I cannot begin to explain how excited I am for something new and different finally appearing on the market. Although rumors of a brand-new rotary have been circulating the internet for what seems like a decade now, we’re officially getting a new Mazda Rotary Engine at long last.
With everyone focusing solely on electric powertrains, I applaud Mazda for thinking outside the box. The mere thought of building a rotary engine in this day and age is commendable, let alone a manufacturer developing such a unit. Don’t get me wrong, I love rotaries as much as the next guy, but they’re fundamentally flawed.
Even Mitsuo Hitomi, one of Mazda’s senior technical developers, agrees that a rotary can’t match modern cylinder-based gasoline and diesel engines. Not when it comes down to fuel consumption and emissions anyway. But, as Mr. Hitomi claims, Mazda is working around the issue.
The engine is in the final stages of development, but if you’re expecting a screaming 10,000 rpm monster which shoots out flames with each lift of the accelerator, you’re going to be a little disappointed. To make the rotary engine a viable choice, Mazda has had to… rethink the original concept.
They’re looking at laser and plasma ignition to achieve a cleaner burn with fewer emissions. They’re also addressing two of the biggest issues associated with a rotary: oil consumption and apex seal wear. I know eliminating both is just a wonderful dream, so here’s hoping they lower both of them to the point where they can compete with cylinder engines.
The new Mazda rotary engine will make its debut by the end of 2020 in a ‘new’ Mazda sports car. That ‘new’ is open to interpretation. A relaunch of the axed RX-8 is just as likely as an all-new model, possibly even dubbed the RX-9. The trouble is that in today’s world, the potential market for such an enthusiast car is relatively small.
And that’s what some of Mazda’s shareholders think as well. They don’t want a repeat of the RX-7 and the RX-8, where Mazda prioritizes fun over profit. As good as that is for us, the customers, it’s the sort of thing which can bankrupt even a large car manufacturer such as Mazda.
I’m not a fan of hybrids, but if the new Mazda Rotary Engine requires an electric motor to be put into production, then so be it. The rotary is far too important, and we can’t just let it go extinct. If it doesn’t sound like the old 13B, I just hope Mazda style the upcoming sports car to look like the old RX-7.