The automotive industry is full of rumors and ever-changing plans, which is why recent reports of a 2020 Mazda RX-9 has people tentatively excited for the long-awaited sports car.
It started out as a sleek sports car concept back in 2015, known as the RX-Vision, which was supposed to have the new rotary engine design from Mazda. The Japanese car manufacturer knew that a newly-developed rotary engine inside an RX-9 was the perfect ingredient to cause a stir among fans of the RX line.
However, the promises coming out of Mazda sound too good to be true, leaving enthusiasts to question its authenticity.
What’s the deal about the Mazda RX-9’s 2020 launch?
The Mazda RX-series is considered unique because of the application of the Wankel rotary engine—a type of internal combustion engine that features a triangular rotor and an eccentric drive shaft, as opposed to the reciprocating pistons of a conventional combustion engine.
Invented over 50 years ago by Felix Wankel, it features an ingenious design that promises:
- smoother operation
- compact size
- better performance (due to its high revolutions per minute)
- superior power-to-weight ratio
If it weren’t for the Wankel rotary engine, the RX-series wouldn’t create the type of buzz it has today. This same buzz is responsible for numerous speculations about the car, such as its supposed debut at Mazda’s 100th anniversary in 2020. It has ignited the kind of enthusiasm only die-hard RX-series and rotary engine fans will be able to explain.
And, with the excitement building, the question hangs—is the RX-9 really coming in 2020 as promised?
What’s causing the Mazda RX-9 hype?
The last Mazda model to showcase the rotary engine design was the RX-8, which left a bittersweet impression on RX-model fans when it got discontinued in 2012. Some people argue that the RX-8’s disastrous reputation was due to its bad rotary engine, which was a disappointing spin-off to the one found in the legendary RX-7.
Despite its last iteration, Mazda fans still favor the idea of Wankel engines in sports cars, which Mazda knew it could capitalize on. This is why it came up with the clever idea of reconstructing the rotary engine as a range extender for its hybrid sports car. This will be different from the previous Wankel engines that were turbocharged.
Although fans recognize and appreciate the technological advancement, they are doubtful if Mazda will make be able to make all the planned improvements for a 2020 launch.
The skepticism is not without basis. Wankel rotary engines have poor surface-to-volume ratio, which is one of the reasons why cars with such engines have bad mileage.
Another main factor concerning rotary engines are emissions. Rotary engines in previous-generation Mazdas are lubricated by spraying a small amount of oil into the chamber. This lubrication process is similar to a two-stroke engine and is already outdated, based on the current emissions regulations.
Is the RX-9 really coming in 2020?
If you’re a Mazda fan, you’re probably aware that it has been trying to keep the rotary engine alive even before the RX-8 was discontinued. The Wankel engine was part of a series of concept cars it previewed throughout the years, most of which never fully made it to production.
Could this mean that the RX-9 is just one of the many concept cars that were deemed to be within grasp but are better away from the production line?
Frankly, the anticipation from critics and fans right now isn’t enough to put the car into production because of two things—the rotary engine’s demanding development and the controversial reputation of the late RX-8.
Take these three Mazda concept cars from 2005 to 2008 as examples, especially the Furai rotary race car, which met its disastrous end on the track.
Mazda Senku (2005)
Dubbed as the “four-seater rotary sports car for adults,” the Senku boasted an outlandish design. The car exhibits power sliding doors called the “flying wing,” and has an unconventional coupe-slash-hatchback roofline.
One notable thing to call out is the absence of headlights. It looks weird enough that you’ll start questioning its safety when driving at night—no wonder it never saw the light of production.
Too bad, though, because it featured a direct-injection gasoline rotary engine.
Mazda Taiki (2007)
Showcased as part of the Nagare series, the Taiki featured protruding rear wheels that created a wind tunnel past the rear end. It also featured an all-glass, aircraft-like canopy that blankets the cabin.
Interestingly, the Taiki was planned to carry an improved version of the Wankel engine found in the RX-8—though, unfortunately, the hopes of seeing a newly developed rotary engine was cut short when the car didn’t make it to the production line.
Mazda Furai (2008)
Meet the sportiest, sleekest, and most appealing concept car of the Nagare series—perhaps, in the history of Mazda concept cars—the Mazda Furai. Built on top of the Courage C65 Le Mans prototype, the Furai featured a 450-hp, three-rotor Wankel mill, the engine setup that made it ferocious on the Laguna Seca track.
Unfortunately, it was also that same setup that led the car to its demise when it caught on fire during a test drive photo shoot with Top Gear. The unfortunate incident happened at Bentwaters Parks on August 19, 2008.
What keeps our hopes up for a 2020 Mazda RX-9
Car manufacturers are on a global mission to reduce carbon footprint by developing electric vehicles. Environmental concerns and the electrification trend are logical reasons why Mazda should push through a range extender rotary engine—which could also be the key to seeing the RX-9 with a new rotary engine.
After all, Mazda already has a patent registered of this technology in 2018, which could mean that the technology should be on its way—even if it’s later than 2020.