AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Pistons need not apply
The history of the automobile has been dominated by vehicles equipped with piston-firing engines.
Rarely does something completely different come along, and when it does, it usually fails miserably. One attempt to reinvent the passenger vehicle engine may have not had the smoothest of rides, but did last in the automotive industry for over 50 years and is rumored to be making a comeback soon.
We are talking about the Rotary engine. Lacking pistons, spinning furiously and making a noise that can’t be mistaken for anything else; the Rotary has developed a cult-like following over the decades. And why not? Some rotary powered vehicles may have been utter failures, but others were masterpieces of their time. Here is a list of our top ten rotary powered vehicles.
Is this car still legendary, or just past its prime?
The 1990s was a great time for Japanese sports cars. Pretty much every manufacturer was building a world class performance machine including Mazda, with the third generation RX-7. But that was twenty years ago and what may have been great then, might not be any good today. So, we have gotten our hands on a pristine, low mileage 1993 Mazda RX-7 to see if it was all hype, or the real deal.
The 1990s is a decade known for things like flannel shirts, grunge music, Barney the purple dinosaur and Napster. But for those who live and breathe high octane fuel, the ‘90s was also a great time for performance vehicles. With the world economy in fine shape, manufacturers everywhere were producing some impressive machinery. This is the decade that gave birth to the Dodge Viper, McLaren F1 and Lamborghini Diablo.
Battle of the well balanced rear-wheel drivers
We are back with this week’s installment of AutoGuide’s newest, interactive weekly feature ‘Commute, Toy or Destroy’.
Which 90's Japanese Sports Car Would You Destroy?
It’s not every day that AutoGuide launches a new weekly feature. Today, however, is not just any day; it’s first installment of an interactive segment we call ‘Commute, Toy or Destroy’.
Yet against the odds, the Japanese automaker seems to have found a formula to keep the smooth-spinning screamer alive in its lineup.
Mitsuo Hitomi, general manager of powertrain development at Mazda recently said that the company plans to complete development of such an engine that will also meet future fuel-economy and emissions standards.
“We think we’ve found a way to improve the rotary’s fuel economy to be truly equal to that of conventional piston engines and, if so, we believe we can reintroduce the rotary to the market,” Hitomi recently told Ward’s Auto.
Much of the new technological breakthrough came in changing the shape of the troichoid housing so that the seals remained flush to the housing. Better sealing means better fuel economy and overall performance. Since the early days of rotary engines, its seals and its “sealability” have always been an issue, dating back to the mid-1960s. “Even with our current 1.3L Renesis rotary, gaps can develop between the apex seal and troichoid housing in light-load operation when imbalances in centrifugal force and gas pressure occur,” Himoti said.
The next engineering enhancement for the new rotary engine will be a focus on ignition. Unfortunately the engineer couldn’t explain on how the Japanese automaker plans on addressing that problem.
Regardless of the improvements made in the next-generation rotary engine, we expect to see it being used for extended-range electric vehicles and Mazda’s Skyactiv technology to be incorporated.
[Source: Wards Auto]
The Wankel engine lives! Although recent reports have suggested otherwise, a tweet from Mazda’s PR department was posted in Japanese for their followers indicating a new generation rotary engine is in the works, and thus confirming a previous report stating that SkyActiv senior exec Kiyoshi Fujiwara is continuing development on the Wankel.
Details on the rotary engine are still limited, but fans are not complaining. Although known for its incredible power output from its tiny displacement, a rotary engine’s inherent design burns a lot of fuel, contradicting the current eco-conscious trend across the automotive industry.
To stay relevant, the rotary engine must become more efficient. As Kiyoshi Fujiwara’s involvement suggests, much of Mazda’s rotary development depend on Mazda’s new Skyactiv technologies. Skyactiv innovations that can be applied on the rotary include the lightening of components, minimizing engine friction, engine temperature management, and optimizing compression ratio. Mazda is confident that the sum of these efforts will produce a new rotary that delivers Mazda’s driver-centric Zoom Zoom philosophy while addressing the current demands for fuel efficiency. Arigato, Mazda!
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]
The RX-8′s days may be as limited as the Shinka, but the rotary engine isn’t. Mazda is still interested in furthering production of the Wankel, and they could have one ready by 2017 with Skyactiv technology.
During the gap, engineers will work on improving the rotary’s mileage and oil-eating capabilities, as well as improving reliability. The new rotary project had been scaled back during the recession, but senior officials are eager to continue developing it to fit with Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” image. It could go in the RX-7/RX-9 revival that’s been floating around for years, or it could even go in the MX-5 Miata. Either way, one thing’s for certain: they won’t give up on the triangle spinner.
Mileage is a big concern, but Mazda’s new Skyactiv system from its gasoline and diesel engines could make the jump over to the rotary. Skyactiv promises hybrid-like mileage from conventional powertrains, and some of its technology—direct injection, for starters—could easily be adapted. No more eating apex seals, hopefully.
