A good rotarian
Mazda keeps the dream alive with the RX-9, writes Peter Lyon
A RADICAL 21st-century hybrid rotary hero is coming from Mazda in 2013. Work is well under way on the RX-9 in Japan, though it must wait its turn behind the next MX-5 and Mazda’s mainstream SkyActiv work on cars including Australia’s favourite Mazda3.
Mazda headquarters in Hiroshima has finally confirmed the RX-9. However, the company plans to build it on the same mechanical platform as the coming MX-5 roadster, perhaps adding a hybrid package borrowed from Toyota. The only speed bump, according to Mazda insiders, is the workload on other projects.
We want to take the RX-9 to the next level but just can’t find the man-hours to do it,’’ says one Carsguide source.
We have a guideline. We know what we have to do.
But as we must give priority to the next-gen MX-5, we only have a small band of guys working on the RX-9.’’
Even so, Carsguide has created a clear picture of the RX-9 based on design work on concept cars including the Shinari. The Mazda source also says a fresh development is under way for the RX-9’s engine, most likely with hydrogen in a bi-fuel hybrid, to move it away from regular petrol power.
If that was the case, we could pop a rotary into a compact lightweight car tomorrow. But there’s no merit in that. There’d be no reason to continue using a rotary,’’ the source says.
Sports car development at Mazda is focused on the MX-5. This means the RX-9 will be smaller than today’s RX-8, ruling out the return of the four-door body.
Do you know why the MX-5 grew so much in size? It’s because we had to drop it on to the RX-8 platform,’’ explains the Mazda man.
Now the roles have been reversed and the RX-9 will use the new MX-5 platform. The roadster’s dimensions almost mirror those of the 1989 firstgeneration model.
The final twist is a possible Toyota hybrid system, which Mazda can use after an agreement signed last year. A new Mazda hybrid vehicle, possibly a Mazda3 variant, is expected to use the next Toyota hybrid module, with a Mazda-built engine.
Unlike the Prius hybrid, though, the RX-9 version will act more as a range extender.
Smaller, lighter, cleaner, more fuel-efficient and more fun to drive— that’s where we want to take the next rotary car,’’ says the Mazda source, hinting at a late 2013 debut.
More fun to drive: Mazda’s rotary concept X-it strategy: The next RX-9, to be built on the MX-5 platform, goes back to two doors