Automotive

Mazda hints at return of the rotary with RX-Vision concept

Mazda hints at return of the r...
The all-new RX-VISION concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
The all-new RX-VISION concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
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Mazda reveals the new RX-VISION at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show
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Mazda reveals the new RX-VISION at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show
The RX-Vision features a long, stretched profile and back-set cabin
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The RX-Vision features a long, stretched profile and back-set cabin
In teasing the RX-VISION earlier this week, Mazda described it as "appearing almost to condense Mazda's entire history of sports car development into a single model"
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In teasing the RX-VISION earlier this week, Mazda described it as "appearing almost to condense Mazda's entire history of sports car development into a single model"
A closer look at the rear-end
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A closer look at the rear-end
The massive front wheels practically extend into the hood
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The massive front wheels practically extend into the hood
Does this mean a new RX sports car is in Mazda's future?
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Does this mean a new RX sports car is in Mazda's future?
The all-new RX-VISION concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
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The all-new RX-VISION concept at the Tokyo Motor Show
The RX-VISION flashes a big, five-point KODO grill and distinctive headlight design
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The RX-VISION flashes a big, five-point KODO grill and distinctive headlight design
A look at the driver-centric cockpit
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A look at the driver-centric cockpit
Inside, the RX-VISION features a simple, sporty design
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Inside, the RX-VISION features a simple, sporty design
Mazda RX-VISION concept
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Mazda RX-VISION concept
Mazda has yet to reveal much detail about the concept, and we can only hope it's waiting for the imminent debut of the production version!
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Mazda has yet to reveal much detail about the concept, and we can only hope it's waiting for the imminent debut of the production version!
Mazda RX-VISION concept
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Mazda RX-VISION concept
Mazda RX-VISION concept
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Mazda RX-VISION concept
The side view is particularly dramatic
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The side view is particularly dramatic
The rounded taillamp design is reminiscent of the RX-8
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The rounded taillamp design is reminiscent of the RX-8
In addition to showing a sporty, new iteration of KODO, the RX-VISION hosts the all-new Skyactiv-R rotary engine
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In addition to showing a sporty, new iteration of KODO, the RX-VISION hosts the all-new Skyactiv-R rotary engine
Mazda RX-VISION concept
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Mazda RX-VISION concept
Mazda applies its KODO design language to an RX-style sports car
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Mazda applies its KODO design language to an RX-style sports car
Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo
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Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo
Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo
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Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo
Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo
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Mazda RX-VISION in Tokyo

We've been hearing about the possibility of a new, RX-8-succeeding rotary-powered Mazda sports car for years now. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda has finally breathed fresh life into those rumors, showing what such a car could look like draped in today's KODO design language – in a word: magnificent. The deep-red RX-Vision concept drips in automotive sensuality and hopefully proves more than just a fleeting vision.

While its shape looks a bit too conceptual to move through to production, for now the RX-Vison commands the room like an exotic flagship. Its stretched, curvy proportions send the mind racing into daydream after daydream about bringing that rotary to life and mashing the accelerator pedal.

If anything, Mazda's new concept is just a tad too long, its forever-hood a bit mismatched with the low, flung-back cabin. It feels almost like a pair of god-like hands pulled it by the spoiler and tip of the nose, stretching it into exaggerated two-door form.

Still, it's hard to argue with the voluptuous, 3D curves of the fenders, the subtle concavity of the sides, the big, oversized wheels, and the penciled-in headlight design. The styling brings the retired "zoom-zoom" back to life, even in the absence of basic engine and performance specs – which isn't surprising since the concept vehicle on show in Tokyo isn't packing any engine.

However, Mazda says its dream is of a future front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car based on the KODO design language, as hinted at by the RX-Vison concept, that would be powered by a next-generation Skyactiv-R rotary engine mounted below a sweeping bonnet and secured to the rear axle.

The RX-VISION flashes a big, five-point KODO grill and distinctive headlight design
The RX-VISION flashes a big, five-point KODO grill and distinctive headlight design

Mazda, still called Toyo Kogyo at the time, looked at rotary engine technology as a way of establishing itself globally as an innovative, technologically advanced auto brand. It checked out a Wankel engine at West German company NSU (now Audi) and then formed a 47-engineer rotary development team to solve inherent design problems and work toward rotary commercialization. After a trying, expensive journey, the team cracked the case wide open in 1963. Mazda completed further testing and development and launched its very first rotary on the Cosmo Sport (110S in other markets) in May 1967.

Mazda continued production of the rotary for nearly half a century, engineering its way around the engine's subpar fuel economy and hydrocarbon emissions numbers to keep it globally viable in the face of evolving regulations and the global oil crises of the 1970s. The new-era rotary engine became the backbone of the venerable RX-7, which made a name for itself on both street and race track. Between that sports coupe and the 1991 Le Mans-winning 787B race car, the rotary enjoyed some glory days throughout the 80s and into the 90s. The 787B remains the only Japanese car with a 24 Hours of Le Mans win.

Mazda developed a new, more efficient rotary engine, dubbed RENESIS, for the RX-8 sports car, which launched in 2003. Over the near-decade that the RX-8 was in production, the engine that won the International Engine of the Year Award in 2003 grew quite long in the tooth as the cars around it got cleaner and more efficient. Mazda announced the end of production in 2011, citing poor sales and high costs associated with keeping up with emissions standards, and followed through in terminating both the RX-8 and the rotary in June 2012.

Mazda RX-VISION concept
Mazda RX-VISION concept

While production stopped more than three years ago, Mazda has still been busy researching and developing rotary technology, the fruits of which will be revealed in the (hopefully forthcoming) details about the Skyactiv-R. The engine's Skyactiv badging confirms that Mazda has once again engineered around the rotary's drawbacks, designing a rotary for the eco-obsessed present and future.

We can't wait to hear more about it. For now, though, you'll have to be content scoping all the angles of this piece of pre-Halloween cherry candy, snapped live at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.

Source: Mazda

6 comments
Mirmillion
My family had one of those early wankel-engined Mazdas and it was wonderful. The thing sounded like a cross between a turbine and a sewing machine and when the accelerator was mashed, there seemed to be no end to the pull. It put a smile on all who drove it and a bit of a look of concern on the faces of the passengers...who, at first, had no idea they had just strapped into an unlikely looking muscle car.
Dieter
Beautiful concept vehicle! Sure wish someone would update my dear old dads 1972 Rotary engine concept, pat. no. 3690791 to power that beauty!
SLB
I think, if Mazda can solve the rotary's emissions problems, they should do a rotary hybrid. An electric motor would complement the rotary well, supplying the low-end torque that the rotary is missing as well as improving fuel efficiency in the city. And though a battery pack would add undesirable weight, this would be partly compensated for by the lightness of the rotary.
Stephen N Russell
Id drive this, dont know about rotory engine servicing, darn BUT produce some to Rent.
nimbuzz
I think the Wankle is more suited to the small light sports car like the Miata or RX8. This Tesla/Jaguar look is a poser or wannabe unless it has V-8/10/12 type power. I hope the Rx comes back!! I heard from peeps that raced RXs that the weak point was the engine seals (the equivalent of piston rings) and that they needed replacement too often.
Bruce H. Anderson
Too long, too short, but a great start.