After many years of rumors, Mazda has finally confirmed that the beloved RX-7 will get a successor by the end of the decade. The confirmation came at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, where the Japanese brand unveiled the RX-VISION, a front-engined, RWD concept that sports an aggressive interpretation of Mazda’s KODO design language. What’s more, the company also confirmed it will have a new-generation rotary engine under the hood.

Mazda didn’t say when the production car will arrive in showrooms, but it seems that the next-gen RX-7’s development depends on how fast the engineers can come up with a reliable and fuel-efficient Wankel powerplant. More details should become available in 2016, but until that happens, we created a rendering of the production vehicle, as well as a speculative review about what the next-gen RX-7 might bring to the table.

Update 12/07/2017: Mazda has been caught testing the next-gen Wankel engine. Unfortunately, it was being testing in an older RX-8 shell instead of a full-body prototype of the next-gen RX-7, but it’ll do for now. The good news is that it is practically confirmation that a next-gen RX is, indeed, on the way. Check out our spy shots section below to see the RX-8 prototype with the next-gen Wankel and to hear what we know.

Continue reading to find out more about the 2018 Mazda RX-7.

Wankel Testing Session – 12/7/2017

2018 Mazda RX-7 Spyshots Exterior
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2018 Mazda RX-7 Spyshots Exterior
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As you can see from the images here, this prototype is all Mazda RX-8 but what lurks under the metal is where things really get interesting. Word has it that the engine lurking under that hood is a 1.6-liter, two-rotor, turbocharged engine that will deliver at least 400 horsepower. Let me say that again… 400 HORSEPOWER!!! There are also rumors that an electric motor could be thrown into the works, making the next-gen RX-7 a mild hybrid that’s good for some 450 horsepower – the kind of numbers that will have Porsche Cayman owners crying like little girls when they get beat by a Mazda. The weight of the next-gen RX-7 is expected to peg around 1,300 pounds or about 2,900 pounds, a figure that should make for a very agile and quick ride.

Expect the next-gen RX-7, which could very well be called the RX-9, to make its debut sometime closer to 2020. Even though we still have some time to wait, we’re willing to bet the Mazda has something special planned for 2019 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Wankel Engine’s first debut by Felix Wankel and the 50th anniversary of the engines true job – powering the Mazda Cosmo II. So, expect there to be a concept or, at the very least, a full-body prototype of the RX-7 running around by then. Mazda won’t let that year go by unnoticed, that’s for sure.

Exterior

2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: Mazda RX-Vision pictured here.

As with most concept cars, the RX-VISION will go through some changes before it becomes a production vehicle. Our rendering depicts a slightly toned down version of the Tokyo study, equipped with several production-friendly features.

Although the concept is aggressive with its low roofline, the feature isn't likely to make it on the production car

Our artist started off by giving the RX-VISION a taller roof. Although the concept is aggressive with its low roofline, the feature isn’t likely to make it on the production car, as it would impact both head and shoulder room. Fortunately, the concept doesn’t seem to lose much of its sexy proportions with a taller roof, a less raked front windscreen, a visible B-pillar, and chrome window surrounds. Other changes to the car’s profile include production door handles, a slightly larger grille on the front fender, and new, multi-spoke wheels.

Up front, we expect the RX-7 to gain a revised grille and bumper and a new pair of headlamps. Although the overall shape and size of the production grille should remain similar, the unit will most likely receive a chrome surround and the horizontal slats seen on all current Mazdas. Below, the bumper side intakes are a bit larger in our rendering, while the splitter and the center section remained unchanged. The headlamps should get the most changes, as the concept’s slim units are far too exotic for a production vehicle. But, even though the lower section will most likely be based on Mazda’s current headlamp design, the upper, curved LED strip could find its way on the production car. Finally, we rounded out the production rendering with a standard hood and a Mazda emblem on the nose, while also removing the one in the grille.

Since the rear of the RX-VISION isn’t exactly wild, Mazda will probably retain most of the features on the production coupe. The RX-7, however, could get a revised tailgate, mildly redesigned taillights without the "floating" spoiler, and a different diffuser.

Interior

2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept High Resolution Interior
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Note: Mazda RX-Vision pictured here.

Unlike many concept cars, the RX-VISION received a clean and simple interior that could go into production today. However, Mazda will most likely change a few things here and there, such as the instrument cluster, the door panels, and the center console. The latter is likely to receive the most revisions, as the RX-7 will receive a standard center stack with various buttons and knobs. An infotainment system and a large display should also be added, but it remains to be seen whether the screen will be mounted atop the dashboard — like seen in many modern Mazda vehicles — or incorporated into the center stack. Also look for a multi-function steering wheel and a more comprehensive instrument cluster behind it.

As far as the large amounts of leather and aluminum inserts seen in the concept go, expect them to be available on higher trims. Much like the MX-5, the RX-7 needs to be a bit more affordable than its competitors, which means that the entry-level model will feature less or no leather at all. Still, the cabin should look sporty and come in two-tone combos on the base version as well.

Drivetrain

2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Note: Mazda RX-Vision pictured here.

Expect a 0-to-60 mph sprint of around five seconds and a top speed of at least 150 mph.

The drivetrain is the RX-7’s biggest mystery so far, as Mazda has nothing to say about the engine aside from the fact that it will be a Wankel and called the SkyActiv-R. A company representative, however, hinted that it might use turbocharging and that the sports car will be aimed at the Porsche Cayman. Given the German coupe comes with at least 275 horsepower in base trim, the RX-7, which will be lighter than the Cayman at around 2,700 pounds, would need at least 250 horses to make an impact in this niche. Expect a 0-to-60 mph sprint of around five seconds and a top speed of at least 150 mph.

