Time is fast running out if you want to buy a brand new rotary-powered sports car, with just a handful of Mazda RX-8 coupes left in Australia before Japanese production ends in June.
Mazda Australia says availability is now extremely limited, and the company has even dropped the RX-8 from its official website. Demand has naturally dwindled, with just 78 RX-8s sold in Australia in 2011 compared to the model's first 18 months on sale when more than 2500 sales were accrued.
The Mazda RX-8, which debuted in 2003, has succumbed to tightening emissions regulations that the current version of the Japanese car maker's distinctive, piston-less engine couldn't be fettled to meet. The four-door coupe, with its innovative rear-hinged back doors, could become a sad milestone in history as there are no guarantees Mazda will be successful in attempts to improve its next-generation Wankel rotary in key areas.
Mazda says it continues to develop a new rotary and is striving to improve its efficiency as well as low-end torque.
The RX-8's 1.3-litre engine was notable for its lack of pulling power in its bottom range but compensated in many endearing ways, especially with its smoothness, unique monotone soundtrack produced by a blend of the engine and exhaust notes, and lust for high revs. It produced its peak power of 170kW at 8200rpm.
The rotary, however, also became renowned for high oil consumption in addition to relatively poor fuel economy and emissions - with the six-speed manual version having a fuel-consuming rate of 12.9 litres of premium unleaded per 100km and CO2 emissions of 308 grams per kilometre.
Mazda's global boss, Takashi Yamanouchi, told CarAdvice at the 2011 Tokyo motor show last October that the plan for the RX-8's successor was still unclear. Yamanouchi said it was also possible the company could offer just one sports car in the future, combining both the next RX model and its famous roadster, the MX-5, the next generation of which is due next year still powered by a conventional, four-cylinder engine.
Yamanouchi said the company had two choices for the new rotary, with the engine either powering the driven wheels alone as with the RX-8, or the engine acting as a 'range extender' as part of a hybrid set-up with an electric motor.
The RX-8's demise after nine years means it fell well short of the lifespan of the fondly and highly regarded rotary-powered RX-7 that covered four decades, from the late '70s to 2002.