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Mazda's Return To Rotary Power

Aug 7, 2002 SHARE

The RX-8 can directly trace its roots to the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show and the RX-Evolv concept. The production car, due out in 2002 as a 2003 model, has a revised body, but the rotary engine, four-door configuration and the spirit of the concept remain. The RX-8 is also a concept, but one slated for production with few major changes.

The RX-8 has RX-7 styling cues in its silhouette but sports Saturn-style suicide rear doors and seating for four. The concept flexes 19-inch wheels and tires and 14-inch rotors all around. These items will probably not make it to production, especially considering the car's rumored $30,000 price tag.

Under the hood, the rotary engine is back. The Renesis version of the rotary pumps out 250 hp in naturally aspirated trim, a mere five ponies less than the RX-7 twin-turbo powerplant. This is made possible by the engine's side exhaust port configuration, which allows Mazda to run bigger intake and exhaust ports, while eliminating port opening overlap which makes for more efficient combustion. These features coupled with a three-stage intake set-up net the big power numbers.

While there is a 5 horse difference in horsepower output, the lack of a turbo system is reflected on the torque side, where the RX-7 put down 217 lbs-ft. but the Renesis manages only 153 lbs-ft. Let the turbo system designing begin! The rotary is slated to be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted. We hope a manual gearbox will work its way into the line-up before 2002; it would be a shame not to have the thrust of rotary power under the precise control afforded by a clutch and stick shift.

It looks like the pendulum has swung; it's the SUVs that are pricing themselves out of existence. The RX-8 addresses the shortfalls that took the "7" out of production, namely versatility and cost. With seating for four and a sane price tag, the rotary revolution could well be in full swing again by 2003.

2003 Mazda RX8
External Dimensions
Length 170.3 in.
Height 52.0 in.
Width 70.1 in.
Wheelbase 106.3 in.
Powertrain
Engine 1.3-liter two-rotor, side-portRenesis rotary
Horsepower 250 @ 8500 rpm
Torque 153 lbs-ft @ 7500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed Automatic
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