Thursday, 16 November 2017

What goes around …

Whether through its practical cars and SUVs, or the evergreen MX-5, Mazda is a pretty familiar marque to most road users. Many of you will also be aware of its rich motorsport history, too, being particularly famed for its use of Wankel rotary engines, both in its road- and track-going cars – and, of course, for winning the 1991 Le Mans 24 Hours with its rotary-engined 787B.

Mazda's rotary engines have always had a reputation for compact power (and a bit of a thirst), and have been used in a number of different models, going back to 1967. The RX-8 of 2012 was the last consumer vehicle to be powered by one of its super-smooth rotary engines.

Of course, concept cars rarely make it to the road as-is – if at all – but a peek at the specs are quite promising … and, to top it all, Mazda filed a patent in early 2016, for a direct-injection, turbocharged, rotary unit, which could top the 400hp mark … surely more than 'generator' spec?

Recently, Automotive News reported that Mazda is once again developing a rotary engine, and it could make it into production cars as soon as 2019. Actually, Mazda never stopped working on its rotary engines, it just scaled back development. So, will we start to see these high-revving units back on the roads? Well … sort of …

Most of the big automotive developments, these days, centre around new powertrain tech, so it’s probably no surprise that Mazda are investigating using rotary engines as generators for hybrid EVs. Mazda has form here, with its battery-powered 2013 Mazda2 concept car, which used a tiny 330cc rotary as a generator.

EVs and hybrid market share is increasing all the time, and will soon outstrip sales of traditional internal combustion (IC) engine cars, but, whilst they’ve come-on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, current electrical storage capacities are only just getting close to providing the range available from even modest IC engines – at least, not in a manner that most mortals can afford.

Because of this, ’range-extending’ is the name of the game for EV and hybrid vehicles, and this is where a Mazda rotary can help. Having a small-capacity, light, and – compared to a traditional reciprocating engine – simple rotary, generating power for electric motors, means longer ranges, fewer emissions, and, hopefully, cheaper vehicles.

So, whilst we haven’t seen the end of Mazda’s rotary offerings just yet, they won’t be returning in quite the same guise as before. But, there is still a glimmer of hope for such a vehicle. The Tokyo Motor Show concept RX-Vision, shown in 2015, teased a possible return for the rotary engine that could actually make it into production, and even compete favourably with such cars as the Alfa Romeo 4C, Jaguar F-Type, or Porsche Cayman. 

So, whilst we’ll likely see rotary engines make an appearance in Mazdas relatively soon, it may be a little longer before we see a Porsche-bothering rotary powered Mazda on the roads … but keep yours eyes and ears open … Mazda are still working on it …

If you’re a Mazda maven, or a rotary votary, we’ve a fine selection of books to whet your appetite …

From Brian Long, comes RX-7 – Mazda’s Rotary Engine Sports Car. This is a new edition of the definitive international history of Mazda’s extraordinarily successful Wankel-engined coupés and roadsters. It covers every RX-7, up to the end of production and introduction of the RX-8, and is packed with advice on buying your own RX-7, plus coverage of the RX-7 in motorsport, and production figures – not to mention plenty of colour photos, including advertising and sales literature. Japanese Performance had this to say: 

"Lavishly illustrated with 425 photographs, Brian Long’s definitive history of the RX-7 provides an in-depth insight into this mega Mazda. A ‘must have’ tome to grace the coffee table of any Japanese sports car enthusiast."

SKU: V5133 Format: Paperback Spec: 25x20.7cm • £32.50 • 216 pages • 425 colour and b&w pictures ISBN: 978-1-787111-33-2 UPC: 6-36847-01133-8 More info…

Marc Cranswick's Mazda Rotary-engined Cars – From Cosmo 110S to RX-8 is a complete history of Mazda’s rotary-engined vehicles, charting the challenges, sporting triumphs, and critical reactions to a new wave of sports sedans, wagons, sports cars ... oh, and trucks. As Evo magazine says: 

"A valuable asset to anyone who considers themselves a fan of either rotary engines or Mazda as a brand."
SKU: V4943 Format: Hardback Spec: 25x20.7cm • £40 • 192 pages • 233 colour pictures ISBN: 978-1-845849-43-6 UPC: 6-36847-04943-0

And finally, our very own Drive Guide Guru, Julian Parish, is no stranger to rotary engines, having extensive ownership experience of an RX-8. He has put his real-world experience and knowledge into Mazda RX-8 – All models 2003 to 2012, The Essential Buyer's Guideso if you're looking to buy an RX-8, either a first gen or second gen, including the R3, you'd be crazy not to read this first. Practical Classics' opinion: 

"Gives you expert advice, essential if you’re considering taking the plunge."

SKU: V4867 Format: Paperback Spec: 19.5x13.9cm • £12.99 • 64 pages • 100 pictures ISBN: 978-1-845848-67-5 UPC: 6-36847-04867-9


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