Sports car concept will feature a new generation of rotary engine, dubbed SkyActiv-R.
The new engine, which has been dubbed SkyActiv-R, was confirmed by the company’s head of research and development Kiyoshi Fujiwara on the eve of the Tokyo show.
Speaking to Autocar, Fujiwara said: “People think rotary can not meet modern Eco demands. The SkyActiv engineers worked on rotary and have it cutting edge tech. It is an essential part of our DNA and it just be passed onto future engineers. It is synonymous with the brand. Some time in the future it will return and be called SkyActiv-R”
Mazda president and CEO Masamichi Kogai said: “It is a two-door, two-seater. It is a pure sports car design. We have MX-5 and another icon is a rotary sports car. We haven’t talked about market reach but this would be in that segment.” Mazda design boss Ikuo Maeda added that the concept “represents our dream, but we don’t want it to be a dream too long.”
Further hints as to concept’s rotary power source came earlier this month when Mazda released details of other cars that will be shown on its stand, including the 967 Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S, the company’s first rotary powered mass-production model.
It was also confirmed earlier this year that Mazda still had a dedicated engineering team focussed on rotary engine development. Kogai said: “Initial targets for rotary were set higher than gasoline. I said before it would be difficult for mass production, and this encouraged our engineers to work harder to acheive these targets. I believe one day our engineers can overcome those challenges and meet targets.
“We want to have good communication with our fans on the concept. I’d like to know how great their expectations are. R&D are working very hard – the targets are strict, rotary engines have lots of issues, and we need to solve each of them. It’s not just emissions, it’s performance as well, and making it easy to maintain. A rotary engine is a difficult engine to solve all these problems.
“If I say anything about [launch] dates I put too much pressure on our engineers. I want to avoid putting pressure on them. I would like to hear feedback on the design of the vehicle. This is the design of a sports car that really encapsulates a front-engined rear-wheel drive car. It embodies a Mazda sports car.”
While Kogai hasn’t outlined a timeline for the return of the RX brand, it’s feasible that a successor to the RX-8 could appear by 2018, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the original RX-7.
Mazda has also experimented with using rotary engines for different applications beyond being the sole powertrain for a vehicle. It has applied for patents using a rotary engine as a range extender on a hybrid system and even demonstrated a prototype based on the previous generation of its 2 supermini back in 2013.
The Japanese manufacturer killed off its last rotary-engined sports car, the RX-8, back in 2012 as its motor faced ever-tightening emissions regulations. The firm did build a prototype turbocharged RX-8, but that car would have failed to meet European requirements too, and its further development could not be justified on Japanese sales alone.
In fact, rumours of Mazda’s return to rotary engines stretch back to 2010, when insiders hinted that a successor the RX-7, potentially to be dubbed RX-9, was planned.
The Mazda Koeru, a crossover SUV concept that debuted in Frankfurt in September, will also be on display in Tokyo.