After it made the decision to end the RX-8’s production back in 2011, Mazda has been left without a single model to feature rotary power, but various reports seem to suggest that the Japanese carmaker still considers this type of engine viable for a future sequel to the RX-7. The latest rumor supporting this statement comes from Autocar, who recently had a word with Kenichiro Saruwatari, vice-president of European R&D at Mazda.

According to Saruwatari, Mazda still keeps a department of 30 engineers developing rotary engine projects, and suggested that they may be also working on a model to be unveiled in 2020, when the carmaker will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Naturally you should take this information with a grain of salt, as a rotary-powered RX-7 successor is mostly speculative by Autocar. Since the skunworks rotary team is limited in number of engineers, Mazda is actively employing the services of Japanese universities, while none other than NASA is apparently its partner in terms of material technologies.

Some Mazda purists may remember that the material used on the tips of the RX-8’s engine "pistons" was actually specified by NASA. According to Autocar’s speculation on the matter, the future rotary-powered Mazda is likely to employ either the RX-7 or the RX-6 moniker, in order to indicate a smaller, lightweight, two-seater likely positioned slightly above the Toyobaru segment of sports cars.

Click past the jump to read more about the future Mazda rotary plans.

Why it matters

While a lightweight, high-revving coupe with rear-wheel drive is more than welcome to feature a Wankel engine, the truth is that Mazda ended production of both the RX-7 and RX-8 for a reason. The official rationale behind the move was that the Renesis engine was simply unfit for modern emission standards and that it would have cost a great deal of money to be re-engineered just for that. And while offering a lot of horsepower-per-liter, Wankel rotary engines are also famous for excessive oil and fuel consumption, along with small torque figures and problems with reliability when not "used correctly." Ask any RX-8 owner for further details on that matter.

Mazda would probably have to invent a great deal of never-before-seen engineering to make the new powerplant address all these inherent problems. Direct injection and turbocharging may be a start, but it will likely need a lot of aerospace-grade materials and groundbreaking engineering ideas to battle the high oil consumption and poor mpg of a Wankel. Not to mention that a 2020 launch would likely put the model right in the middle of a whole bunch of efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid sports cars.

Mazda RX-7

2010 - 2011 Mazda RX-8 High Resolution Exterior
- image 340899

Source: AutoCar

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