The Rotary Returns


Andy Enright

The star turn of the 44th Tokyo Motor Show wasn’t difficult to identify. Mazda took us back to the future by announcing the return of a rotary-engined RX sports coupe. The stunningly-proportioned RX-VISION might have been a concept – the lack of doors or an opening bonnet tends to be a giveaway there – but as an indicator of the Hiroshima company’s future product plans, it’s hugely encouraging.

The production car that the RX-VISION will spawn – and informed speculation points to an RX-9 badge – could arrive as early as 2017, to coincide with the fifty year anniversary of Mazda’s first rotary sports car, the Cosmo 110.

We wouldn’t bet on it appearing quite that soon. Mazda’s looking at expanding its array of rear-wheel drive midsize cars with the RWD Mazda 6 platform slated for production by 2020. So that’s four years to wait for that. The RX-9 could be the halo model to really put Mazda front and centre with enthusiasts.

If the production car looks remotely similar to the RX-VISION it’ll be

something very special indeed. The fibreglassbodied prototype’s hugely long bonnet probably won’t make production, but that will only tidy its overall proportions, and a production model that mixes typical Mazda Kodo design with elements of Jaguar F-Type Coupe in the glasshouse would be a knockout.

A 1.6-litre, twin-rotor, turbocharged engine is pencilled in to power the production car. This powerplant, carrying a Skyactiv-R label will need to address the primary concerns of rotaries, namely economy, emissions and reliability. R&D boss Kiyoshi Fujiwara has claimed that development of the rotary has been ongoing, in a largely unofficial capacity, since the 2012 death of the normallyaspirated RX-8, but in this instance, turbocharging is seen as key to delivering optimum efficiency.

Mazda seemed confident that efficiency and durability issues could be overcome and are about to start prototype testing the first batch of Skyactiv-R engines. ly