The rotary rumormill continues to spin about as fast as a Renesis engine at redline (that's 9,000 rpm, for those keeping track). Might the next rotary-powered RX from Mazda be a hybrid? It very well may, if you believe a report from Motor Trend.
Lending credence to the story is a 2010 agreement signed between Mazda and Toyota that would have the Zoom-Zoom company licensing the technology that makes the Prius tick. At the time, Mazda indicated that its first hybrid using Toyota technology would hit the market in 2013. Will it be in the form of an RX-9?
Motor Trend reports that the successor to the RX-8 will eschew reverse-opening rear doors for a standard coupe format with an architecture based on the platform of the next-gen Mazda MX-5. If true, we may be talking about the world's first real rear-wheel-drive hybrid sportscar for the mass market.
It's worth noting that a hybrid powertrain may very well cure what has forever ailed the rotary engine: low torque (electric motors make gobs of the stuff at low rpm) and high fuel consumption. We like the idea of Mazda forging forward with the rotary engine, especially one that's tuned to make a ton of horsepower at stratospheric spinning speeds like a proper rotary should.
One potential weakness, though, is that Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology uses a complicated continuously variable automatic transmission, and those have typically failed to provide the excitement of a proper row-for-yourself manual gearbox, or even a dual-clutch. In any case, we're content to adopt a wait-and-see attitude on this latest rumor.