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Rotary comeback starts here for Mazda

Full circle: First offered by Mazda in 1967, rotary power will continue to motivate the next RX-7.

The next generation RX-7 from Mazda will get rotary power to burn

23 Jan 2003

MAZDA'S rotary engine comeback begins with the exciting new four-door sports coupe RX-8, but there's no way it ends there.

Officials at the Ford-owned car-maker have been cagey about the possibility of a next generation RX-7 since the demise of the model here in 1998 and in Japan late last year.

But, for the first time, sources within the company have confirmed that, while the production go-ahead is yet to be approved, a new RX-7 coupe is under development.

Mazda's advanced concept design manager Noboru Katabuchi, who was given the job of RX-8 program manager following the popularity of his original show car, the RX-Evolv, at the Tokyo motor show in 1999, has also confirmed his preference for a larger version of the RX-8's Renesis rotary engine to power any future RX-7.

"Yes, a new RX-7 is heavily under development right now," Mr Katabuchi told GoAuto at the global RX-8 launch at Laguna Seca in California last week.

"Of course, it is not yet approved but a new RX-7 is definitely being developed.

The RX-7, Mazda's flagship performance coupe since 1978, was last sold in Australia in 1998 at a price of about $97,000, before being discontinued due to lack of demand and the third generation model's requirement for Australian Design Rule re-certification.

Mr Katabuchi also confirmed the next RX-7 coupe, if approved, would be built on the four-door RX-8's exclusive new platform - as will Mazda's MX-5 roadster replacement, which is due to surface sometime next year. However, despite the rumours, Mazda is adamant it will never build an RX-8 roadster.

Joining the new RX-8, both models will continue the use of Mazda's MX/RX sports car nomenclature, while a 323 replacement - the fourth new core product in the company's 2004 Millennium Plan - should appear at this year's Geneva motor show before going on sale in Australia by January 2004 as the Mazda3 sedan and hatch.

While a Mazda9 replacement for the Millenia is also expected around 2004, the Washu concept shown at Detroit this year is a strong indication of what Mazda's next MPV will look like.

But don't expect to see rotary power elsewhere in the Mazda range.

"In the past we put rotary engines into all our passenger cars but now we realise that was a mistake," said Mr Katabuchi.

"Rotary has a unique character that's more suitable for sports cars and I believe the most appropriate use for rotary technology is in sports cars."Meanwhile, chief Mazda rotary engineer Hiroshi Kinoshita indicated a larger capacity version of the 184kW RX-8's 1.3-litre twin-rotor Renesis engine with side-mounted exhaust and induction ports was the preferred option to power the next RX-7 - or a higher-performance RX-8 variant - rather than increasing the number of rotors or turbocharging.

"There are three possible ways to increase power from this engine," Mr Kinoshita said. "Turbo is one, using extra rotors is another and using wider rotors to increase engine capacity is a third.

"This engine can be turbocharged, that is technically possible, but there is still more power available through normal aspiration.

"For me, the most suitable method would be the third - increase capacity with bigger rotors."

Revised Tribute

MAZDA will wheel out a new variant of its successful Tribute off-roader in an effort to more directly target medium all-terrain wagon rivals like the popular Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail.

A fourth V6 Tribute variant - slotting in between the $35,690 Tribute Limited and $41,320 Tribute Classic - is expected to be announced this week at a price of around $38,000, or line-ball with automatic versions of the X-Trail Ti and CR-V Sport.

Likely to be dubbed Limited Sport, the new Tributer variant should get different 16 x 6.5-inch alloys, fog lights, roof rails, cruise control, driver's seat height adjustment and a Classic interior.

To accommodate the range realignment, Classic and Luxury Tributes will get a new black interior with metallic highlights, plus front mudflaps and more progression engine mapping.

What's coming from Mazda:
RX-8 coupe - July 2003
Mazda3 sedan/hatch - January 2004
Mazda9 sedan - 2004
MX-5 roadster - 2004
Tribute - 2005
Mazda6 MPS - 2005
RX-7 - 2006To find out more about Mazda's rotary RX-8 sports screamer go to our Future Models section and read the story titled "First drive: Mazda's wicked RX-8"

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