from some partnership with BMW or any other automaker, but one built right in Mazda’s factories. Performance specs place it at somewhere between 350 and 400 horsepower and, probably, somewhere in the range of 320 pound-feet of torque. If the forthcoming RX-9 turns out to be as light and agile as the RX-7 and, to some extent, the RX-8, it could serve as a worthy competitor new newer models like the 2020 Toyota Supra or BMW Z4.
As shown in our rendering above, the RX-9 would a true-to-life sports coupe and would avoid the nonsense, three-door design that serves as a major thorn in the side of the RX-8. Even better yet, Mazda’s new inline-six would be much more efficient that a rotary engine ever could be and, therefor, hints at a longer market stay for the RX-9. The hard part would be to make up for the light weight and packaging advantages afforded by the rotary. It was far from efficient or emissions compliant, but it was light and it was small. Mazda’s new inline-six, on the other hand, will be the opposite. So, the RX-9 will have a much longer hood and the engine will have to be positioned behind the front axle as much as possible and as low as possible to keep the car’s weight distribution and center of gravity in check.
The RX-9 Will Need to Be Amazing to Survive
The rotary engine is a big part of what made the RX-7 and, to a lesser extent, the RX-8 so popular. However, with the RX-8, it’s demise was in big part due to the way Mazda had to scale back the Wankel rotary to make it emissions compliant. Pair the less-than-stellar performance and funky three-door design and you have what we like to call a flop. It managed to stay on the market for 10 years (2002-2012) but it wasn’t held in as high a regard as the RX-7 that came before it. During those 10 years, Mazda built just 192,094 across all markets. The third-gen RX-7 (FD generation) only saw some 68,000 units produced but the RX-7 moniker, across three generations and 24 years, saw production numbers beyond the 800,000 mark.
When the RX-8 died in 2012, so did the Wankel rotary engine, at least as we know it, anyway. Now it’ll be used as an EV range extender but will never be the light-weight performance house that it once was. And, that’s what brings me to my point – if the RX-7 and RX-8 were so popular because of the Wankel engine, the RX-9 has a lot of ground to make up. RWD and 400 horsepower is a good start, no doubt, but it needs to be more agile than the two models that came before it, and it needs to look the part of a true sports car. In fact, it needs to be one-hell of a performer if it’ll ever live up to the iconic status of its predecessors.
|2010 RX-8||6-Speed Manual||6-Speed Sport Automatic|
|Engine type||1.3-liter 2-rotor rotary||1.3-liter 2-rotor rotary|
|Horsepower||232 hp @ 8500 rpm||212 hp @ 7500 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||159 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm||159 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm|
|Redline||9000 rpm||7500 rpm|
|Compression ratio||10.0 : 1||10.0 : 1|
|Fuel system||Multi-port electronic fuel injection||Multi-port electronic fuel injection|
|Required fuel||Premium unleaded (91 octane)||Premium unleaded (91 octane)|
|Ignition system||Electronic 4-coil with iridium-tipped multielectrode spark plugs||Electronic 4-coil with iridium-tipped multielectrode spark plugs|
|Induction system||6 side intake ports with 3-stage variable induction system (VIS) and variable fresh air duct||6 side intake ports with 3-stage variable induction system (VIS) and variable fresh air duct|
|Exhaust||Stainless steel with low-backpressure main muffler||Stainless steel|
|Rotor housing||Aluminum with chrome-steel liner||Aluminum with chrome-steel liner|
|Side housing||Cast iron||Cast iron|
|Emission control type (Fed/Cal)||Tier2 Bin5 / ULEV II||Tier2 Bin5 / ULEV II|
|Type||Front-midship engine rear-wheel drive (RWD) with powerplant frame||Front-midship engine rear-wheel drive (RWD) with powerplant frame|
|Transmission||Close-ratio 6-speed manual with short-throw direct linkage shifter||6-speed electronically-controlled Sport AT with paddle shifters and Adaptive Shift Logic|
When Will the Mazda RX-9 Debut
In October of 2019, it was learned that a new patent was hinting at a new Mazda RX-9. Since then, we’re heard next to nothing with the exception of the newest rumor. Originally, we expected the RX-9 to be paired with another sports car, maybe a Toyota MR2 revival, but it looks like Mazda might be building this one all on its own and loaning out its platform and engine to others. The Mazda RX-Vision Concept tells us that Mazda already has a basic idea in a play. With rumors talking about potential engine design and power output, Mazda could be much further along that anyone expected. I wouldn’t hope to see the new Mazda RX-9 before the end of 2020, but 2021 is certainly doable. There are still a lot of unanswered questions, though, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.