Mazda's Next Rotary: Delayed, But Still Under Development?

Mazda may be in the process of winding down production of its sole production vehicle equipped with a Wankel rotary engine, but according to many corporate officials, the rotary engine will live on past the RX-8. Meeting increasingly stringent emissions standards has proven to be a substantial hurdle, but Mazda's new engine -- dubbed the 16X -- is still under development.

According to Automotive News, the new engine is reportedly a 1.6-liter unit, and is roughly 30 percent more efficient than the RX-8's 1.3-liter 13B-MSP Renesis engine. According to Mitsuo Hitomi, general manager of Mazda's powertrain operations, the new engine, which is fitted with direct injection, is 30-percent more fuel efficient than the current Renesis, and is also stingier on fuel than the company's current 2.0-liter I-4.

Sounds good? Absolutely -- but don't look for it to launch for several years yet. Although the basic design of the 16X was unveiled at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show (where it was installed in the Taiki show car), the program has been perpetually delayed. Development priorities shifted during the financial crisis, and engineering and fiscal resources were instead focused on Mazda's new SkyActiv powertrain range, not the 16X.

Furthering complicating the matter is meeting new emissions standards, particularly in Europe. Hitomi says these headaches alone have delayed the engine's development by roughly a year, and the company is nowhere near close to announcing a production timeframe for the engine.

"Maybe within two years we can tell you when we will introduce it to the market," he told AN.

Here's hoping Mazda's newly expanded R&D budget, which was bumped by $240 million earlier this month, helps push the 16X closer to production. Recent reports suggest the automaker is working on a new RX sports car that could possibly launch as soon as 2013 -- not a moment too soon, in our opinion, as the RX-8 is set to disappear from U.S. showrooms after the 2011 model year.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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