“Keep your eyes on Mazda," was the sign off from company president and CEO Masamichi Kogai as he stepped off stage to allow the covers to come off the RX-Vision concept car, surely the most eagerly anticipated concept of recent times.
He was somewhat stating the bleeding obvious; how can you keep your eyes off a car so beautiful? In the metal, the RX-Vision is a stunner. Low-slung, with a sleek, slippery body, and a long bonnet, the RX-Vision mixes classic sports car proportions with its lovely current Kodo design language. I thought the new Mazda MX-5 looked like a baby Ferrari; this looks like something that could have come from Maranello and all.
But like all great concept cars, the RX-Vision leaves us wanting more. All we know for sure is that rotary will now be returning to Mazda at some point in the future. For all those stunning looks, it’s what’s under the bonnet that we really want to know about.
We don’t really know anything about the engine beyond informed speculation. All that’s on the record is that it is a next-generation rotary unit. When I pressed to elaborate on the details on the concept car last night, all Kogai would say is that it “met all the targets”.
Power? Torque? Capacity? Economy? He wouldn’t put numbers on anything, directing me instead in the direction of R&D chief Kiyushi Fujiwara, a man who I’ve got some time with later. You can probably guess what my line of questioning is going to be, so have another strong coffee and stick with us through the night to find out what he says.
For now, here's some final thoughts on the press conference that Mazda used to unveil the RX-Vision. It was as packed as any press conference I’ve ever seen, yet it was also perhaps the quietest I’ve ever attended. It was an almost tense atmosphere, one filled with nervous excitement.
Make no mistake, then: rotary matters to the car industry, and there’s a huge amount of good will for Mazda to get it right. Kogai admitted rotary “was not an easy path, there are setbacks and challenges”, but he confirmed “one day rotary will make a comback”.
That day is a lot closer now we have the RX-Vision concept, and confirmation that rotary now met Mazda’s own internal targets for performance, economy and reliability. “There are many issues to overcome,” said Kogai, “but we are working steadily towards them.”
I’ll bet. When will we see the production car, then? Well, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Mazda showing a car fitted with a prototype rotary engine. By the time we’re back at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017, it will be 50 years since Mazda showed off the first rotary production car. Seems like the ideal time to launch the new one to me…