Be it in the field of aerodynamics, safety or engine design, technological breakthroughs provide the driving force being the constantly fluid world of the motoring industry. Some such discoveries revolutionise the way we go about driving in our everyday lives while others provide ingenious and creative alternatives to the accepted norms of motoring. Some technologies burst on to the scene in a blaze of glory, only to gradually fall out of favour and fade into the background as new trends take centre stage.
Nowhere is this analysis more pertinent than in the singular case of the rotary engine. Championed by Mazda as early as 1967 on the Cosmo Sport 110S, the chief alternative to the traditional piston-driven powertrain is best embodied by the now-iconic Mazda RX-7 sports coupé, 800,000 of which were sold during 24 years of production. Younger readers may be more familiar with that car’s successor, the wonderfully engineered RX-8. The demise of that hugely popular sports car is well documented; increasingly stringent regulations on emissions in Europe proved to be the car’s death knell. RX-8 production ceased for good in 2012 and with it disappeared the last bastion of the mass-produced rotary engine. Three years on, and the rotary revolution may just be starting to spin up again.
This is the gorgeous Mazda RX-Vision, surely one of the most beautiful concepts we’ve seen in a long while. This front-engine, rear-wheel drive sculpture-on-wheels provides a tantalising peak into the future of Mazda sports car design; a future powered by the rotary engine.
The current Mazda range may be bereft of a mass-production rotary engine model but that doesn’t mean the project that brought us the RX-7 and RX-8 has been shelved indefinitely. With the Mazda RX-Vision, revealed to the public at the 2015 Tokyo motor show, the Japanese firm claims to have addressed the thorny issues of poor fuel economy, high emissions and ropey reliability that dogged its previous generation of rotary-powered vehicles.
In terms of size, the car itself is comparable to Jaguar’s F-type coupé along with the 275bhp Porsche Cayman although the unique, compact packaging of the rotary engine itself means RX-Vision adopts a considerably lower stance than its potential rivals. The two-door, two-seater coupé concept is underpinned by a purpose-built chassis and powered by SKYACTIV-R technology, code for Mazda’s next-generation rotary engine. Although specifics have yet to be confirmed, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that Mazda already has a production-ready rotary sports car well and truly in the pipeline.
So, to the question that’s been burning yours lips; is this the new Mazda RX-7? Quite possibly. A production version of RX-Vision is mooted for release as early as 2017. That would mark the 50th anniversary of Mazda’s first rotary-powered sports car, the Cosmo Sport 110S. The jigsaw fits together rather too neatly for this to be a coincidence.