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Frankfurt show: Mazda set to revive rotary

8 is not enough: Mazda’s RX-8 might not be the last rotary-powered Mazda after all, if comments at the Frankfurt motor show are any guide.

Tokyo show likely launch pad for born-again Mazda rotary, maybe in hybrid

Mazda logo16 Sep 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in FRANKFURT

MAZDA appears set to revive its iconic Wankel rotary engine at the Tokyo motor show next month, probably in a range-extender petrol-electric concept.

Speaking with Australian journalists at the Frankfurt motor show today, the company’s global sales and marketing managing executive officer Masahiro Moro dropped the biggest hint that the long-awaited new-generation rotary engine might finally be ready to make a public appearance.

Asked about Mazda’s plans for another “RX” sports model to follow in the wheel tracks of classics such as the Cosmo, RX-3, RX-7 and RX-8, Mr Moro hesitated and said: “You came up with a dangerous question” – before adding with a big smile: “Stay tuned.”

When questions persisted, he asked: “Are you coming to the Tokyo motor show.”

Mazda discontinued rotary engine production when it killed off the RX-8 due to emission problems in Europe in 2012.

But like a legion of fans who still revere the free-spinning, high-power engines, Mazda has not forgotten.

Mr Moro himself commented that the rotary was close to Mazda’s heart.

Last November, he told GoAuto at the Los Angeles motor show that Mazda was still expending resources on rotary engine development.

In 2013, Mazda gave journalists a spin in a Mazda2 concept that combined a tiny rotary engine hooked up to a 20kW alternator and a battery-powered electric drivetrain.

The petrol engine served to double the driving range of the car to about 400km, while at the same time reducing “range anxiety”.

The compact nature of the Wankel format makes it ideal to slot in a car alongside an electric powertrain.

Originally conceived in pre-war Germany by Felix Wankel, the rotary engine was brought to market by NSU in 1964 before Mazda took it on in a two-rotor form for the Cosmo sportscar in 1967.

The Mazda engine was produced in a number of ever-more-powerful generations of the next 45 years, until Euro 5 emissions regulations forced Mazda to abandon its favourite child, along with the RX-8.

Mazda has on a number of occasions talked about bringing back the rotary, but now it might just have solved the problems with the format that, apart from emissions and fuel economy drawbacks, included engine seal wear and tear.

While a rotary engine comeback might be just around the corner, at least in concept form, a Mazdaspeed MPS return might be a little further away.

Many pundits had expected Mazda to pull the covers from a hot hatch at Frankfurt, but Mr Moro said MPS was “a priority for the future, not now”.

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