Mazda’s next-gen SKY rotary heads into development

Mazda’s next-gen SKY rotary heads into development

The rotary engine can, at times, divide car enthusiasts, it has its serious fans who wouldn’t drive anything else but it also has its doubters. But however you look at it, Mazda’s rotary unit is a fascinating piece of engineering, brilliantly simple and compact but very inefficient and currently struggling to keep up with modern piston power.

Mazda knows if its next rotary engine is to have any chance of survival a radical redesign is required for it to achieve better fuel economy and less emissions while still offering what rotary fans really want – performance.

Mazda’s director of R&D, Seita Kanai, held a press conference in Germany this week, and announced that a new rotary engine is being designed or rather redesigned. Kanai said that the redesign was going as deep as the most fundamental elements of the rotary concept. He went on to say that the rotary remains important to Mazda as a point of uniqueness amongst the increasingly generic car market, but if it can’t meet current emissions targets and fuel economy regulations, it’ll have to be dropped.

While Kanai didn’t confirm any technical details, rumours about the new engine centre around a 1.6-liter displacement (up 0.3 liters from the current but soon-to-be-deceased RX-8’s rotary) and a power output of close to 300 horsepower (223kW). Some reports have suggested the boost in power and efficiency would come courtesy of forced induction, including using an electric supercharger.

Getting more power from the rotary design while also reducing emissions and fuel use will no doubt be a tough ask, especially while still meeting necessary cost and durability goals. But Mazda has had plenty of success with the rotary engine over the years, not just in production cars but also motorsport. Accolades include being the first non-U.S. or European engine and car to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the 1974 Mazda rotary-powered Sigma MC74. The 2.6-litre four-rotor Mazda 787B remains the only non-piston-engined car to win Le Mans overall.

If you love them or hate them, you got to agree it would be a shame to lose the rotary engine forever, because there’s nothing that sounds like a rotary engine at the redline.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the current model Mazda RX-8.

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