At the end of 2011, the Mazda RX-8 rotary-powered sport coupe/sedan will cease to exist in new-car showrooms. With it, the mass-produced rotary engine will take another hiatus. The original plan was to have the Renesis, the world's only mass-produced rotary, come back maybe as early as 2017 in a new sports car. In fact, we just heard reports that Mazda's rotor-obsessed gearhead engineers were still manning the program, albeit at a reduced pace.

According to Wards Auto, though, that plan may soon go south thanks to a weakened Japanese economy. The Renesis program is reportedly at the top of the list of programs to kill, and development on a new rotary has supposedly been halted for now. Mazda hopes it will be able to pick up its work in rotaries again sometime in the future, but the piston-free mills also have fuel economy and emissions woes to contend with, which may dampen their chances even further.

So, where does the truth ultimately lie? Our guess is that it would take a lot to get Mazda to abandon its rotary program entirely, considering how much history the Japanese automaker has tied up in the Wankel. That said, unless major inroads are made in efficiency, future rotary applications my be extremely few and far between... and a revival of the iconic RX line may never come to fruition.

Until we hear any official word from Mazda, you can find us in the corner crossing our fingers at 9,000 rpm.


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  • 44 Comments
      grandpa
      • 4 Years Ago
      i've got a 2007 GT RX8 that has just under 21,000 miles on it. About 9800 of those miles are in 3 longish road trips. I love this damn car. Yes it does get crap mileage in city traffic, about the same as my older Ford pickup. However on long freeway miles I have always gotten above 27/28mpg. My RX has never used oil to any excess, maybe ½ a qt. between oil and filter changes at around 3 to 4000 miles. This week I just topped it off with a cup of oil, that's the first iv'e looked at it in about 800 miles. I plan to take it in for an oil and filter change this month when I get some time. I ought to get 4 new tires and wiper blades, and ask about changing the plugs. It was just polished and detailed. Nothing is acting up or wrong with it but I just want them to look it over generally. The last time I took it in the service manager wanted to buy it from me. I'm thinking if the dealership can find me a brand new RX 8 GT fully optioned like the one I have.....i'm likely to trade. I love these cars.
        Tommy
        • 4 Years Ago
        @grandpa
        Go for the R3 with the 6 speed if you can
      dondonel
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's sad but expected. I love revving the rotary, but the truth is the only thing holding me back right now from buying a second hand rx8 is the rotary - I just cannot justify the Corvette-like fuel consumption for half the Corvette performance. I hope the rx7/8 line will continue, rotary or not.
      Leather Bear
      • 4 Years Ago
      Very sad if true. Of all the vehicles that I've owned, one of my favorites was my '76 RX4 wagon (5spd manual, RX7 ignition. Konis, exhaust header in place of the thermal reactor). Quick, roomy, very comfy on long trips. I'd probably still have it around if some doofus in a Buick Regal (no insurance BTW) turned left in front of me at a traffic light in LA. If Mazda abandons the rotary, Audi may be its savior: http://www.caranddriver.com/features/11q2/how_audi_hybrids_could_keep_the_wankel_rotary_alive-tech_dept
      Justin D Davis
      • 4 Years Ago
      http://savetherotary.rotarynews.com/
      brgtlm
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've driven an RX-8 and it is a great car, particularly the handling, but the engine is just not competitive anymore from a power or efficiency perspective. Sadly Mazda does not have the deep pockets of the big 3 Japanese car makers so I'm sure it is a tough financial decision for them. I'm sure they'd like to keep it alive, but I'd rather have them spend R&D dollars in building some great piston engines and the zoom zoom handling alive like the MS3 and Miata. If it means the RX lives on - that's how it has to be.
      Sarah B
      • 4 Years Ago
      The key thing here is that the rotary is a major part of Mazda's place in automotive history, both in technology and motorsport. It's sad to see the current economy affect the company as such but I am hoping that Mazda remembers the importance of sticking to their guns. 13B is rather fuel consuming and the ability to make power just doesn't compare to big V8s and such-- all rotary owners know this, but all good things come with a compromise. I've got an extra car on the side. With the hydrogen technology that they were working on, perhaps there are hopes to keep rotary alive for their long term value as a company. They made a huge commitment by trying rotary out in the first place back in the day when even my parents weren't alive yet. There's a lot of pride here and Mazda seems to have a record of doing things that seemed like a bad idea at the time but turned out to be incredible in their own right. For a time, no one listened to the guy who was pushing to get the Miata developed in the, I think it was mid 80's, not sure-- the roadster was dying back then but look now, the Mazda Roadster is the number one selling two seater convertible of all time and has quite the reputation in spec series (Mazda even helps aspiring racers to get into this). Check the Guinness Book of World Records. Anyhow, there are many awesome cars out there built by many companies-- just putting down my two cents on what has made Mazda very admirable. I've only recently become an RX7 owner and quite frankly, the community and experience is worth way more than getting some more foot-pounds or a couple extra miles per gallon. Owning a rotary is like owning a piece of automotive history.
