When the Mazda RX-8 ceased production several years ago, its departure represented not only the end of an era for Mazda, but also seemingly sealed the fate of the rotary engine, which was once seen as a novel solution for higher fuel economy by automakers back in the 1970s. However, recent comments by a high ranking Mazda executive appear to suggest that the rotary could be making a return to production automobiles, albeit in an unexpected role.
In a recent interview with the folks at Automotive News, Mitsuo Hitomi chief of Mazda’s powertrain division revealed that there could be a very good chance that the next iteration of the rotary engine could appear as a range extender for electric automobiles. While this would be a dramatic change in role for an engine that once defined the pinnacle of Mazda performance, its potential shift in function could help the novel powerplant fulfill its original green intentions, especially when one looks at prior efforts at this idea by Mazda.
Back in 2013 Mazda was already working on a rotary engine equipped extended range EV, with this early effort materializing in the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept car. The tiny concept had a 250 mile driving range with half of it coming from its battery, while the other half was supplied by a 330 cc rotary engine which was hooked up to a 2.6 liter fuel tank. More recently, the RX-Vision concept also teased a rotary powered performance vehicle that could also add electrification to its list of tricks if it ever makes its way into formal production.
With all that said, its important to look at the finer details into how such an idea is possible. While the rotary engine has never been known for its efficiency (a key trait that made automakers such as GM and AMC abandon the idea for their lineups,) it is a very smooth running engine, and is also reasonably compact when compared to a conventional engine. Modern technology could allow Mazda engineers to make the engines even smaller than before, which will not only improve overall fuel economy, but also improve space and weight savings for the vehicle at the same time. These latter two traits would allow Mazda to add more batteries, or simply keep the car lightweight, and use this newfound lightness to retain the spirited handling that Mazda models have been long known for.
While this news might not be encouraging to rotary die-hards eagerly awaiting an RX-8 successor, Hitomi also revealed that a bigger rotary engine is also in development with the engine being tuned towards formal sports car applications. However, like many good things in life, the engine is reportedly being stonewalled by management that want a better business case for offering such a model in the first place. If we were in the board room, we would highlight the lack of a formal halo entry in Mazda’s lineup, which would help create a halo effect for other Mazda models including its growing CUV lineup. Either way, it looks like the humble rotary has a strong chance at catering to a new era of buyers if all the cards are right.
The current generation MX-5 Miata is already a stunning example in lightweight handling prowess with the car already benefiting from a weight savings suite. However, a more drastic weight loss plan could be in the works for the next generation Miata according to a recently published report.
The report which was released by the publication Autocarreveals that Mazda engineers are considering lightweight materials including carbon fiber and aluminum versus shrinking its overall footprint.
“The size is right” revealed Nobuhiro Yamamoto program manager for the MX-5 Miata in remarks to Autocar. “But in the future lightweight materials will be very important and will be used in this car. Now carbon fiber is very expensive, but we have in development affordable carbon fiber, so the MX-5 will be lighter in the future.”
In addition to the obvious improvements in fuel economy and handling. The lighter weight would also allow the Miata to be equipped with smaller engines. There have been rumors of a three cylinder engine that is possibly under development, but it is unclear if it will remain naturally aspirated or if Mazda will equip it with a turbocharger.
“It’s a simple concept” Yamamoto revealed. “The vehicle weight gets lower, there’s a smaller engine, smaller tire. It’s a lightweight sports car.”
While all of these changes do sound promising, don’t expect them to come to the Miata for a very long time. The current model was just launched over a year ago and Autocar suggests that the next generation model will not make its apperance until 2021. This is admittedly a long wait, but it will certainly be worth it when the car eventually makes its apperance.
Mazda is always looking for even more ways to squeeze performance out of its products and has unveiled the updated Mazda3 which heralds the arrival of an all new driving technology.
Dubbed G-Vectoring Control (GVC) this technology integrates control of the engine, transmission, chassis, and body into one system. The end result provides the compact with sharper handling manners while also making it more enjoyable to drive at the same time.
GVC is also the first in a series of new SKYACTIV Dynamic Vehicle technologies that aims to provide drivers withands greater amounts of feel as well as a more enjoyable driving experience (which is already great to begin with.)
