A rotary revival could be in the works.
Want to know what the world's automakers are working on right now? Then you'll want to keep an eye on the Nürburgring during Industry Pool test days. That's where manufacturers from around the globe come to push their latest prototypes to the limit as they prepare them for production.
Having been spied here before, Mazda has returned to Green Hell with a pair of RX-8s, captured here on track by Automotive Mike with their noses all wrapped up. It first launched the vehicle over sixteen years ago, after all, and stopped producing it more than seven years ago now.
So just what is the Japanese automaker up to? If you're thinking that Mazda could be putting the old RX-8 back into production, we hate to break it to you, but that's about as likely as Fiat Chrysler reviving the Plymouth or Lancia brands – which is, to say, all but completely outside the realm of possibility. But it does have other plans for the rotary engine.
Despite the pleas of Wankel enthusiasts the world over, Mazda has been decidedly non-committal about the prospect of a successor to the RX-7 and RX-8. What it is planning, however, is to revive the rotary engine in an altogether very different capacity.
Instead of driving the wheels directly, Mazda is preparing to use a new Wankel as a range-extender, providing extra juice for an otherwise entirely electric powertrain once the battery runs out. Sort of like the little motorcycle engine that BMW (optionally) installs in the i3, but with a rotary setup instead of a pair of cylinders.
That may not be as exciting as an actual Wankel-driven sports car, but the good news is that the range-extended EV is likely to come to America, where driving distances tend to be longer than they are in Europe and Japan.