• Oct 23rd 2009 at 9:00AM
  • 55
2009 Mazda RX-8 - Click above for high-res image gallery

Though the rotary engine certainly has its fair share of detractors, many who find themselves behind the wheel of a Wankel-powered machine from Mazda fall in love with the engine's zippy and rev-happy characteristics... including this particular blogger, who purchased a new RX-8 back in 2004. Regardless, nobody can deny that the rotary has always been a thirsty little bugger, especially when compared to powerplants with similarly rated displacements.

We've been hearing for the last few years – and seemingly every other time a new rendition of the Wankel engine came to market – that the next version of Mazda's rotary would address complaints about its high fuel consumption and emissions. Perhaps the early projections about the so-called 16X engine were a wee bit premature. According to Seita Kanai, head of R&D at Mazda:
The 16X demonstrated the possibility, but that performance is not good enough. We are doing R&D which will incorporate more new technology... The 16X is more a profile of a rotary still in our concept stage. It needs more evolution.
That really doesn't sound all that confidence inspiring to us. At this point, only time will tell if the 16X will actually be ready for prime time when the long-rumored next-gen rotary-powered car from Mazda hits the scene in 2012 or so.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req'd]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      so much hate...

      I owned an 05 RX8, and for a first sports car I loved it. It was "different" and that's the whole point.

      I won't lie, they did have problems, my 05's engine blew (covered under warranty) at 40K something miles, it was down on torque, and always thirsty for gas, but it was FUN. It was quirky yes, but not a bad car at all, for being a 1.3L engine it sure did put out a fair amount of power once it's wound up.

      I'm always interested in what mazda is doing with their rotary tech, that being said once I traded it in and upgraded to some good ole american muscle, I didn't really look back.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anybody very familiar with rotaries can tell you that every major new design has an extremely hard birthing, a major contributing factor to why Mercedes and GM gave up on the engine. And despite what Mazda wants you to think, the Renesis is actually just another variation of the 13B which has been in production since 1972.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I think that's largely due to the lack of production. "

        perhaps, but the Wankel has some inherent disadvantages compared to piston engines just by nature of the design. poor efficiency is the hardest to overcome, due to the relatively large surface area of the combustion chamber(s), which mean energy is much more rapidly lost to the cooling system. Sealing is still an issue, especially apex seals and their interface to the rotor side seals, coupled with the necessity of at least some oil consumption.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think that's largely due to the lack of production. Despite being more complicated (and growing in complexity every year), piston engines are easy because there is a great body of knowledge about them and lots of other people designing and engineering them.

        Mazda has been essentially the only producer of rotary engines that power cars that are sold to the public. So, they are essentially the only people doing R&D in this area (rotaries for cars). They don't have the same body of knowledge (thought they are very knowledgeable) or other designs to compare against. There's no competition in the space. They are taking on ALL the work, which, to me, justifies the slow progression of the rotary and Mazda's difficulties in iterating the designs.

        From what I've heard, Mazda still hand-assembles the engines, too. That has to be expensive versus having unpaid robots, and figuring out a good compromise between easy to assemble and advanced enough to address some of the fuel consumption and emission concerns.

        And, even though the Renesis 13B-MSP is based on the 30 year old 13B designs, it is really a significant evolution. Yes, it's a 13B, but I wouldn't call it the *same* 13B they designed 30 years ago.
        • 5 Years Ago
        From what I hear, they are working to address the large combustion area by changing the characteristics of the surface of the rotor (something about making a trap for the fuel+air that is smaller and better positioned relative to the spark plugs). I think I heard something about DI, too, but I doubt that would make up for much if other areas aren't addressed.

        The oil consumption is fairly light on my RX-8 (~1 quart every 3000 miles, the suggest oil change interval). That's a problem if you don't change your oil regularly, but not very noticeable if you keep up with your maintenance.

        As far as the durability of the side and apex seals, I still attribute deficiencies to the state of the art. Not that I've heard anything particularly negative about this in the Renesis, but I can only see things improving as technology and Mazda's R&D improve. I'm not an engineer, though.

        So, hopefully the 16X will improve things a bit.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "On the other hand, why not just put a turbo'd 4 (or small displacement 6) in there?"

      You don't belong here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've seen one of these driving around already and I thought it was just an older model with aftermarket LED Taillights and Grille.

      Mazda had these amazing concept cars, yet played it safe.
      • 5 Years Ago
      > johncuyle
      > 2:28pm (10/23/2009)
      > What advantages? People who swap LSx engines into third generation RX7's end
      > up with a car that's lighter

      IMO the swap's advantages outweigh the disadvantages, however, it results in a slightly heavier (not lighter) car with higher COG and inferior distribution.

