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We have some very sad news to report, rotor-heads fans: Don't expect a new rotary-powered vehicle anytime soon. This comes straight from Masamichi Kogai, the CEO of Mazda, which is the only company to ever market a commercially successful rotary-powered automobile in the world. The issue, as it has pretty much always been, is environmental.
While the Wankel rotary engine does indeed make a lot of power in a small, lightweight package, it does so while burning lots of fuel and emitting lots of noxious gases into the atmosphere, at least when running on gasoline. And that means the rotary engine will likely only ever be able to power niche vehicles. And that, in turn, means that it is very difficult to turn a profit on vehicles with rotary engines, particularly for a small automaker like Mazda.
"It has to be a viable commercial proposition. If we are going to adopt it, it has to be a product that can generate at least sales of 100,000 units a year. We have to be able to achieve a profit," said Kogai in an interview with Automotive News. Mazda sold 56,203 RX-7 models in the United States (the automaker's biggest market) in 1986. Sales of the RX-8 peaked in 2004, its first full year on the market, with just 23,690 units.
There is a sliver of hope, though. "We are the first and only manufacturer to commercialize the rotary engine. In that respect, we have some responsibility," said Kogai. Research will continue on the rotary engine at Mazda, and, since the engine will run on a wide variety of fuels, including hydrogen, it is possible that we'll see a rotary return on an alternate fuel sometime in the not-too-near future.Permalink | Email this | Comments
According to Edmunds, Mazda engineers are pressuring the company to create more rear-wheel-drive models, in an effort to better differentiate itself from its rivals. This push is reportedly coming from middle and senior engineers within the company, and these folks at Mazda believe this rear-drive strategy would allow the automaker to produce more distinctive, fun to drive cars. Mazda discontinued the rear-drive (and rotary-engined) RX-8 a few years ago, leaving the MX-5 Miata as the company's only RWD offering.
As enthusiasts, we're fully on board with Mazda offering more rear-drive cars, but unsurprisingly, the company's top management isn't exactly keen on the idea - and with good reason. First and foremost, the cost associated with redesigning fresh architecture for new models would be very high, and considering the fact that Mazda hasn't exactly been raking in the dough lately, an expensive new venture like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. What's more, Mazda's latest front-drive models - the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 - have been very well-received, and are helping the company gain sales momentum.
But that doesn't mean there aren't other options. Edmunds reminds us that Mazda is already partnering with Alfa Romeo on the next-generation Miata, and if this collaboration is successful, perhaps the relationship could bear additional fruit. After all, Alfa Romeo is said to be working on returning to its rear-wheel-drive roots, so Mazda's engineers might be able to make a case for more RWD goodness after all.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Since today we learned the sad, sad fact that rotary engine inventor Felix Wankel was a Nazi extremist
It's kind of tragic that the Mazda RX-8 and Honda S2000, two of the very best Japanese performance cars of the last decade, are no longer in production and never produced any heirs to their legacy. So how would the Scion FR-S measure up if it went toe-to-toe with with Honda's roadster and Mazda's last rotary?
There are very few vehicles available today that compare directly with the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins. A case could be made for the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and possibly even six-cylinder versions of American coupes like the Ford Mustang. Pretty much everything else is either too expensive or is powered by the wrong set of wheels.
The boys from EverydayDriver on YouTube decided the only fair way to judge the inherent qualities of the Toyobaru twins was to pit them against two standard-bearers of years past: The Honda S2000 and Mazda RX-8. Neither of these cars is an exact matchup, with the Honda boasting a convertible top and the RX-8 offering more practicality via a rear seat and two reverse-opening doors for easier access. What they do offer, however, are similar performance stats and proven reputations for excellent handling.
None of this talk answers the real question, though: Which one wins the comparison test? Scroll down to watch the video, and be prepared for something of a surprise conclusion.Permalink | Email this | Comments
There is a special place in our hearts reserved for the Mazda RX-7. Its screaming rotary engine made the '80s and '90s a time of high-revving fun. While Mazda continued the rotary with the four-door RX-8, the two are not the same car, and eventually the latter was phased out.
The Motor Report is the latest outlet to crank up the rumormill over a return to Wankel power and an RX sports car for the troubled Japanese brand. According to TMR, a rotary engine could come back - and so could the RX-7 nameplate - albeit not overnight. The return of the RX-7 is said to be set for 2017, and the source quoted is none other than Mazda sports car boss Nobuhiro Yamamoto.
Speaking with the press at a local launch of the updated MX-5 Miata, Yamamoto said the future RX-7 would have a curb weight close to that of the Toyota GT 86 (about 2,600 pounds), and have a larger emphasis on the driver's involvement. Yamamoto was also the powertrain chief for the JDM-market FD3S generation (1992-2002 model) and was extremely proud of that engine. Yamamoto reportedly says he would prefer a naturally aspirated version of that engine over any kind of forced induction solution, claiming that the 16X rotary engine that has been developed would be capable of 220kW (295 hp) in that configuration. The 16X was developed in 2007 but has yet to find its way into a production vehicle.
2017 would mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the rotary engine. Frankly, it would be a shame if some form of the quirky and revvy powerplant was not found under the hood of a sports car anywhere in the market.Permalink | Email this | Comments