Good news for Mazda fanatics as the iconic rotary engine is officially making a return, but in a rather interesting application.
Mention the words 'Mazda' and 'rotary' and images of the iconic RX-series of performance vehicles will come to mind. The RX-7 was already a superstar, but it was elevated to stratospheric heights in the first Fast and the Furious movie, where Vin Diesel's character piloted a particularly striking red 3rd-generation FD model. The subsequent RX-8 was a good car, offering a combination of style and a high-revving rotary motor.
Sadly the rotary engine was discontinued as the cons outweighed the pros. Notorious for seal failure, high consumption and high emissions, the rotary motor was shelved in favour of traditional internal combustion engines. What's interesting is the company’s in-house research department tasked with evolving the rotary engine technology, has never seen a funding cut, despite no current Mazda vehicles powered by the Wankel. Back in April 2020, patent documents were filed showing a rotary engine in a hybrid setup.
Right now the most advanced vehicle in Mazda's stable is the MX-30, an all-electric SUV. While it looks good with its suicide doors, overseas reports have been disappointed with its meagre range. The MX-30 can mustre just 200 km based on the European WLTP cycle. Now with a rotary engine in the mix working as a range extender, this should theoretically double the range to 400 km, which is far more palatable to the electric car sceptics.
In an interview with The Detroit Bureau, US Mazda operations boss Jeff Guton confirmed there will be an MX-30 with a rotary range extender launched to the North American market. “We have launched the MX-30 in Europe, which is our first battery-electric vehicle. And we will be making that product available in the future with a rotary range extender. Any chance of it coming to the US? Yes, it will, though we haven’t talked about the date publicly yet,” Guyton said.
While the return of the rotary motor is welcomed, could anyone have predicted it would be to bolster an electric car's range? As far as South African Mazda's offerings for 2021 go, we're unlikely to see the MX-30 with the CX-30 and BT-50 bakkie taking centre stage.