In Depth

Mazda ‘RX-9’: company bosses hint at hybrid rotary sports car

Japanese carmaker ‘dreams’ of rebooting its iconic RX series

Rumours that Mazda will revive its RX sports car range are heating up, now that company bosses have confirmed that the firm’s latest rotary engine could power a number of new models. 

According to Autocar, Mazda developed an all-new rotary engine - which use triangular rotors as opposed to the more conventional piston-powered combustion motors - for the range-extender variant of its upcoming MX-30 electric SUV.

But the magazine notes that the motor could be used to power future plug-in hybrids and alternative fuel cars, meaning it may feature in “many Mazda vehicles” - including the rumoured RX-9.

Speaking to Autocar, Mazda research and development chief Ichiro Hirose said the flexibility of its new technology “means we can lower the hurdle of putting the rotary engine on a sports car” in a cost effective manner. 

If the Japanese carmaker were to release the long-awaited RX-9, it would have to feature some form of electrification to pass emissions laws, said company design boss Ikuo Maeda. 

“Mazda is looking at combining different technologies in our vehicles”, he told the magazine. “If we can look at some suitable and fitting combination [for a sports car], then that might be a good solution.”

While the RX-9 has yet to be confirmed, Maeda said that the company executives “share the same dream that in the future we would like to have an RX-type sports car.”

What’s more, Mazda recently filed patents for a front-engined sports car with an engine bay that’s big enough for a rotary motor but too small for a piston engine.

Here’s everything we know so far about the rumoured rotary sports car:

When will it come out?

There’s no official word on when the so-called RX-9 will launch. Mazda, however, celebrates its 100th birthday in 2020, and CNet believes the firm could use its centennial celebration to launch the sports car. 

Design

Judging by leaked patents, allegedly showing the RX-9, the sports car will take the form of a “front-mid engine layout”, notes Motor1. This means the engine is located ahead of the driver, but is positioned behind the front axle and closer to the centre of the car. 

Mazda will allegedly use a mix of “carbon fibre reinforced plastic” and aluminium in the hope of keeping weight down to a minimum, the car news site says.

While the patents do little to reveal the car’s exterior design, Mazda’s RX-Vision concept (pictured top) from the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show could serve as a preview to the RX-9. 

The RX-Vision has a similar front-engined layout as the vehicle in the patents, along with a low roofline and a passenger cell that sits right in front of the rear axle.

Mazda has also transferred a number of design elements from the RX-Vision into its recent production models. For instance, the RX-Vision’s low nose and vast grille can be found on the new Mazda 3 hatchback, as can the concept’s circular tail-lights and sleek body panels.  

Engine

Rotary engine configurations are something of a rarity in the industry, but the company’s RX-7 (produced in various guises from 1978 to 2002) and its RX-8 (discontinued in 2012) were both characterised by the unusual motor. 

According to Autocar, Mazda has filed a patent for a turbocharger that’s designed to work in conjunction with a rotor motor, suggesting the RX-9 will feature some form of forced induction to boost performance while in turn improving efficiency.

Like its predecessors, power is expected to be sent to the rear axle. However, it’s not yet known whether Mazda will offer a manual transmission - a popular choice among performance car buyers in Europe. 

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