Expect Mazda’s rotary-powered RX-Vision concept to go into production in 2020, the 50th anniversary of the Japanese carmaker’s mass-produced rotary engine programme.
Mazda hasn’t confirmed a launch date but connections I have been dealing with in Japan and the United States for the past 25 years say 2020 is pretty much a sure thing.
That year isn’t the 50th birthday of Mazda’s first production rotary, the Cosmo Sport. It appeared in 1967 and will of course turn 50 in 2017.
But Mazda didn’t expand into the rotary numbers game until 1970. Over the next eight years it built nine, beginning in earnest with the RX-2.
The company’s president Masamichi Kogai unveiled the RX-Vision concept at the Tokyo motor show and said it was the first step in plans to revive Mazda’s rotary heritage.
He admitted the concept would be called the RX-9 when it made it into production, but said there was still work to do to overcome emissions requirements, which killed off production of Mazda’s last rotary engine, the 1.3-litre unit in the RX-8.
“Fifty years ago we took on the challenge of the rotary engine and were successful in mass-producing and commercialising it,” Kogai said.
“It hasn’t been an easy path – we’ve had our share of setbacks and challenges and are no longer producing rotary engine vehicles. However, one day the rotary will make a comeback.”
He said that under the bonnet of the RX-Vision concept was the company’s next-generation rotary engine, the SkyActiv-R. “This name expresses our intention to make breakthroughs in the rotary engine’s dynamic and environmental performance with the same high aspirations that made SkyActiv (see special note below) technology possible.”
The two-door concept features classic sports car proportions with its long bonnet and short rear. It’s 4389mm long, 1925mm wide, and 1160mm tall and its 2700mm wheelbase is identical to that of the Mazda CX-5, a hint that it’s based on a rear-drive version of the CX-5 platform.
Another hint of Mazda’s rotary intentions is the tachometer on the concept’s instrument panel – it spins all the way to 10,000rpm.
Special note: SkyActiv is Mazda-speak for a package of drivetrain and chassis technologies it introduced in 2011 to improve the fuel efficiency and overall performance of conventional petrol and diesel engines. It is also one of the reasons Mazda and Ford ended their alliance, although neither will publicly admit it. They had both charted paths of different technological directions. Ford, like many carmakers, moved to mass production of smaller-capacity turbocharged engines; Mazda wanted to wring the most out of existing medium-capacity, naturally aspirated units, hence its SkyActiv brand. It says it hasn’t finished yet.