Okay folks, grab your salt shakers, as there are more rumors of an upcoming RX-7 successor to pass on. I try to avoid these like the plague, as they are often filled with hot air, but this one at least comes from a reliable source. Autocar is reporting that the Japanese automaker is developing a small, rotary-powered sports car following a chat with Kenichiro Saruwatari, Mazda’s vice-president of European R&D.
In the conversation, the executive stopped short of confirming a new RX, but he did say that Mazda retains a 30-engineer crew dedicated to developing new rotary technology. In addition to this small team, Mazda also teams up with universities in Japan to help fill the gaps. He also “hinted” that this team is working toward something big for the brand’s 100th anniversary in 2020 that may include rotary technology.
According to the report, the soft plan is to base the new rotary-powered coupe on the ND Miata chassis. This means that the new RX-7 will be significantly smaller than the RX-8, and likely will return to being a two-seater – a plus-two seating configuration might be an option.
Being based on the Miata means that the RX-7 successor would need to have significantly more power than the 155 ponies the 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine in the roadster cranks out. Look for at least 200 horsepower, as rotary engines are often very low on torque, so the added horsepower will help in terms of marketing. For reference, the 2011 RX-8 – the last year it was sold in the U.S. – produced 232 horsepower and a paltry 152 pound-feet of torque, while getting a wallet-draining 16 mpg in the city.
That last number and the propensity for rotary powerplants to consume oil are two of the biggest issues keeping these engines off the market. If Mazda can fix the fuel economy and oil-consumption issues, then I see no reason not to release a Miata-based RX in the future. That tossable chassis with over 200 horses and over 150 pound-feet of torque from a lightweight, high-revving rotary engine would likely be a hoot to drive. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening by 2020.