Mazda’s tantalizing RWD rotary patent, Leno honors McQueen’s XKSS, Maserati takes Formula E plunge


Tantalizing Mazda patent suggests a rear-drive, triple-rotor coupe

Intake: 2022 will finally see Mazda bring back the Wankel engine, but its deployment as a range-extender in the MX-30 electric crossover hasn’t really got rotor-heads, er, rotor-vated. However, that could well change if recent patent filings are anything to go by. The Japanese car maker has submitted a sketch for a front-engined, rear-wheel-driven rotary coupe as part of a patent approval. The main focus of the submitted plans appears to be a cooling system for a new hybrid design, but look at the drawings more closely and you can clearly see four boxes indicating the power unit which are described as “one or more engines and a motor.” This series-hybrid combination sends it power straight to the rear axle alone, raising the prospect of RX heavenly driving.

Exhaust: We admit there may be some optimistic hypothesizing here, but those “one or more engines,” combined with their relative size and positioning in the patent drawing could suggest that a three-rotor motor is on the cards. If so, it would be the first production triple-rotor since the Eunos Cosmo. Our heads are spinning at the very thought of it.

Mazda rotary hybrid patent drawing

This bespoke Benz is a fabulous flying carpet ride

Intake: Rug cultists on the West Coast should know the name Mikael Kennedy, proprietor of King Kennedy Rugs, operating out of Los Angeles, California. The rug dealer, who’s been featured in GQ Magazine, specializes in Persian rugs and even dabbles in vintage automotive rug mats as well if his Instagram is any indication. However, his latest stunt to his personal auto, a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD, is the most ambitious of all. Kennedy upholstered his lower dash, floors, and trunk in Persian rug material. The result is an oddly satisfying yet copacetic ensemble in a vintage Benz that’s overflowing with retro flavor.

Exhaust: These Persian vibes won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that takes nothing away from Kennedy’s unique creation. This palette works best up front, where it’s tempered by the Benz’s original brown tones and wood grain trim, but in any case, we applaud automotive expressions of individuality that convey so much about their owners. Now, if only Kennedy’s carpets could make this Benz levitate and fly over gridlock on the 405 … 

Porsche Taycan joins the three-mile-high club

Intake: A team of drivers has set a Guinness World Record for the greatest altitude change ever achieved by an electric car, by driving from the lowest vehicle-accessible point in the United States to the highest. The lowest point on the surface of the U.S.A. is at Badwater Basin in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level, but the crew discovered that by starting in a nickel and copper mine in Michigan they could begin their adventure at 1774.4 feet below sea level. Led by content creator J.F. Musial, the adventurers then drove a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo more than 1400 miles to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado, and gained 15,889 feet in the process. The journey, months in the planning, took 33 hours and 48 minutes to complete with stops only for driver changes and charging. Musial was on board for the whole adventure, while it was Dai Yoshihara, a 2020 class-winner at Pikes Peak, who took the wheel for the final ascent through the snow.

Exhaust: Musial describes the record-setting trip as a “what if?—a passion project, mixing our love for cars and travel and taking it to extremes.” It’s also proven to be a showcase for Porsche’s first EV, demonstrating its ability to take on a huge road trip and tackle extreme conditions from weather to altitude.

Jay Leno does his best McQueen impression in this perfect replica XKSS

Intake: There are plenty of cars tied to the King of Cool, but to some the quintessential Steve McQueen car is a certain green Jaguar. The XKSS is something of a pivot point: after the rulebook changed in 1956, the D-Type could no longer compete. Jaguar took the “leftover” D-types and fitted them for street use. The most famous caught Dan Mooney’s attention for decades, inspiring him to build this visually perfect replica, the automotive guest on this week’s episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.

Exhaust: Mooney is quick to confess that the perfection is limited to visual appearance. Open the hood and there is a wet-sump engine in place of the race-style dry-sump of the real XKSS. There is also a five-speed transmission, additional insulation, and big brakes at all four corners. Even with some modern amenities, however, both Jay and Mooney admit it is not a touring car and that the downsized, 12-gallon fuel cell is sufficient for how either of them would use the car.

Toyota’s solid-state battery only 2 to 3 years away

Toyota EV Crossover

Intake: According to an Autoline interview with Toyota chief scientist Gill Pratt, Toyota has plans to market a hybrid with solid-state battery in “the first half of this decade.” Solid-state batteries offer more power and higher energy density than current battery chemistry. According to Pratt, the use in a hybrid will allow for a smaller battery to temper the fact that solid-state batteries will be expensive until the manufacturing can scale up.

Exhaust: While Toyota has been bullish on hybrid power over full electric, the company plans on having 20 all-electric models by 2025 and one of those, perhaps a Lexus model, could have been chosen to debut the new battery tech. However, this news from Toyota makes perfect sense, and it would only be fitting if the Prius, the archetypal hybrid, is the first to usher in a new era of batteries that will carry Toyota into its next era. 

After a 60+ year hiatus, Maserati returns to single-seat racing

Intake: When Maserati unveiled the MC20 supercar in September of 2020, it announced the brand’s intent to return to the race track. Now we know the first prong of its factory-backed foray: Formula E. As of the 2023 season, which kicks off with Diriyah in Saudi Arabia, Maserati will return to single-seat racing for the first time in over 60 years. It’s also the first Italian brand to join the pure-electric series. Says Jean-Marc Finot, senior VP of Stellantis Motorsports: “Maserati Formula E will be our technological laboratory to accelerate the development of high-efficiency electrified powertrains and intelligent software for our road sports cars.” There’s no word yet on Maserati’s intent to join a sport-car series. 

Exhaust: From an optics standpoint, it makes perfect sense that Maserati starts with all-electric racing first—and we’re all for trickle-down innovation in that field—but we’ll be shocked if the trident doesn’t join an internal-combustion series as well. It’s already paid for in-house development and production of an all-new engine, the twin-turbo “Nettuno” V-6 that’s debuting in the MC20, freeing it from dependence on Ferrari V-8s. Not pressing that 621-hp mill into racing service would be a tragedy. 

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