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