Mazda studying a rotary with Skyactiv-X technology

Could Mazda3 tech help pave the way to a new RX sports car?

Jon Wong Former editor for CNET Cars
Jon Wong was a reviews editor for CNET Cars. He test drove and wrote about new cars and oversaw coverage of automotive accessories and garage gear. In his spare time, he enjoys track days, caring for his fleet of old Japanese cars and searching for the next one to add to his garage.
Jon Wong
2 min read

Ever since the went out of production seven years ago, has insisted that the rotary engine wasn't completely dead and that work continued within the company's walls in Hiroshima, Japan, on the engine. After announcing plans for an enlarged 16X architecture that never came to fruition, examining hydrogen and countless rumors of its return, Mazda confirmed that a Wankel would finally return as a small range extender for its first battery-electric car coming in 2019 and see work in an upcoming self-driving EV.

None of those applications are likely what rotary enthusiasts ideally have in mind, but according to Mazda's vice president of R&D and design Masashi Otsuka, there's reason to hold onto a little hope that the engine can still come back in a larger capacity. In an interview with Jalopnik at the LA Auto show , Otsuka says that Skyactiv-X engine technology that will debut under the hood of the new in late 2019 could potentially be applied to the rotary.

Mazda Skyactiv-X prototype
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Mazda Skyactiv-X prototype

Will Skyactiv-X engine tech help bring a rotary-powered vehicle back to showrooms?


Skyactiv-X combines ultra-high compression, a small supercharger, complex combustion timing, technologies derived from diesel engines and a mild hybrid system that Mazda claims to deliver better efficiency and torque from a normal gas piston engine. Whether all or some of that gets ported over to the rotary remains to be seen.

If Mazda does manage to build a successor to the RX-7 or RX-8 it would fittingly join Acura and Toyota in returning storied sports cars to showrooms. The second-generation debuted for 2016 following an 11-year hiatus and a new will make soon make its world debut at the Detroit Auto Show after being out of production 16 years.

Mazda celebrates 50 years of rotary power

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As an owner of a 1994 RX-7 R2, I'm thankful that Mazda is continuing to study the rotary that helped make them the first Japanese manufacture to outright win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991 with the 787B. However, I remain skeptical of a RX series sports cars ever going back into production after years of rumors and hearing from Mazda talking heads that work on the engine is ongoing. With that said, I truly hope they prove me wrong.

Watch this: AutoComplete: Mazda confirms the rotary's revival