With Volkswagen’s reputation now completely in the toilet, it might be time to make it official: The most beloved automaker in the world is now Mazda. Over the past five years, the little brand that did has become the auto enthusiast’s spiritual little brother; the one that everyone always gets along with, the one you root for against the odds, and the one you’d go out on a limb to stick up for if anyone tried to put it down. It may not lead any segment in sales (except affordable roadsters), but from top to bottom, the company offers arguably the strongest lineup of any automaker in the world. The CX-5 is an SUV that’s actually fun to drive, the Mazda3 is a stalwart of Car and Driver’s 10best, and we loved our time in both the Mazda6 and the all-new Miata, with the latter being the latest iteration of the most important sports car of the last 25 years.
And while the Miata’s legend looms large in the world of newtimer classics, Mazda is an old master when it comes to world-class sports cars. The 1967 Mazda Cosmo Sport was a groundbreaking JDM-only gem of a grand tourer that introduced the sports car world to the Wankel rotary engine. By the 1970s, the rotary was seen by the industry as the engine of the future, with Mazda leading the charge. By the end of the decade, its RX-7 sports car brought the gospel of the rotary to gearheads all over the world, a run that lasted well into the ’90s (the RX-7 carried on in Japan until 2002).
The final-generation RX-7 has since become one of the most coveted sports cars of the 1990s, but the rotary design itself always had serious problems. Despite being quieter, more power-dense, and having far fewer moving parts than a standard gas engine, it ran hot, was markedly worse on gas, and had a tendency to eat engine seals well before 100,000 miles. Still, Mazda brought the problematic rotary back for the 2004-’12 RX-8, and rumor has it the company still has a team of engineers dedicated to working the fatal flaws out of the engine once and for all. This week, fuel was added to that fire when Mazda announced it would unveil a brand new sports car at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show. What’s more, from the lone teaser photo, it seems to look a lot like its iconic sports car of yore. Could it have finally ironed out the 50+ year old problems of the rotary? Is what we’re looking at the revived RX-7?
As you can see, Mazda isn’t giving us much to go on just yet. It certainly does have a lot of RX-7 in its profile, but it also has a dash of Mercedes-AMG GT, and the recent Bentley Speed 6 concept – neither of which are bad influences to have. For years, enthusiasts have been pleading for a new Mazda hardtop grand tourer to slot above the Miata, and based on reputation and the criminally dark photo alone, we’re keeping two of our fingers crossed that this car sees production, even at this early stage.
Of course, RX stands for “Rotary eXperimental,” so unless Mazda secretly slayed the rotary’s many gremlins and developed a new engine, this won’t be the RX-7 we’ve all been hoping for. But Mazda may have already given away what the future car could be, and it’s something that should be just as exciting to the Mazda faithful.
Back in the late ’80s, Mazda reinvented the Cosmo for the JDM market as an ultra-luxury grand tourer. Released in 1990, the JC Cosmo had a 300 horsepower twin-turbo rotary engine, and a touch screen infotainment system with standard GPS – in 1990. Unfortunately, we never got the forward-thinking Cosmo here, but among the 13 other current models and concepts scheduled to appear in Mazda’s Tokyo display is a lone classic: A 1967 Cosmo Sport. Could this be a hint that Mazda is planning to revive the nameplate that first introduced the brand to the sports car world?
Well, it doesn’t look like we’ll know for sure until October 30. But that isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have – Mazda has already done the impossible and figured out a way to make SUVs and crossovers a joy to drive, so the idea of adding a range-topping GT car to its lineup is icing on the cake for us. At the end of the day, all we care about is its likelihood of seeing production, what’s under the hood, and how much it costs. Besides, what’s in a name anyway?
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