Less than 24 hours after word that Mazda’s sports-car concept would pack a rotary engine began to spread, the maker has pulled off the wraps and provided official confirmation. Officially dubbed the RX-Vision concept, the Mazda sports car is a two-door, two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive mass of single-purposed hotness said to provide a look at the future direction of the brand’s Kodo design language.
Undeniably alluring, the RX-Vision ultimately exists as a host body for the next-generation, Skyactiv-R rotary engine that resides underneath its long, low hood. For its part, Mazda is quick to point out that without the compact dimensions of the Skyactiv-R engine, the RX-Vision’s sultry hoodline likely would be impossible to implement. Although the maker pulled the plug on its last rotary-powered production car, the RX-8, in 2012, research and development of the rotary is said to have continued unabated. (This despite reports to the contrary.) Reviving the rotary for public consumption, however, is predicated on triumphing over all three of the rotary’s demons—namely poor efficiency, poor emissions, and poor reliability. Here’s hoping Mazda’s engineers are in it for the long haul.
At this point, the fact that the engine is a rotary is all Mazda has confirmed regarding the powertrain. We do know that the RX-Vision concept is 172.8 inches long, 75.8 inches wide, and 45.7 inches high—and that it has proportions that remind us of some pretty alluring stuff, such as the Mercedes-AMG GT S and the Jaguar F-type coupe. That said, the Mazda doesn’t exactly ape them dimensionally; the AMG’s measurements are 179.0, 76.3, and 50.7 inches, while the Jag’s are 176.0, 75.7, and 51.6. And although it’s shorter in overall length, the RX-Vision’s wheelbase is taffy-pulled to 106.3 inches, nearly three longer than the GT S’s 103.5-inch span. The resultant short overhangs add to the long, lean, and low effect that’s also augmented by a set of 20-inch wheels that adhere to the slightly exaggerated but somehow perfect aesthetic embodied by the rest of the car. Measuring 9.5 inches wide in front and 11 inches wide in the back, the staggered ten-spoke pieces are wrapped in 245/40 front and 285/35 rear rubber.
Mazda says one of its objectives in creating the RX-Vision was “to shave away all but the essentials” and to bestow upon it a style that doesn’t rely heavily on the presence of character lines for its identity. To emphasize the point, the automaker created a special shade of red paint to emphasize the “contrast between light and shadow” imparted by the car’s shape.
The interior is a modern interpretation of classic sports-car design ethos. Simple and uncluttered, it presents components such as the instruments, steering wheel, shifter, and pedal assembly as highly functional yet stylish elements, eliminating the need for cheap gimmickry. Trimmed in basic black and red with silver metal accents, it’s a paradigm of form and function, and we dig it a lot. The shifter ostensibly indicates the car has a manual transmission, but no clutch pedal is visible in the initial interior images of the right-hand-drive concept.
At this point the RX-Vision—or RX-9 as some have already speculated it might be called—is still just a concept, but it may be destined to join the Miata in Mazda’s sports-car lineup. Mazda’s execs definitely hope so, expressing their wishes that the car become reality sooner rather than later. That said, certifying a rotary for public consumption likely will be a lengthy and expensive task, and the limited customer base for two-passenger vehicles may put a production RX-Vision in a higher strata than that occupied by the RX-8. While we genuinely hope the price stays in the Ford Mustang/Chevy Camaro realm, it’s possible the car could be priced as a competitor for the Corvette.
Weeding through the PR hyperbole and recent statements made by the company’s engineers and designers, what we hear is this: Mazda deeply loves the rotary and feels that the engine type is an intrinsic part of its history. So as long as the engineers feel the rotary is viable, the company will pursue it, although the timetable may be highly elastic. Rest assured, this is a story we’ll be chasing at a sprint.