      I owned an RX8; it's got the best driving dynamics of any 4-door I've driven (though the STI was also a blast). Never had any problems with it and the engine - though thirsty and gutless down low - was responsive, smooth, and revved freely.

      However, what Mazda should've done with the RX8 was come out with something closer to the 1995 RX-01 prototype: 2+2 seating, 2425 pounds, 92" wheelbase, cheap, with a NA 13B-MSP making 227 hp. Hopefully the next RX7 will take the 16X and merge the best parts of the RX-01 and Kabura (which was initially supposed to have the rotary).
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does any other company build rotary engines besides Mazda? I think a big problem for the rotary engine is lack of companies investing in them. With no competition, there is nothing to drive innovation.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually a number of smaller aircraft builders use wankel/rotarys because of their light weight and excellent power to weight ratio. The rotary concept is also used in some superchargers along with rotarys in snowmobiles and those type applications. It was the power to weight ratio that got Mazda rotarys banned from some racing in Europe. It was felt that rotary engines had an inherent unfair advantage in FIA racing because no one knew how to properly classify the engine size and output. Mazda rotarys nearly won every FIA race they entered till banned.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Haha Monte. Where are all the last gen RX-7's? I haven't seen one in years and that's a shame because it was a nice looking car. Personally if I'm gonna get penalized by poor gas mileage I might as well get a V8 or a turbo 4? At least these engines have torque.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The weight, center of gravity, and engine placement on a rotary car is far better than a V8 or turbo 4. But it lacks the low end torque of a piston engine.

        I thought I had seen that there were about 10,000 of the 14,000 FDs still around. Either way that makes it a pretty rare car. There are about that many Lamborghinis in the US. And most are fairly low miles for a 15 year old car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The last RX-7 was imported into the US 15 years ago.

        The Dodge Viper is more common, and I don't see those everywhere.

        There are around 7000-8000 93-95 RX-7s registered in the US.

        With direct injection, and a turbo (hopefully variable geometery), you can have a torquey, high powered car that is under 3200lbs. Look at Audi/VWs 2.0t, and BMW's 3.0L I-6 (335i, etc) . These are very torquey and rely on smaller turbo(s) and direct injection. There is a lot of promise for DI and turbos in the next RX-7.

        -1993 RX-7 owner and enthusiast
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is it so much to ask for a car that performs well and has decent gas mileage? For some people it's hard to justify 22 mpg w/ premium gas with the (lack of) power that the RX8 has. I understand people love the rotary but for some "it has a cool engine" is not enough to warrant a purchase. Especially when you can get something like a 350z with 300 horses that gets 26 mpg.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "On the other hand, why not just put a turbo'd 4 (or small displacement 6) in there?"

      I agree losing the history of the rotary would suck, but I think they would sell a lot more of that body style if they had the 2.3 L DI turbo mill from the MS3 as an option. (Including one to me.)
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ Citezen Chin @michael pettibone: Go back to Al Qaeda
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm curious where these naysayers live. Not because I want to come to their houses but because I believe the reason they don't like rotaries is they don't see the point. I live in Vancouver, BC and it's a Mecca of rotary cars. They're everywhere and I find it unsurprising that in a place with winding mountain roads in every direction, cars that place so much emphasis on handling are so successful. Perhaps this is the reason the rotary is so loved by some (including those from its mountainous country of origin) and maligned by others who want straight line speed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Good point, Nateb 123. I live in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina and I can't imagine a better car to drive on the twisty mountain roads than my 2009 RX-8 R3. The speed limits on most of the mountain roads is 55 mph and, even in spirited driving, I don't go faster than that. So huge power isn't what it's about for me, it's about a great handling, fun car screaming around 30mph curves at 7000 rpm.

        Sure, my GTI is easier to drive quick around town and is still fun, but it just doesn't compare to the RX-8 in the mountains.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I almost bought an RX8 until my buddy who has an RX7 talked me out of it. Said wait 2 years you'll start to see all the issues with them.

      So I decided on a 350z instead.

      Now him and another friend both own RX7's. one of them put a Chevy V8 in there and the thing is insane! He wants to do it to his now also.

      The RX8's also have oil consumption issies as well as only getting like 13-15mpg is terrible. I'm thinking they would be better off just taking an S2000 engine. MORE HP, same torque.

      Only thing I love about the rotary (even after test driving it multiple times) is it's lightnest. You can really feel the lightness in the front of the car, reminds me of my mr2spyder I currently have.

      I think they should suck it up and just put the mazdaspeed3 engine in there and call it a day. 300hp / 270torque. 3,000lbs. It will be in 370z / Mustang territory not only for speed but even possibly better than 370 in handling.

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