It sure seems like it's going to happen.
The Mazda RX-8 has been off the market for nearly eight years now and fans of the rotary-powered sports car have been left in the dark with no successor in sight. Mazda seems to go back and forth on the decision to build a new rotary sports car but speaking recently to Autocar, company R&D boss Ichiro Hirose seemed more willing than ever to introduce one.
The Japanese automaker recently went through a lot of development work on a new rotary engine, which will be used as a range-extender in the new MX-30 electric SUV. "The flexible rotary engine is a major solution for electrification technologies. It's compact and lightweight with outstanding NVH. By using the rotary engine in a variety of ways, we can improve the cost efficiency - that means we can lower the hurdle of putting the rotary engine on a sports car. I really wish that we can justify this car. We have that dream, of course," said Hirose.
The rotary engine won't actually be used to drive the wheels in the MX-30. Instead, it will act as a generator for the batteries (much like a Chevrolet Volt). This doesn't mean the rumored RX-9 sports car would have to be all-electric though. Mazda says the rotary engine can also be used in hybrid and plug-in hybrid applications as well as LPG and hydrogen-powered cars but due to the strict emissions regulations, the RX-9 would have to use some form of electrification.
"If we just look at the rotary engine, to meet current environmental requirements, technology-wise, it will be difficult for a rotary to meet these," said Mazda design boss Ikuo Maeda. "Mazda is looking at combining different technologies in our vehicles. If we can look at some suitable and fitting combination [for a sports car], then that might be a good solution."
"It is hard just to focus on studying high-performance sports cars with a rotary engine, but we wanted to see how we can evolve the technology by going through this type of trial [with the range extender]," Maeda added. "And, of course, we share the same dream that in the future we would like to have an RX-type sports car." In our recent interview with Mazda Program Manager, Naohito Saga, we were told the rotary engine could eventually find its way into other Mazda vehicles like the CX-30.