A rotary-engined performance car is still right on the cards at Mazda, with executives confirming it’s a “better than 50 per cent chance” of happening, even suggesting it could take the shape of a performance-focused hybrid.
It seems the long-held fantasies of old-school Mazda performance fans could soon become reality, with the brand currently investigating ways to make the notoriously inefficient rotary engine less expensive to own and run.
The last rotary engine Mazda used was in the RX-8, which was eventually removed from European markets in 2010 after failing to meet emissions standards.
“A rotary sports car is our dream," says Ichiro Hirose, Mazda’s powertrain boss. “We understand the problems of the rotary engine. But understanding the problems means we can come up with the solutions. So we continue to research and develop the technology.”
Asked outright whether a rotary performance vehicle would feature in the Mazda line-up, Mr Hirose said: “Technology wise, it’s more than 50 per cent. But the business case is the biggest issue. I don’t think it is impossible to make this kind of sports car.”
Mazda is currently investigating ways to make the rotary engine more efficient, with executives targeting a lofty 30 per cent increase in overall efficiency. The brand has already announced a smaller rotary range extender, designed to recharge an EV's batteries. But Mazda's executives are now suggesting that same engine's size can be increased, and used to deliver more performance, rather than range.
“The first rotary engine had some disadvantages, the biggest one was that the heat was always escaping (hurting fuel economy). But now as we are trying to improve our other engines, and I think that our rotary engine will catch up with that work."
Either way, the project has the support from the highest levels at Mazda.
"I'm not allowed to talk about exact timing, but I won't be able to die happy until we launch the vehicle," said Mazda's head of design, Ikuo Maeda.
But company president Akira Marumoto wouldn't be pushed into commiting to the project, describing a rotary performance car as dream, but not a guaranteed reality.
"I will not commit," he said. "But that is the dream for all Mazda executives and employees."
Would you like to see the return of the rotary?