A good rotarian

Mazda keeps the dream alive with the RX-9, writes Peter Lyon

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

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

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