      Master Austin
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just stick a boosted SkyActiv engine in it, and call it a day...Rotary had more negatives, than positives and most won't care for the internal design, rather the final output blasting them around the competition.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Master Austin
        If they did that i would actually buy it, honestly. And make it a real 2 door for god's sake... The car's magic is not the weight of the motor - it's the excellent chassis weight distribution, the suspension, and the gearing. This is why some generations of BMW are very popular. A piston engine would make the deal sweeter ( but they'd have to call the car something else to reduce the factor of people freaking out over it ) OK - now downrate me. :)
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 4 Years Ago
      This makes me so happy! Kills this worthless engine off FOR GOOD, and let's have a real RWD sports car with pistons, and reliability, and efficiency, and everything else a rotary never will be. Mazda hit one out of the park with the Miata, and also with the chassis of the RX-7, but sadly it's been saddled with a piece of crap engine only liked by blind enthusiasts. C'mon rotards, vote me down, it only proves me more right. :)
        jonnybimmer
        • 4 Years Ago
        @MONTEGOD7SS
        You sound like one of those people who want the S2000 as a coupe rather than a vert, or the 911 with the motor in the front, or a Subaru but RWD. Basically, you want a car to change so that it's like another car that is already available in the market. See the problem there?
      NightFlight
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well hopefully this isn't true. I still feel as if people who blast the rotary are people who have either a.) not driven one, or b.) don't understand how they work and that you need to rev them to get power. Of course it isn't going to be a low maintenance engine, but those who appreciate it will love it. 9,000 RPM, smooth as butter, vibration free, and has a KILLER exhaust note. I once got a chance to drive a modified RX-8 around VIR and I can honestly say it was the most fun I've ever had on track in a street vehicle.
        rtkewley
        • 4 Years Ago
        @NightFlight
        I've driven all the generations of the Rx-7 and the RX-8, and I understand how they work. I also understand that the drawbacks of the rotary relative to piston engines have not changed since Mazda began offering them - low torque and poor fuel and oil consumption. Particularly given modern fuel economy and emission standards, those are deal-breakers for the vast majority of the car-buying public. The relatively poor reliability of the Renesis motor, and of the RX-8 in general, has been another nail in its' coffin - low resale values testify to that.
          poorboywrx
          • 4 Years Ago
          @rtkewley
          my biggest hesitation in buying the my '04 RX8 was the rotary's history on reliability. I should have listened to my gut feeling despite it being the most fun car to drive I've ever owned. I sound of the Renesis and the feeling that just wants to keep pushing beyond it's rev limit of 9,000 screaming rpms was surreal. It wouldn't' even be that bad if Mazda would actually stand behind their product. Mine starting to **** the bed with 99,500 miles on it albeit slowly. What was originally diagnosed as a misfire that was caused by bad plugs, wires, and/or ignition coils was found out to be a decrease in compression in rotor #2. Oil leaking caused the plugs to get grimy thus the misfire. Car still ran otherwise very well. Thousands of miles later when this was realized the call, Mazda gave me the finger =)
          NightFlight
          • 4 Years Ago
          @rtkewley
          The RX-8 was bulletproof except for the first generation of the Renesis rotary. The car itself was fine, the engine was somewhat problematic.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 4 Years Ago
          @rtkewley
          Also, they only sell a few thousand of these cars a year. It is kind of an absurd business case in addition to the negative attributes of the motor.
      QAZZY
      • 4 Years Ago
      Long live the fun rotary. For the rotary, I see a future with either forced induction or an electric motor to boost torque and mileage.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 4 Years Ago
        @QAZZY
        Using a rotary as a range extender for electric cars has been discussed ad infinitum. The poor economy is the problem. It is really a shame. The small size and low weight of the rotary are very appealing.
      theblackemblem
      • 4 Years Ago
      Another Japanese sports car bites the dust, I guess... This can also kill Mazda's plans for their Hydrogen RE engine, which is sad considering how unique the technology is.
      Hazdaz
      • 4 Years Ago
      It might go away for now, but I think Mazda might be able to resurrect the rotary by merging it with a electrical motor. The two are almost made for each other - an electric motor would help tremendously with torque and fuel economy, while a rotary is extremely compact which would allow for more room for batteries.
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