Mazda’s rotary engine program on death row

August 11th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda has keenly championed the rotary engine since it was originally used in the 1967 Mazda Cosmo but now the future of this iconic motor is uncertain.

The Wankel rotary has powered numerous Mazdas over the years, including the RX-2, RX-3, RX-7 and finally the RX-8. Mazda even sold a rotary-powered ute between 1974 and 1977. But in 2011 the automotive landscape is much different and Mazda big wigs are currently in discussions about where to go next with the unique powerplant.

While the engine hasn’t been officially axed altogether, current economic conditions have forced Mazda to re-evaluate several programs and the rotary engine is one of the things that could be dropped. For now, the company has halted development of the engine and will focus on new SKYACTIV technologies.

Mazda still believes in the advantages of rotary power including its light weight and fewer moving parts but its weaknesses are more apparent than ever. The rotary engine doesn’t burn as clean as a piston engine, it consumes more oil and is very thirsty for petrol. In these times of emission regulations and minimal fuel usage – the rotary just doesn’t fit in. Continue reading “Mazda’s rotary engine program on death row” »

New Mazda RX-9 could use Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain

May 26th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda’s next rotary powered machine is often the subject of rumour and speculation with claims that the RX-Series of vehicles may end with the RX-8. But fresh reports are suggesting that there will be an RX-9 and what’s more, it will use a hybrid drivetrain borrowed from Toyota.

These latest rumours have some weight behind them because last year an agreement was signed between Mazda and Toyota that would have the Zoom-Zoom company licensing the same hybrid tech that powers the Prius. Back then, Mazda announced that its first hybrid vehicle would reach the market in 2013. But nobody really thought it would come in the form of an RX-9.

Naturally a rotary engine will still spin under the vehicle’s bonnet, but it will likely take on a low-powered form with the hybrid system adding extra grunt. Doesn’t sound so flash right? Well not when you consider the rotary motor’s traditional design flaws of weak torque at low rpm, leaky seals and high fuel consumption. If the borrowed hybrid system can solve these issues it may be what saves the rotary engine from production car extinction. Continue reading “New Mazda RX-9 could use Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain” »

Mazda getting formula right for next-gen rotary RX-9

November 8th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

More info is slowly leaking out about Mazda’s much speculated work on a rotary-powered successor to the old RX-7 and the current RX-8. Like usual, nothing has been officially confirmed but the new machine in development is believed to carry the RX-9 nameplate. It is also expected to ditch the the innovative but odd four-door layout of the current RX-8, and will make use of a reworked platfrom from the current model MX-5 roadster. But what all you rotor heads out there really want to know about is the new engine.

Called, at this stage, the 16X project, the new Renesis rotary engine is expected to grow in size considerably over the RX-8’s and come packing around 230kW — that’s significantly more power to play with than the 173kW that exists in the current car. But it’s not getting big power from the engine that is the tricky part, Mazda is hard at work keeping the engine as clean and efficient as possible. This is a necessity in these environmentally-friendly times, particularly as the current RX-8’s high fuel and oil consumption have driven it out of some markets already.

Stay tuned as we bring you more updates on Mazda’s progress in keeping the rotary engine alive.

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