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Renesis rotary engine in 2009 Mazda RX-8 – Click above for high-res image gallery

"We will never give up," says Mitsuo Hitomi, general manager of Mazda's powertrain division, referring to the automaker's long-running investment into the rotary engine. This vote of confidence in Felix Wankel's replacement for displacement will surely come as welcome news to rotor-heads the world over, but that doesn't mean there aren't problems in World of Wankel.

Apparently, the so-called 16X engine, which is the latest take on the pony-keg-sized engine that spins into the stratosphere, is failing to meet emissions requirements set by the engineering team at Mazda, despite the fact that it is 30 percent more fuel efficient than the previous Renesis rotary. Impressively, Hitomi stated that the 1.6-liter 16X is slightly more fuel efficient than the automaker's standard 2.0-liter gas engine.

It would seem that the rotary's well-known thirst for fuel has at least partly been quenched, but until the 16X is tuned to hit its emissions targets we can expect it to stay in the engineering department and off the showroom floor. So, when might we see a new rotary-powered machine from Mazda? "Maybe within two years we can tell you when we will introduce it to the market," responds Hitomi.

Now, let the debate continue as to what kind of body and platform that engine will be featured in...

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

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm all for cool and different and I appreciate a high reving Japanese sports car, but I think it's time to give up on the rotary.

      With the RX7, you could pull the motor for an LS1 and get a more reliable engine that made more power and got better MPG while weighing less.

      With the RX8, the MS3 turbo 4 was basically the same situation.

      It's an uphill battle of reliability, emissions and economy for the rotary.

      I know 3 people that own them. One died a very premature death due to a bad apex seal. One spontaneously burned to the ground while parked in the driveway and one is doing just fine.

      Every new generation rotary is supposed to solve the oil burning, fuel economy and reliability problems of the previous generation. I have yet to see that. I have no idea how people can afford to drive them in Europe.

      Good on Mazda for doing something new, but "we'll never give up" implies that you're losing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @tarheel: Rotaries burn oil as they lubricate the apex seals, not for cooling.

        Also, which 13b weighs 250lbs fully dressed? It isn't the 13b-rew, the twin turbo unit from the 3rd gen rx7. It weighs approx 50lbs more than an ls1.

        I will have to agree that a rotary miata would be badass from the factory, though.
        • 4 Years Ago

        I'm a huge rotarhead myself but really you're speaking about vaporware here. There is no "16B". The 16X exists only on paper and display mock ups as far as anyone outside of Mazda R&D is concerned. It cannot weigh less than any LSX engine because LSX engines are actually produced and sold in existing vehicles where the 16X is not.

        Again as much as I love the rotary, trotting imaginary bleeding edge, 35lbs 100hp engines and referring to the still in development 16X as if it were real does nothing to convince people who view the rotary with skepticism let alone distaste.

        Mazdas rotarys are one of those things that numbers alone cannot do credit. Yes the fuel economy is garbage and the torque is non-existant without forced induction, but there's something about winding an engine out to 7, 8, 9, and 10k rpm with the barest of chassis shudder and engine noise, especially when paired to a chassis with superb handling. Some love it and can't get enough, some just don't see the appeal. Either way I still love me my rotary vehicles.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mazda *is* losing on Rotary Power, that's a fact. Their bread and butter stuff might as well be rebadged Hondas, with the same FF chassis layouts and fundamental engine technology.

        It's a far cry when Mazda had rotaries across the board.

        And that shift to traditional ICE is why Mazda's rotary continues to lag from a technology standpoint.

        Mazda needs a high-end sports partner to help refine the rotary so improvements trickle down into the mainstream. Similar to how Subaru co-develops with Porsche, allowing both companies to push forward with the boxer engines. Mazda should have worked with someone like "classic" Lotus for development in ultra-lightweight chassis.

