Despite never really catching on, the rotary engine has a lot of benefits. It can make a lot of power out of a small, lightweight package, and with so few moving parts (compared to a piston engine) it can handle extremely high RPMs. Unfortunately, it burns oil by design, and doesn't get very good gas mileage. For those two reasons, the RX-8 was the last production car powered by this novel engine design. But that doesn't mean the rotary engine is gone forever.
at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa D'Este, Mazda's design director Kevin Rice confirmed Mazda has yet to give up on the rotary engine.
"In the back rooms at Mazda, we're still developing it, and when the world's ready to buy another rotary, we'll be ready to provide it," said Rice.
And even though it's not headed to production (at least for now), the company's RX Vision concept from last year was designed with a rotary in mind.
"The height of the bonnet was done specifically to package a certain type of engine," he said. "Nobody else would have developed the rotary engine. We thought we could get something good out of it, which we did, but we never stopped developing it. We didn't just leave it with the RX-8."
What Rice said sounds a lot like what Motoring heard from Tetsushi Marutani earlier this year.
"We are still developing the new engines with rotary. So in the future we hope to release it, of course, yes. But it's still under development," Marutani said. "We can't say anything about the [rotary] program; when, what type of vehicle, what is the horsepower, we can't say anything about it yet."
So even though there aren't any other details at this point, it's clear Mazda is interested in bringing the rotary engine back. We may have to wait a while, but when that time comes, we'll be ready.