“Mazda is striving to become an irreplaceable presence in the lives of our customers, to create a special bond with them, and to be a ‘one and only’ brand that they will choose again and again.” Mazda CEO Masamichi KogaI revealed in a statement.
Other than the new technology, the rest of the Mazda3 is virtually unchanged for the new model year with light tweaks for the front and rear fascias. In fact the only other notable change is a new term with Mazda claiming that the car is based on “Jinai Itatti” which is supposed to signify oneness between the car and the driver. That started with the launch of the CX-5 and look for it to define other new models in the future.
The updated 3 is expected to go on sale here in the U.S. later this year, but Mazda did not reveal a formal launch date in its release.
With the wildfire of rumors surrounding the upcoming replacement to the RX-8 a recent statement from a key Mazda executive has added fuel to the flames, with the possible addition of a turbocharged engine to the company’s upcoming rotary powered sports car.
“Personally I think that a rotary with some turbo or compressor would be good” stated Mazda drivetrain and powertrain assistant manager Tetsushi Marutani in an interview with Australian publication Motoring. “Because a rotary in my opinion, they require more [torque at] low speed, more low down torque. So if we have some small compressor or turbo it would help.”
The addition of a twin-turbocharger would allow the model (tentatively dubbed the RX-9) to not only make about 450 horsepower, but also be cleaner which will help the RX-9 comply with stricter emissions standards. A separate report claims that engineers on the project are taking it a step further, and are allegedly working on a new hybrid-compressor setup for the engine. The unique setup is supposed to take advantage of an electrically driven compressor that would eliminate lag at low RPMs. When pushed to higher revs, a conventional exhaust driven blower takes over, and allows the engine to make maximum horsepower. This would allow the RX-9 to have a solid performance foundation, while also allowing it to stay a step ahead of rivals, especially those that also use forced induction technology for their engines.
This follows up on Mazda’s recent increase in talk regarding its rotary technology ever since the firm debuted the RX-Vision concept at the 2015 Tokyo Auto Show. During that event, Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai revealed that a production version of the car (if approved) could ride on the same platform that is used on the current generation MX-5. If true, then this would be a drastic shift from past RX models which used bigger platforms in their construction.
If the engineers behind the project can meet both their emission and performance goals, a production RX-9 could appear as early as 2017 but look for that timetable to possibly change if any hurdles or obstacles arise during its development.
In a surprise announcement at the Tokyo Auto Show, Mazda revealed that it intends to resurrect the iconic rotary engine, previewing the possibility in a new concept car that also showcases an evolution of the brand’s current design language.
Dubbed the RX-Vision concept, it shares some of its basic profile with the departed RX-8 coupe. Unlike the RX-8, the RX-Vision did not inherit that model’s awkward styling and incorporates many of the cues that made their initial debut on the Kodo concept. This is especially true when viewing the front fascia which adopts the concept’s shield shaped grille as well as its thin headlights. The rear fascia features four round taillamps that incorporate a razor thin spoiler with dual round exhaust tips rounding out the package. Overall it is a massive improvement over the RX-8 while also evoking memories of the RX-7 at the same time.
The interior of the RX-Vision was designed with driver-centric ergonomics and performance in mind with seating for only two passengers available. The cabin itself features only the bare essentials, and tosses many typical luxury features to the curb. Mazda designers opted for a retro theme with a meaty deep dish steering wheel and three pod gauge cluster loudly broadcasting its performance intent. A slick metal gear shifter rises from the center stack while leather door pulls substitute for formal door handles in a bid to shed precious ounces. The interior features red and black upholstery with subtle splashes of carbon fiber adding a dash of contrast to the overall aesthetics.
Details about the performance hardware for the RX-Vision are a little murky with Mazda opting to keep many technical aspects under wraps. What we do know is that the engine is an evolution of the brand’s iconic rotary engine dubbed the SkyActiv-R. It’s unknown how many rotors it has, nor the overall displacement of the engine itself. But the use of SkyActiv technology would seem to suggest that the engine will produce better fuel economy and fewer emissions than its predecessors. Mazda was also quick to point out that development of the new rotary is still moving forward, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
After it serves its time under the lights in Tokyo, look for this concept to possibly make its debut in the U.S. at either the Los Angeles Auto Show, or the North American International Auto show in January.
