A few weeks ago, we reported on a teaser photo released by Mazda that seemed to show some kind of new grand tourer. Going on little more than some barely-visible taillights and a flowing beltline, we wondered, “Could it really be an all-new RX-7?” After all, the Mazda faithful have been clamoring for a revival ever since the iconic rotary-powered sports car disappeared from the U.S. after 1995.
But it couldn’t be, we figured, concluding: “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.”
Well, the car has officially broken cover at the Tokyo Motor Show, and we’re proud to report that we were wrong. Gloriously, gloriously wrong. The car is called the RX-Vision, and while it’s a concept for now, even the automaker is excited, saying:
RX-VISION represents a vision of the future that Mazda hopes to one day make into reality; a front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car with exquisite, KODO design-based proportions only Mazda could envision, and powered by the next-generation SKYACTIV-R rotary engine.
That’s right — while we dismissed the very idea of Mazda engineers secretly slaving away over a seemingly dead-end engine technology that we summed up: “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.”
Mazda countered with:
Mazda has never stopped research and development efforts towards the rotary engine. The next rotary engine has been named SKYACTIV-R, expressing the company’s determination to take on challenges with convention-defying aspirations and the latest technology, just as it did when developing SKAYCTIV TECHNOLOGY.
Yeah, we were way off on this one. Frankly, we’re just relieved we didn’t make an embarrassing bet on it.
But hey, everyone wins here, because the RX-Vision is absolutely gorgeous, and while Mazda says, “Mass production is currently on hold,” it still seems raring to work out the kinks on this one. The only down side is, that’s just about all the company wants to officially say for now.
So while we’ve got plenty of eye candy, we’re left with a lot of questions. How big is the engine? Will it be turbocharged? Did Mazda really find a way to quench the rotary’s infamous appetite for apex seals and thirst for gas and oil?
Luckily, on the auto show floor, company representatives have proven to be a little more open about the car’s secrets. Speaking with the British magazine, Autocar, Mazda’s R&D Chief, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, responded to a list of potential competitors by saying: “If we were to mass produce the car, the Cayman is the right kind of assumption [as a rival]. We’d like to make it lighter than a Cayman.”
Fujiwara also went on to say that company engineers have gotten the rotary’s fuel consumption under control without electronic nannies, and says they’re still debating whether or not to use turbocharging or a hybrid system to wring as much performance out of the car as possible.
Using the Cayman as a template then, the next-gen RX would have at least 275 horsepower and weigh under 3,000 pounds. Like we noted before, the car bears a strong resemblance to the third-generation RX-7, as well as the Mercedes-AMG GT and recent Bentley Speed 6 concept, while still fitting nicely in the current Mazda lineup. Autocar notes that the vehicle is roughly the size of the Jaguar F-Type coupe, and is notably low-slung — an advantage of rotary-powered cars and their smaller powerplants.
Inside, the spartan interior and aluminum manual shifter are just icing on the cake. Once again, Mazda has taken a difficult task — in this case reviving an iconic sports car line — and made it look easy. It’s previously done the impossible by making a midsize sedan and a family crossover intoxicatingly fun to drive.
Give the Mazda6 a V6 option and put the rotary-powered RX-Vision into production, and suddenly the company could be threatening to rip the “Ultimate Driving Machine” tag from BMW. Hopefully, Mazda agrees. We’d hate to be proven wrong again.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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