Mazda’s new sports car concept does indeed pack a rotary engine, signaling that the Japanese automaker is ready to put the unconventional powertrain back into production. The Mazda RX-Vision concept, revealed at the Tokyo auto show, is a rear-wheel-drive coupe previewing a successor to the RX-8 and RX-7 sports cars.
Building on the company’s sensuous Kodo design language, the Mazda RX-Vision concept is a dramatically low-slung, long-hood design. Its bubble-like cabin is positioned far behind the car’s midpoint, creating a similar silhouette to cars like the Mercedes-AMG GT. The sparse cabin places a three-spoke steering wheel and a giant tachometer — with 8,000-rpm redline — directly in front of the driver, while the ultra-simple dashboard lacks even an infotainment system screen.
At 172.8 inches by 75.8 inches, the Mazda RX-Vision is both longer and wider than the Scion FR-S and Nissan 370Z coupe, although at only 45.7 inches tall, the RX-Vision’s low-slung bodywork is even lower than an FR-S. As befits a stylish show car, 20-inch wheels fill out the fenders, shod in 245/40 tires up front and 285/35 tires in back.
The biggest news, of course, is under the hood, where Mazda has installed a next-generation rotary engine it dubs Skyactiv-R. Mazda says it kept working on rotary technology even after killing off the RX-8 in 2012 because it knows that rotaries helped build some of the company’s most passionate fans. While there are no power or displacement ratings for the new engine yet, Mazda says the Skyactiv-R solves the three critical problems that plagued previous rotary engines: poor fuel economy, elevated emissions, and questionable reliability.
With reports suggesting Mazda will bring back a rotary-fired sports car by 2017, we’re looking forward to seeing this concept evolve into a production model. Direct injection and turbocharging will almost certainly be part of the program, and based on Mazda’s successes in trimming what little fat was on the MX-5 Miata, we expect a production RX sports car to have a curb weight far below 3,000 lb.
It remains to be seen whether engineers have truly solved the rotary engine’s stumbling blocks, but if Mazda plans to build an RX-8 replacement that looks this good, we’ll accept whatever fuel economy ratings it returns. Keep your fingers crossed for the return of the Mazda rotary engine within the next two years.