The RX-7 may objectively be a better, more advanced sports car. But a whole generation grew up idolizing the RX-8 as well. Before the age of YouTube reviews, this sports car impressed Top Gear viewers with its suicide rear doors, its affordability, and above all its engine, which stood out against rivals like the Honda S2000, Audi TT, and Alfa Romeo Brera.
First introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in 2001, the RX-8 entered production in 2003 and ended its run in 2012. Ever since then, rumors have been talking about the return of the Wankel-engined sports car, mostly centering around the older RX-7.
But a couple of months ago, something changed. Nostalgia must have finally skipped to the next generation, as managers of Mazda’s powertrain and product divisions have begun to talk of a successor to the RX-8 instead. This makes perfect sense when you consider the two features of the new MX-30 crossover: suicide doors and a new rotary engine working as a range extender.
“Rotary is our symbol. It’s a dream of engineers at Mazda to have a sports car with rotary. Now is not the time for that. When the company situation is a lot better, we can think about that dream another time,” Yoshiaki Noguchi, assistant manager of Mazda’s powertrain development division, told Top Gear magazine at the beginning of 2023.
It sounds completely fanciful, but stories like this are necessary to keep the Rotary engine fans happy and this decade-old dream alive. And even though we are no closer to having a new Mazda sports car than we were a few years ago, they have done work with the engine technology itself.
The rotary has been upgraded
One major issue of the RX-8 was fuel efficiency, as this sports car was quite sporty, despite its small displacement. Improvements have been made thanks to Mazda now using direct instead of port injection, which reduces fuel consumption by 25%. CO2 emissions are thus lowered, though the MX-5’s rumored mild-hybrid technology could yield further benefits.
At the same time, Noguchi-san said the engine needs to be lighter, which has somewhat been achieved through aluminum side housing which has reportedly shaved around 15 kilos. And changes to the thickness of the aped seal could finally solve some of those reliability issues. Of course, this is only theoretical, as the rotary is being designed to be reliably at stable revs, for the range-extended MX-30 EV, not being used in a sports car.
The RX-8 successor: not as sexy as you think?
Most reports surrounding the revival of the Mazda sports car relied on the excitement surrounding an actual vehicle, the RX Vision concept. This 2015 design study carried so much weight in the automotive world that it put the development of the sports car back on track for a few years.
You’ll find various reports out there claiming Mazda had a specialist team developing the production version, which was supposed to come out in 2020 The RX Vision was supposed to have the first mass production use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic( CFRP), before other Mazda models began using it. There were also plans for a Skyactiv rotary engine which was supposed to be a hybrid.
Unfortunately, the RX Vision isn’t the type of shape that can easily be put into production. And if you’re talking “RX-8 successor”, this rendering paints a much more realistic picture. The website Kolesa combined elements from the old sports car of the 2000s with those of 2023 production crossovers. It’s like an extreme facelift, an upmarket appearance for the car we already know. At this point, we’d be if Mazda would approve the new 6 sedan for production instead of spreading speculation.