Word has it Mazda is busy developing the new-generation rotary, aiming to achieve fuel economy and CO2 emission figures "at the same level for an equivalent standard petrol engine," according to head of R&D Kiyoshi Fujiwara via Top Gear.

Prices

It’s definitely too early to talk about prices, but it’s safe to assume that the RX-7 will become Mazda’s most expensive product in the current lineup. The final sticker depends on many factors, but the sports car will most likely cost more than $35,000 in base trim.

The much anticipated debut is rumored to take place in May 2017, when the Mazda Cosmo — the company’s first rotary-powered vehicle — celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Competition

Toyota Supra

2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Spyshots
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That battle between the Mazda RX-7 and the Toyota Supra is as iconic as Chevy vs. Ford. Both were low-slung, take-no-shit, rear-wheel-drive monsters that begged to be tuned to the max. At first, it seemed like the new RX-7 would go unopposed by its Toyota-bred rival, but the Supra is about ready to make its debut once Toyota (and BMW, since it was built in partnership between the two brands,) finalize the specs. We expect to see the new Supra debut within the next year boasting a range of engine options that include four-cylinder engines offered up by BMW – a realistic expectation considering the shared platform. However, the rumor mill also has it that a six-cylinder hybrid drivetrain is also on the books, and if that’s the case, it’s a good thing considering the RX-7 is looking at 400 to 450 ponies depending on hybridization. Pricing for the new Supra is still way up in the air, but expect it to run somewhere around $40,000 in base form as more than $50,000 in higher-performance trims. Either way, it could still prove to be more expensive than its Mazda rival.

Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Toyota Supra.

Porsche 718 Cayman

2018 Porsche 718 Cayman GTS Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Porsche Cayman would never have been considered a competitor with the old RX-7, considering there was such a huge difference in power (the old RX-7 rocket out just 255 horsepower in 1995.) However, the new RX-7 (or maybe RX-9) is slated to have anywhere between 400 and 450 horsepower from that new Wankel engine. That puts it well above the base 718 Cayman, and even higher than the Cayman S and Cayman GTS. The base model comes with 300 horsepower on tap and can hit the 60-mph sprint in 4.9 seconds. The Cayman S pushes 350 ponies, enough to drop that sprint time down to 4.4 seconds. Move up to the GTS that goes on sale for the 2018 model year, and you’re looking at 365 ponies from a 2.5-liter flat-four. Zilch to 60 mph comes in 3.9 seconds with this baby, which is right around the 3.8 – 4.0-second sprint we’re expecting from the new RX-7 in base form. There’s no word on the RX-7’s price yet, for obvious reasons, but you can step into a new base Cayman for $55,300 or a Cayman S for $67,000. The GTS, which will more accurately compete with the new RX-7? It comes in at $79,800, well above the base price we’re expecting for the new RX-7. Take that Porsche fanboys!

Read our full review on the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman.

Conclusion

2018 Mazda RX-7 High Resolution Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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It’s obviously way too early to draw a proper conclusion here, as we know nothing about the drivetrain, performance, pricing, and design of the upcoming RX-7. Judging by how important this nameplate is to Mazda, and looking at the concept car that previews its revival, the next-gen sports car is exciting to say the least. Granted, the big news here is that the new RX-7 will get a rotary engine, but this could go either way. Development will likely take more than a year, and I have a feeling that the RX-7 will see at least one delay because of that. Also, with Wankel powerplants not exactly successful in the past, drivers will probably be a bit skeptical at first, at least until the new unit proves to be reliable and efficient.

  • Leave it
    • Not yet confirmed for production
    • Launch date unknown
    • Rotary engine still under development

References

Mazda RX-8

2010 - 2011 Mazda RX-8 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2011 Mazda RX-8

2016 Mazda RX-VISION Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2015 Mazda RX-VISION Concept.

History

2018 Mazda RX-7 High Resolution Exterior
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The Mazda RX-7 was introduced in 1978 as replacement for the Savanna RX-7. The sports car joined the company’s lineup as the second vehicle to feature a Wankel rotary engine, being sold alongside the Cosmo luxury coupe. Initially powered by a 1.1-liter unit, the first-generation RX-7 received a larger, 1.3-liter engine rated at 133 horsepower later in its life. In 1983, two years before the second-gen model was introduced, a turbo version of the 1.1-liter delivered as much as 163 ponies. A redesigned model followed in 1986. The 1.1-liter engine was dropped, while the 1.3-liter version received a turbocharger of its own. Power ranged between 146 and 202 horsepower, although the latter was only offered between 1989 and 1991. 1992 marked the introduction of the third-generation model and a hefty update to the already proven 13B rotary engine. Output now began from 252 horsepower and went up to 276 in the third-generation’s final years. The RX-7 was axed in 2002, as Mazda was working on the RX-8.

Launched in 2003, the RX-8 was motivated by the same 1.3-liter, Wankel rotary engine as its predecessor. In the first-generation model, output ranged from 189 to 247 horsepower, and the engine mated to either a six-speed manual, a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic depending on the market. Designed as a rear-wheel-drive, four-door coupe, the RX-8 became famous due to its rear-hinged, freestyle rear door.

The second-generation model was introduced in 2009 with mild updates. The revised iteration lasted on the market only until 2012, when Mazda put an end to the RX legacy. Although the RX-8 had a remarkable platform underneath its body, the coupe’s engine suffered from excessive oil consumption and poor mileage. Hopefully, that will change with Mazda’s next-generation of rotary units.

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