With the company’s SkyActiv line of engines gradually making their way into more models, Mazda has formally unveiled plans as well as goals for next generation of SkyActiv technology which will be mated with Toyota’s hybrid technology in the near future.
According to a report obtained by members of the Japanese press, the second generation of SkyActiv technology will arrive in production cars at the start of 2018. This is two years earlier than initially speculated and could be a sign that the company is pushing the project forward to try and capitalize on the increased demand for higher fuel economy and performance. Hitomi Misuo a lead developer on the project claims that the new engines would deliver a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy versus the current generation SkyActiv system. What this means is that the engine will be able to deliver fuel economy that is on par with conventional hybrid engines, but without the complex engineering and higher development costs that are associated with a hybrid power-plant an alleged goal of Misuo’s.
There are many ways of reaching this ambitious goal, but one way that the company intends to accomplish this is through the use of homogenous charge compression ignition or HCCI. This process uses extreme high pressure to squeeze the fuel air mixture causing it to ignite without the need for a formal spark-plug assembly. However a key flaw with this approach is that it generates higher levels of heat and as a result, the process cannot be sustained across the wide range of engine speeds that are encountered by many passenger cars. It is rumored that Mazda engineers are currently working on eliminating these issues, and it is hoped that the final production version will feature technology that will allow it to sustain the process at all engine speeds. Despite these key flaws, there are some positive traits to this setup. For instance, this method of compression uses less fuel versus a traditional engine and it also produces cleaner emissions as well. The latter item is very important since it will allow the new engines to comply with stricter European 2025 emissions standards.
In addition to these efforts, a separate set of plans calls for the new engines to be mated with Toyota’s hybrid technology. This unique paring is the result of a deal that was recently signed between the two companies, and is a strong sign of the firm partnership that now exists between Toyota and Mazda, and also allows both companies to have an edge over their respective rivals when it comes to fuel economy and hybrid technology.
With the fourth generation Miata promising to redirect its focus towards lightweight sports car fun, it is no surprise that even the sound system is getting in on the “better than eve”r act too. Mazda released the technical details regarding this unique sound system, and it promises to be quite a treat for audiophiles and enthusiasts alike.
Unlike the mediocre system that provided the tunes in the previous generation MX-5, this new Bose derived system was designed for a convertible, and was engineered to take on an acoustic environment that can drastically change when the roof is raised or lowered with ambient noise increasing or decreasing depending on roof position. Bose engineers tweaked the system to have two distinctively different equalizer settings one for when the roof was down, and the other for when the roof is fully raised. This made possible thanks to the company’s “AudioPilot” technology which monitors noise levels in the cabin, and can provide an additional level of active noise compensation to negate excessive amounts of wind and road noise.
While this particular technology has already made its appearance in several other automobiles over the past few years, Bose claims that in the case of the fourth generation Miata, a brand new type of speaker technology will play a big role in revolutionizing the audio experience. Known as the “UltraNearfield” system, this innovative hardware actually steals a page or two from the Pontiac Fiero’s acoustic playbook when it comes to its placement in the seat headrests. However unlike the Fiero and its 1980’s era standard speaker technology, Bose designed two-inch “nearfield” drivers that help allegedly improve audio performance when placed as a pair in each headrest.
Further enhancing sound quality is Bose’s “TrueSpace” technology that helps create a wider stage for sound despite the relatively short distance between the speakers and listeners. The audio giant claims that “the music envelops the driver and passenger, it’s spacious and natural, and remarkably, it doesn’t fade in the breeze.” In addition to the fore-mentioned headrest mounted speakers, the Miata also comes equipped with 6.5-inch drivers in each door, as well as a pair of high tech neodymium tweeters located in each A-pillar. Meanwhile low end bass frequencies are delivered by a 5.25-inch woofer assembly that is housed in a six liter enclosure that is built into the front passenger footwell. Rounding out the package is a seven channel amplifier that takes up real estate in the storage space for the convertible top.