The likely badge for the front-engined, rear-drive model would be RX-7, and the production version could be unveiled at the Tokyo motor show in 2017; that would mark 50 years since Mazda launched its first rotary-powered sports car.
The two-door, two-seat coupé is officially described as being 'Mazda’s vision for the ultimate in front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car styling'.
Mazda president and CEO Masamichi Kogai confirmed: “One day rotary will make a comeback. This gives form to our brand's vision of the future. It expresses our intention to make rotary. There are many issues to overcome but we will continue our efforts. We're working steadily. Keep your eyes on Mazda."
At the heart of the RX-Vision is an all-new next-generation rotary engine called SkyActiv-R, an engine which is said to solve three key issues with previous rotary engines: fuel economy, emissions and reliability. However, Mazda has yet to reveal the specifics.
The RX-Vision measures 4389mm long by 1925mm wide, with a height of 1160mm and a wheelbase of 2700mm. Those dimensions make it marginally longer and wider than Jaguar’s F-Type coupé sports car, and significantly lower, something the compact nature of the rotary engine has allowed.
The concept car sits on a unique SkyActiv rear-wheel drive platform, unrelated to the Mazda MX-5. For production, the new RX-7 is likely to be smaller than the concept car, and will be targeted at the Porsche Cayman.
R&D chief Kiyoshi Fujiwara said: “If we were to mass produce the car, the Cayman is the right kind of assumption [as a rival]. We’d like to make it lighter than a Cayman.”
Fujiwara would not mention specifics on engine capacity or performance, but the Cayman reference indicates a power output of around 300bhp. Fujiwara confirmed that turbocharging and hyrbidisation are being considered. However, the latter is considered less likely as it is a greater technical challenge.
While Fujiwara wouldn’t mention engine specs, he did confirm that efficiency now matches that of a typical petrol engine without any electrical assistance. He said that breakthroughs in computer simulation and prototype making has allowed Mazda to more accurately study the combustion cycle of a rotary engine and change it accordingly, including even the shape of the engine.
He added: “Based on the things we’ve been studying there is still room for more modifications.”
This research has also allowed Mazda to improve the torque output of the rotary engine, as well as economy and reliability.
As for the transmission, Fujiwara said that a manual gearbox would be his preferred option, but a dual-clutch gearbox might be required should the performance improve further.
On a more philosophical point about Mazda’s role with rotary, he said: “It is an essential part of our DNA and it's just been passed onto future engineers. It is synonymous with the brand.”
Production of the engine now relies on further improvements to the rotary technology, particularly in ensuring it is now robust enough and reliable for mass production, and for Mazda to be on a stable financial footing to have the confidence to relaunch the technology. If achieved, a launch date of 2017 is mooted.