[Source: The Detroit Bureau]
Rotaries may seem like a thing of the past these days, especially with Mazda preparing to retire the RX-8. But the Wankel-powered sports car won’t be the last Mazda to get the odd powerplant, thanks in part to a recent breakthrough.
A recently big step forward for Mazda’s engineers is a newly developed laser ignition system that can remove spark plugs from the equation. This has made sealing the Wankel’s combustion chamber easier, resulting in better efficiency and, more importantly, lower hydrocarbon emissions.
This breakthrough could prove to be the catalyst Mazda needs to rejuvenate the RX-7 model, but it all comes down to finding the proper funding.
That influx of cash could come from a partnership with Audi. The two automakers are reportedly in talks and Audi’s A1 e-tron concept did use a 254cc Wankel range-extender underneath the trunk floor. The light weight, smooth and quiet rotary technology could prove the perfect pairing for a future production hybrid drivetrain for Audi.
[Source: Inside Line]
Bad news for Mazda rotary engine enthusiasts – the company has no plans to build the RX-9 hybrid sports car, contrary to recent rumors. Even worse, minimal sales of the RX8 may jeopardize the Mazda rotary engine all together.
Production of the Mazda RX-8 is drawing to a close, with U.S sales of just 291 units from January to April of this year. With production halting on the RX-8, there won’t be a Mazda vehicle to utilize the Wankel 1.3-liter engine. However there is discussion of reviving the RX-7 as a replacement. There is no official go ahead with the RX-7, however it would most likely utilize the next-generation MX-5 platform.
The death of the RX-8 is sad, most notably for its stellar chassis and steering, however issues like horrible fuel consumption, burning oil and a lack of torque were always sore points.
[Source: Car and Driver]
Here’s a fun question for your upcoming pub quiz: name the only hybrid rotary car ever produced. If you named the Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, then congratulations! But next year you might be able to name the RX-8′s successor, the aptly-named RX-9, as another car that’s hybrid Wankelin’.
According to Mazda’s Hiroshima headquarters, the company is busy at work on the next MX-5 Miata and new tech like the SkyActiv engine, leaving precious few R&D funds for the RX-9. ”We want to take the RX-9 to the next level but just can’t find the man-hours to do it,” says an insider in the company. “We have a guideline. We know what we have to do. But as we must give priority to the next-gen MX-5, we only have a small band of guys working on the RX-9.”
Instead, however, Mazda may resort to licensing hybrid technology from the electric experts at Toyota, mating it with a radical new rotary engine that promises to eliminate many of the RX-8′s problems—chugging fuel, burning oil, lacking torque, just to name a few. The rotary would be used as the primary engine with the hybrid system serving as a range extender.
And with development of the next MX-5, the RX-9 could see a downsizing, to be more in line with the original 1989 dimensions. The current MX-5 had to be enlarged to fit the RX-8′s platform; now, the RX-9 could be shrunken to fit the next MX-5′s. And yes, this would mean the return of two proper doors for the RX again—Mazda’s legendary sports car comes full circle, it seems.
[Source: Motor Trend]
All aboard the speculation train! The rumors surrounding Mazda’s new RX-7 don’t stop coming, and with the demise of the RX-8, its a safe bet that Mazda will follow up their quirky four-door sports car with something more conventional.
Mazda is allegedly targeting the VW Scirocco as a rival for the new car, to be given the dubious “RX-9″ moniker. Reports say that a rotary in conjunction with an “electric turbocharger” (we hope they mean some kind of range extender and not the kind you buy on Ebay) should cure the rotary’s chief issues; low torque and loqw fuel economy.
Aesthetics-wise, the car is said to take some cues from the questionable “Nagare” design language, even though Mazda officially canned it.
If this is the case, we might be better off waiting for the all-new MX-5 and keeping our fingers crossed.
File this one under “completely out of left field.” GM engineers are looking for any possible way to cut costs from their Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, and anything is currently on the table. Among the possibilities being investigated is a rotary engine, a powerplant long abandoned by nearly every automaker except Mazda, who still produces the rotary-powered RX8 sports car.
GM once experimented with a rotary Corvette, but the idea was quickly scrapped. The rotary has a few drawbacks, namely oil and gasoline consumption, but there are also positives; the engine is unbelievably smooth, loves to rev and incredibly compact. The RX8′s rotary is a little larger than a basketball, and the Volt’s rotary would likely be smaller, giving the car a nice reduction in weight.
Also being investigated are a diesel engine, or a small two-cylinder gas engine. GM is also hoping to cut the cost of the battery pack from $10,000 to $5,000, in order to help the car be economically viable.
[Source: Inside Line]
It appears as though Mazda will offer its RX-8 sports car with a rotary engine in the future and as the all-new second generation model is just around the corner, the Japanese automaker has been busy making improvements to the pistonless wonder.
Last October Mazda filed for a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a new twin-spark, direct-injection rotary engine, which was approved last month.
According to the patent it’s possible the new motor will be of a slightly larger displacement and we expect a little extra power. The new twin-spark direct-injection system should also help in the power department, although its main benefit will be in terms of fuel-economy.