Here's Why Mazda's New Vision Coupe Concept Means The Rotary Engine Is Dead
The 2017 Tokyo Motor Show is currently in progress and Mazda just dropped a boatload of images for us to salivate over the coming months and years until their production versions come out. Not only do we get a glimpse of the beautiful and muscular looking new Mazda hatchback, which will most likely be the next generation Mazda 3, but we were also treated with the new Mazda Vision Coupe Concept, presented in a very non-Mazda-red color.
We've heard about the possibility of the Vision RX Concept showing up in the near future for THE LONGEST TIME. Most recently we guessed that it will show up for the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show and looking something like this. Rumors swirled around thinking that the new concept may also show up as a production vehicle by the 2019 time frame, sporting an "RX-9" name, giving rotary lovers the promise of more high revving, smooth and torqueless, motoring happiness in the future.
However, with the advent of the new Vision Coupe Concept, we might want to squash any sort of hopes and dreams that the rotary will ever come back. It's as good as dead and here are two primary reasons why:
1. The "RX" Name Is Gone
It was called the Vision RX Concept several times in the not too distant past. When you add Mazda's constant waffling between keeping and axing the rotary with the removal of the "RX" name, which has been emblazoned on Mazda's rotary cars, then you know that the commitment to stay with a Wankel based powerplant is no longer there.
The rotary engine is also horrendous when it comes to engine reliability, fuel efficiency and power output. For a concept that bravely calls itself the "Vision Coupe," as in a vision into the motoring future, where most cars are going to be almost fully autonomous, have impressive performance, and asking for very little fossil fuels while doing it, it's hard to imagine that a half-century old technology will be a part of the Mazda "vision."
The age, performance limitations, and the reliability issues of the rotary engine segues into the next reason why the Vision Coupe signaled the death of the rotary engine.
2. Mazda Is Working On A Much Better Engine
As we've seen in a bunch of technical articles regarding Mazda's new magic engine, that blurs the line between spark ignition and compression ignition engines, the new SPCCI (Spark Plug Controlled Compression Ignition) engine is clearly a much better and more futuristic engine.
Utilizing the known reliability of four-stroke engine components with the tried and true Otto and Diesel cycles, the new SPCCI engine will deliver increased horsepower and torque with the promise of better fuel efficiency, the holy grail combination that car makers have been in pursuit of throughout the entire history of the automobile.
The SPCCI engine relies on a compression ignition cycle, much like a diesel, with intermittent use of a spark plug only when it's necessary. This new technology has been shown to increase Mazda's 2.0 liter power output, from the current Skyactiv-G's 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque to 197 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. That ought to shut the Miata/MX-5 haters out there that think there isn't enough power in the small-lightweight, two-seater sports car.
The promise of a much more powerful and more efficient engine will most likely mean that any research and development efforts will be redirected to increasing the reliability and efficiency of this new Skyactiv-X engine. The opportunity cost is the shelving of the rotary engine and the disappointment of a small hardcore group of people.
But I may be completely wrong about all of this. There might be some secret rotary engineering and development program that no one outside of the Mazda secret laboratory realm knows about, that may blow our minds when it eventually comes out. However, in the meantime, there is no way that the rotary engine will be able to produce more power, deliver better efficiency, and not require an engine rebuild every once in a while. It's tough to think the rotary will have reason to exist much longer when compared to the more modern engine examples, such as the new SPCCI hotness that Mazda has been touting.