We reported recently that Mazda was developing a new turbo-less 225kW rotary powertrain for its next-generation RX-7 due in 2017. New information from a source close to Mazda tells us that the company is now focusing its R&D efforts on a radical twin-scroll turbocharged rotary powerplant rumoured to develop upwards of 335kW.
Rotary diehards would, of course, remember that Mazda's first-ever rotary-powered production car, the Cosmo Sport, was launched in 1967, making 2017 the 50th anniversary of that event. Right in the middle of its 25th anniversary for its Guinness Book of Records-featured MX-5, Mazda knows how to celebrate and wants to keep the party going.
Earlier this year, the prototype for this new RX-7 was said to employ a naturally-aspirated rotary engine based on the 16X configuration. Using "laser ignition" that test mule was said to produce around 225kW. In less than six months, Mazda has decided to add a twin-scroll turbo setup, expanding power to some 335kW.
We'd also heard that, in the absence of a suitable rear-wheel drive platform, Mazda was using a reinforced version of the next MX-5's platform which could accommodate the suggested 225kW. But now, with over 335kW on the table, Mazda has ditched the MX-5 underpinnings and reverted to a significantly rebuilt RX-8 platform for its test mule.
It is common knowledge in motoring circles that the RX-8's platform was already of superior build quality and rigidity and could take more power. An example was the RX-8 SP developed in Australia and raced in Targa Tasmania, which used a turbocharger to generate 205kW/305Nm.
The coupe you see in this pic is an artist's impression of the RX-7's design direction, based on information sourced from our insider. Using a stylised version of the company's 'Kodo' design language and the signature grille, the new rotary sports car is destined to take on lines and proportions reminiscent of modern-day sports cars like Ferraris.
So what will the new high-performance model be called? For well over a year now, we have heard the name 'RX-9' bandied about when speaking of a next-generation RX-7. Our source now tells us that Mazda has actually registered both RX-7 and RX-9 names with Japan's trademark office, leaving their options open as to a successor's name. Given the coupe's high-performance sports car focus, unlike the hard-to-define RX-8, Mazda may well stick with the RX-7 name, which first surfaced back in 1978.
But while the RX-8's platform is slightly larger all round when compared to that of the MX-5, our source explains that Mazda engineers are aiming to retain rigidity while decreasing the coupe's length to that approaching an MX-5.
With the issues of the out-of-production RX-8's rotary engine – poor mileage, excessive oil consumption and weak mid-range torque – Mazda originally planned to address all of those shortcomings using the company's much lauded SKYACTIV technologies with a fully redesigned fuel-efficient, more powerful, non-turbo rotary.
But then the marketing people interjected, explaining that a 225kW non-turbo rotary would not excite the marketplace and would fall short of its rivals' performance.
So, aiming to seriously challenge the Porsche 911 Carrera (not the Cayman!), Mazda changed direction and bolted on two turbochargers lifting power by 75 per cent.
Given that Mazda plans to celebrate the rotary-powered Cosmo Sport's birthday of May 1967 with the launch of a new RX-7, it stands to reason that we will see the all-new model in May 2017.
Image: Holiday Auto Magazine