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Why Is Mazda Testing This RX-8 At The Nurburgring?

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Rotary return or not, it's still unusual.

For too many years now we’ve heard rumors claiming a Mazda rotary return will happen. Or not. Maybe, perhaps, in time for Mazda’s centennial in 2020? Does Bigfoot exist? Were the moon landings faked? The rotary story is getting old and irrelevant, just like those conspiracy theories. Even Mazda’s PR people dodge the question when asked. Needless to say, we’re tired of asking. But then this video went online, filmed by Carspotter Jeroen. During a recent trip the Nurburgring, one could see a number of brands testing new and/or refreshed models in various states of tune. This makes sense because it was an industry day, meaning these cars are not privately owned.

And then something weird appeared: a pair of Mazda RX-8s wearing some camouflage upfront. The RX-8, of course, ceased production in 2012. Yep, it’s been gone seven years now.

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So why is Mazda testing a vehicle that’s been out of production for that long? Our best guess is because Mazda continues to develop and is now testing a new type of rotary engine. Previous reports claim Mazda realized the rotary engine could also serve as an effective range-extender for, say, a new hybrid vehicle.

But again, Mazda remains tight-lipped on this subject. So until Mazda makes an official announcement (or not), assume nothing. These RX-8s could be little more than testing rotary engine tech for R&D purposes only. Who knows. What is for certain, however, is that the RX-8s 1.3-liter rotary engine will never come back.

Its unconventional design is not capable of meeting today’s strict emissions standards. In any case, we’ve all but given up asking Mazda about this subject. We know what the response will be beforehand: "We don’t comment on future product.” At best, the rotary will return as a range-extender. At worst, the status quo. These RX-8 development cars will continue to keep the rotary rumors alive, for better or worse.