by Jez Spinks

The global boss of Mazda has made a stunning revelation at the 2011 Tokyo motor show that the company could merge its MX-5 roadster and RX-8 replacement into one single sports car.

Takashi Yamanouchi told a small group of Australian journalists at the show that a rotary-powered MX-5 is also a possibility for the future as Mazda considered its options for its trademark piston-less powerplant.

The company’s current rotary-powered RX-8 four-door coupe – which actually shares its chassis with the MX-5 – ceases production in June 2012, leaving Mazda with a gap to fill within the next few years.

“Production of the RX-8 does stop in 2012 but what comes after that I’m not in a position to say,” said Yamanouchi-san. “But I have been saying everywhere that we will continue research on the rotary engine. We will not extinguish the flame of the rotary engine.

“That kind of product is iconic for our brand. So the current MX-5 or RX-8 we have decided in the future to maintain that type of [sports car] product.

“I can’t say, however, that they will be separate … they may be merged into one.

“[We] can’t rule out the possibility [of a rotary-powered MX-5].”

The next-generation MX-5 due in 2013 is expected to be powered by a conventional four-cylinder engine under the ‘SkyActiv’ banner – Mazda’s name for its new suite of technologies designed to improve fuel efficiency.

A replacement for the RX-8 still seems much further away, whether Mazda decides to combine the coupe and MX-5 roadster into one model – with a hardtop coupe-convertible similar to the Mercedes-Benz SLK or BMW Z4 one possibility.

Mazda is also yet to determine whether the next-generation rotary engine would continue as a conventional combustion engine or work in tandem with other power sources.

“I think there are two major directions we are discussing [for rotary]. One is the application of the rotary as a conventional powerplant,” said Yamanouchi-san.

“We need a measure a plan to upgrade the [fuel] efficiency and torque [of the engine] otherwise we don’t see much progress [from the current rotary in the RX-8].

But the other option is a range-extender [rotary] powered by hydrogen. Our government agencies are already using it [as a prototype] – and it emits only steam. Rotary is used solely to produce the power.

  • Harry

    a rotary powered MX5 will be way more in keeping with the greatness that was the RX7, RX8 could never live up to the RX7. They will need to offer a hardtop version too. I would definitely buy one, sub 1000kg with maybe 200kW plus (even 350hp as promised for 16X), I will sign up now.

  • Wangel

    I only hope its not a compromiser as both are good cars in their own right .

  • Tom R

    It’s not going to be sub 1000kg mate… I reckon 1200kg and 180kW would do me just fine.

    • Harry

      the new MX5 is supposed to be sub 1000kg, the rotary engine is as light or lighter than most 4 cylinders – either way a rotary MX5 won’t be heavy.

    • Harry

      that isn’t any better than the 3rd gen RX7, if they want to make it worth their while they will have to do better than that. You need prosthetic testicles mate.

  • Doctor

    I like the idea of a choice of an MX-5 and a RX-5.

    • rotaryrivera

      the rx5 is the old mazda cosmo from the 70’s

  • technofreak

    Nice idea 😀

  • Falcodore

    Mazda really are forging ahead, they will be a force in automotive technology in the very near future.

  • PoisonEagle

    Would love to see the next generation rotary spread into passenger cars like the 3,6 and be their signature flagship engine again.
    This is great news though, if they put a rotary in the <1000kg chassis of the next MX-5, they are the new Lotus!

  • Don

    Sounds like a reborn of the MX-6?

    • Roadtard

      MX-6 was a torque steer’n pig.

  • Zen

    It was always such an obvious combination (rotary mx5) here’s hoping it really happens because the 13b never had enough torque for the rx8 and due to emissions I don’t think a factory turbo rotary will ever be seen again.

  • gti

    Throw the new rotary into a manual 2MPS and we have a winner.

  • Richard

    Because of the low torque of rotary engines a sub 1000kg MX5 is the best option for Mazda

  • Douglas9305

    …but will you ever get an economical rotary with low emissions and high reliability? And before you all have a go at me – I sit in the silly seat of an RX-7 rally car, so there!

  • davie

    MX5 and Rx8 already share a common base chassis.

  • Steve

    Is oil consumption an ongoing issue ?

    • Someone

      With a rotary, there will always be ‘oil consumption’ as it is part of its design.

      This is not an “ongoing issue” though.

  • Urabus

    Personally I’d love to see an RX8-sized RWD coupe with more more torque at lower rpm. The 3MPS engine would be a good start.

  • david

    honestly a mx-5 mix with rx-8 would be epic althow taking some style ques from an s2000 would be cool,

  • Harry

    what is the ‘shock’ part of this story? It was a shock that they killed the RX7. Putting a rotary in the MX5 makes perfect sense. Hard top option for rotary version is essential though.

  • Mariani

    I only wish we could see the noisy triangles back at racing.
    I fell in love with the idea of rotary power plants when I first read about them, as for they do have their shine, but seeing an engine that never really goes racing sort of spoils things up.
    Mazda only races them in their own formula series. Did the FIA generally outlawed the engine or what?

  • Sydlocal

    Jez, a rotary is still classed as a piston engine. The rotor is still technically a “piston” therefore it is not “pistonless”. Maybe “non-reciprocating power plant” would have been more accurate?

    • Fresh

      Good one moron….

  • Jon Hosea

    This has been a tease almost as long as the RX8 has been in production.  I’ve always wanted to buy a new car.  But anything I drive must be rotory and must be drop top.  So the newest car I can own is a 1991.  This coming about would allow me the opportunity to finally guy a new car.