Cue the Priest and the Last Rites for the venerable Mazda RX-8 sports car, because the company pulled the pin on its production in July, and the car will not be sold beyond 2011.
The reason? flagging global sales and tightening global emissions standards. It was pulled from sale in Europe last year after failing to meet emissions regs.
This car, and a triumvirate of RX-7s that preceded it, formed one of the two pillars on which Mazda’s ‘zoom zoom’ rests today. (The other pillar is the Lotus Elan-inspired MX-5.)
Punching well above its weight has been a long-term rotary specialty, and 170kW from a 1.3-litre displacement is pretty impressive – especially in a package weighing just 1400-odd kilos. It’s also nice to drive something with rear-drive that’s happy to rev to 8500rpm – occasionally. And you have to love the mini suicide doors.
Sadly, however, just 238 RX-8s were sold in Australia in 2010 – well down on 2005, when 980 sold. It’s in the most fashion-conscious segment of the market, and drivability wasn’t its strong suit, thanks to low mid-range torque levels (peak of just 211Nm). It also really liked a drink – with a combined cycle number of a staggering 12.9L/100km.
Light at the end of the tunnel? The death of RX-8 might not speel the end for the rotary. Apparently the good folk at Hiroshima are still working on a 1.6-litre next-gen rotary codenamed 16X with – you guessed it – lower emissions, better power and less consumption. (16X was unveiled as a concept at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.) Sources are today reporting that the 16X project has been placed on something of a backburner in the light of the financial crisis and also as a consequence of Mazda’s commitment to SkyActiv and its 15 per cent across-the-board fuel consumption cut.
Jim O’Sullivan, Mazda’s North American boss, say the “rotary is alive and well within Mazda”. If and when it gets over the fence and out into the public domain is another matter.
If history repeats, we could be in for a long wait. The demise of the RX-7 in 1995 was follwed by an eight-year rotary-less hiatus. The RIP-ed RX-8 didn’t debut until 2003.