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Mazda RX-Vision concept rekindles the rotary in Tokyo

Mazda shows the first tangible proof of next-generation rotary development in years.

The RX-Vision has classic long hood, short cockpit proportions.
Chris Paukert/CNET

TOKYO -- With the introduction of the Mazda RX-Vision concept at the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday, Mazda has rekindled a key part of its sports car spirit. There's been a gaping hole in its lineup ever since the RX-8 left the market in 2012 -- not just in terms of product, but also philosophically. That's because the Japanese automaker's identity has been inextricably intertwined with the rotary, a type of engine of which it has been the sole practitioner for years.

The RX-Vision concept is a front-engined, rear-drive sports car powered by a next-generation Skyactiv-R powerplant. It has classic long-hood, short rear-deck proportions, which is interesting because the chassis looks like it was designed to accommodate a massive engine, but rotaries are known for being compact. Regrettably, Mazda has declined to release further specifications, including displacement and power figures.

At the moment, Mazda doesn't produce a rotary-powered product, primarily because these engines have been known to be inherently difficult to meet emissions regulations because of their design. But, the company said in a statement, "while mass production is currently on hold, Mazda has never stopped research and development efforts towards the rotary engine."

The notion of a next-generation rotary engine has been fodder for auto enthusiast Internet forums for years, and the RX-Vision is the first tangible proof that the company remains committed to the technology.


Mazda's 2015 RX-Vision concept looks menacing even in low light.

Chris Paukert/CNET

Mazda recently put its fourth-generation MX-5 Miata roadster into production, and the car has been warmly received by critics. It's not clear if a company the size of Mazda can afford to bring another sports car to market, and it's not saying anything about the likelihood of the RX-Vision reaching production, but a rapturous reception on the auto show circuit would certainly seem to improve its chances.