        Going forward, something like a MazdaSpeed2, MazdaSpeed3 and Miata are where Rotary Power ought to go - smaller, lighter vehicles which can use hp, and don't require gobs of torque.
        • 4 Years Ago
        efficiency at* low to mid power levels.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Interesting stuff - I hope they're successful.

      It seems like these rotary engines would match up well with a modern computer-controlled dual-clutch automatic transmission that could intelligently use the power from the engine where it is available (ie: safely let it rev up super high where all the power is).

      I wish they would partner up with someone on this. Someone like one of the low-volume independent super car makers maybe like Koenigsegg or Spyker (not likely in lieu of Saab deal) or Lotus. Or you know, maybe even with one of the industrial engine manufacturers like GE or Volvo or Caterpillar. Someone with some fresh engineering ideas and manufacturing knowledge.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Guys, if you read this article, you should see that it reflects a smart business and R&D strategy from Mazda.

      Wankels have enormous potential, based their power to weight ratio. We all know the challenges of them, but it seems that Mazda's been able to attack those challenges head-on and make significant improvements, which indicates that there could be more to work on in the future too. Consider that only one or two companies have EVER worked on Wankel design, and only Mazda consistantly. It just hasn't had the design maturity that the standard ICE does.

      The Rotary also gives Mazda an extremely unique platform to work with. They HAVE worked with both hybrid and hydrogen fuels in the rotary format. If they can turn the corner on the next engine design, the upside is HUGE, especially for a mid-tier company like Mazda.

      That being said, they aren't betting the farm on this, either. They've likely allocated something like 15% of their R&D project to keep the design going forward, so they aren't standing around holding their breath waiting for the 16X to come to life.

      I see that this could go one of 3 ways;
      1. They never get the motor working. Unlikely, based on this article, but if so, they still have their new SKY platform to work on, and losing 15% R&D is not unusual or unexpected.
      2. They come out with a working 16X that works well for a new RX-7 or RX-8 The enthusiasts will love the extra power and they will probably sell enough cars to cover their R&D costs, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Basically, the come out even. Probably the most likely scenario.
      3. The 16X is everything they dreamed about and more. It becomes their entry into alternative fuels and hybrids. Every sport-tuned model gets it as an option, or they build a whole line of RX models. They now have a unique foothold in the market that may not make them the next Toyota, but will allow them to be solid contendors and profitable, and extremely hard to compete with. Much less likely, but worth the risk.

      Companies/executives with a short-term outlook may have difficulty continuing to support the program, but those willing to plan for the long-term should be able to see the benifits. And I think Mazda does.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sorry Bob, I made my previous post and THEN I saw your comment.
      • 4 Years Ago
      A little unrelated here but I think I read somewhere that a Chinese company was working on a rotory hybrid setup. I thought that was kinda interesting.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mazda is definitely coming back!!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why not a rotary hybrid? That seems to be the best of both worlds. Rotaries are small therefore great for packaging. They rev high but have zero torque, which is complimented well by an electric powertrain's immediate torque. The emissions and poor fuel economy could be offset by driving only on electric power until 20-25mph. Rotaries are also super smooth. The motor could restart without being easily detected. Perhaps they could even find a way to use the high heat generated by the rotary engine to recharge the batteries??
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a feeling the engine meets "Current" standards for emissions but won't when the next standard is introduced. So them just releasing it now for what 4 years if that to them might possibly be worth it. I just personally can't wait to see it and drive it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I want to see a new RX-7 and a new mid-size RWD platform spawning a hatchback-sedan (think Mazda Shinari), coupe and convertible. call it the RX-6. As well, they all need turbos.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Glad to hear the project is alive and well...keep up the great work Mazda, you have one very unique powertrain which seperates you from all the other manufacturers =)
      • 4 Years Ago
      So is the 16X the SKY Rotary engine that Mazda has been referencing the past couple of months? Confused.
      • 4 Years Ago

      C my 8 ?

      My 8 is great !

      I await the replacement for the 8.

      It shall be rotary to be sure - because lighter is righter.
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