Mazda will revive famous sports car, and our artist's impression previews it
Richard Bremner Autocar
5 December 2007

Mazda is to revive its famous rotary-engined RX-7, and Autocar's artists have been hard at work drawing up our very latest impression of what the finished car will look like.

A completely new version of the rear-drive, two-plus-two Mazda coupe will appear within the next two to three years, providing a replacement for the previous model which was dropped from the UK in 1996 and Japan in 2003.

The new RX-7 will be the first Mazda to benefit from the new exterior design theme that it has developed through a series of four concept cars (Nagare, Ryuga, Hakaze and Taiki) inspired by the idea of ‘flow’. Taiki is the latest, appearing at October’s Tokyo show, and will provide ‘graphic design elements’ for the next RX-7 according to Mazda’s design chief Laurens van den Acker.

Don’t expect to see the enclosed rear wheels or the sharp-edged tail, but do expect a shape informed by the ‘flow’ of theme, which promises to produce a car of very individual style.

The production car will of course be rotary-powered, as it has been ever since the model’s debut in 1978, and with a brand-new Wankel engine developed in part to celebrate Mazda’s admirable 40 year history with this technology.

The new engine will feature direct injection and turbocharged for its RX-7 application; expect it to have a power outputl in excess of 250bhp. Its twin chambers are of 800cc rather than the RX-8’s 654cc, producing an equivalent capacity of 3.2 litres.

The RX-7 will provide a smaller, lighter and more overtly sporty alternative to the new RX-8. That car, which will also get the new rotary engine, will continue as a four-seater but will probably grow to become more of a GT car to distance itself from the RX-7.

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The Taiki is probably the most imaginative of Mazda’s four recent concepts, and comes in the same format as the RX-7.

Inspiration for the two-seater Taiki concept was drawn from the earth’s atmosphere (it’s what the name means in Japanese), and the way that a pair of Hagoromo robes flow in the wind, which allowed a celestial maiden to fly, according to Japanese legend.

The Taiki’s designers even took to soaking cloth in plaster and hanging it to dry in the wind, to capture the shape of flowing air. That might sound contrived, but van Den Acker claims that the ‘flow’ theme, and Mazda’s observations of motion in nature, has genuinely provided his team with a "thoroughly exciting and logical creative approach," allowing them "to create one dramatic and unique design after another."

Mazda has long been the only manufacturer to persist with the rotary; it’s celebrating four decades of manufacture this year. Mazda’s next generation Renesis engine, codenamed 16X, was announced at the October Tokyo show and will go into the RX-8 next year and the new RX-7 after that.

Novelties include direct injection and a redesigned combustion chamber whose smaller surface area reduces cooling losses, improves the combustion process and produces more low-rev torque and improved fuel consumption, both significant rotary engine weaknesses.

Mazda has also been developing the rotary to run on hydrogen fuel for 16 years, and has just unveiled a rotary-engined hybrid Premacy that it will lease in Japan next year.

Here the rotary acts as a generator to produce electricity for the electric drive motor, an arrangement allowing the combustion engine to operate in the most efficient area of its rev range.

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