Mazda is keeping the RX-9 flame alive

Four years ago at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda presented the RX-Vision concept, a coupe featuring the brand’s “next-generation Skyactiv-R rotary engine.” Back then, Mazda said it sees “new potential in a powerplant that is synonymous with the brand,” pointing out that between 1978 and 2002, it managed to sell more than 800,000 rotary-powered RX-7s. Yet despite those Wankel-engined sports cars being followed by another 192,094 RX-8s sold up until June 2012, just two years after showing off the RX-Vision, Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai claimed there were no plans to build a sports car positioned above the Miata. 

It’s still not clear what the future holds, but hope for the rotary (and a new dedicated sports car apart from the Miata) remains.

At the time, Mazda said that if it brings back the rotary, it will be only as a range extender built into an upcoming hybrid system. That makes sense for packaging reasons, but then Mazda followed up with news this year it believes a hybrid rotary powertrain could pass all modern emission regulations after all. On the piston-engined side, Mazda also claimed it can’t afford to develop a new motor that would allow for future Mazdaspeeds. Then, it got leaked that a pair of Skyactiv-X inline-six engines are in the pipeline, which ignite both gasoline and diesel without using traditional spark plug technology.

2017 Vision Coupe Concept
2017 Vision Coupe Concept Mazda

What’s more, the documents proved those new six-cylinders will go into a rear-wheel drive architecture, as the brand moves upmarket to perhaps follow up on its 2017 Vision Coupe concept. All of which brings us to a patent filing unearthed by Japan’s Motor Magazine.

Mazda Patent Visual

Quoting an anonymous source at Mazda, the Japanese magazine reports that this is the front section of the lightweight platform designed specifically for the RX-9, featuring plenty of aluminum and carbon fiber. What’s for sure is that the thick crossmember suggests a front-mid engine layout, paired with the also visible double-wishbone front suspension setup.

In the meantime, Mazda also likes to send its mystery RX-8s to the Nürburgring during the industry pool days, to test various individual components. (Or just to mess with our minds.) One could say there’s no better camouflage for a rotary prototype than an old rotary Mazda.

The relationship between Mazda’s financial department and R&D team may be more complex than the wiring diagram of a Koenigsegg Regera, but it seems that a sports car larger than a Miata is definitely coming, after all. At this point, whether that to be powered by a straight-six with compression ignition or a turbocharged rotary-hybrid is probably up to a flip of a coin. But let’s keep in mind that Mazda will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Not a bad way to ring the heritage bell.

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