Mazda is keeping the dream of rotary-powered sports cars alive, teasing enthusiasts with new engines under consideration to enter production.

    Last week, Mazda – along with fellow Japanese carmakers Toyota and Subaru – announced it would continue developing lower-emissions internal combustion engines (ICEs) through the addition of electrification.

    Though much of the focus was on Toyota due to its industry leading status, Mazda quietly wheeled out two rotary concept engines, teasing production plans in the process.

    The carmaker’s first rotary hybrid concept engine (above) is an evolution of what we’ve seen in the Mazda MX-30 SUV overseas, where the R-EV (range-extender electric vehicle) variant adopts a single-rotor engine to help charge its onboard battery pack.

    This revised package is claimed to be more compact and with greater packaging flexibility than the MX-30 R-EV’s system, allowing for “emotional design”.

    In describing its twin-rotor concept (below), Mazda says the two longitudinally mounted rotary engines generate power and can enable the use of a larger battery power supply, effectively acting as a range-extender rather than a direct driver of the wheels.

    It added the two-rotor engine is “being considered for use in sports cars”, the most likely of which being a production version of the RX-7 inspired Iconic SP concept seen at last year’s Tokyo motor show.

    When the concept was unveiled in October 2023, Mazda said it was powered by a two-rotor EV system which could charge the onboard battery that powers its electric motors when the battery pack goes flat.

    At the time, Mazda said the Iconic SP could produce up to 285kW, weigh 1450kg, and have a 50:50 weight distribution for ideal handling balance.

    Mazda claims rotary engines are better suited to be used in range-extender applications as they can run on a wider variety of fuels than piston engines and are typically smaller, allowing more design freedom – highlighted in the below graphic.

    Unfortunately this means we might not get to see a Mazda sports car with its wheels directly driven by a rotary engine, which has been absent from the carmaker’s lineup since the four-door RX-8 exited production in 2012.

    Mazda has also been without a two-door rotary-powered model since the FD-generation RX-7 was axed in 2002, having first launched in 1978.

    Last week, Motor1 reported Mazda had considered bringing the RX-7 back in the late 2000s, with former MX-5 project manager and last-generation RX-7 lead engineer Nobuhiro Yamamoto telling the publication the two models were to be based on the same platform.

    However, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis essentially killed off the RX-7 rebirth, with the new-generation MX-5 later launching in 2015 with only traditional piston engines.

    MORE: Toyota, Mazda and Subaru commit to petrol power with new engines
    MORE: Mazda Iconic SP is a stunning, rotary-powered vision for the future
    MORE: Mazda MX-30 R-EV rotary plug-in hybrid revealed

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

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