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Long Live The Wankel: Mazda (and Maybe Audi) Working On Next-Gen Rotary

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On: Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 10:56AM | By: Chris Weiss

Long Live The Wankel: Mazda (and Maybe Audi) Working On Next-Gen Rotary

With the Mazda RX-8 set to be discontinued, the rotary engine is teetering on the edge of the automotive endangered species list. But that's not stopping Mazda from working on it. The company is hard at work on an improved version of the Wankel, which should find its way into a sports coupe.

According to anEdmunds report last week, Mazda has a team of about 100 engineers working on the Wankel. The newest iteration of the spinning engine will incorporate laser ignition, eliminating the need for spark plugs, which will in effect make the engine cleaner and more efficient.

The greater goal is to make the next-gen rotary sports car as clean as it is sporty, cutting the emissions over those of the RX-8 by more than half (from 299 g/km to around 130 g/km). The more efficient rotary will contribute, as will some form of micro-hybrid system, lighter build materials, and a stop/start system.

Edmunds also reports that Mazda is in talks with Audi about rotary technology. While Audi isn't exactly known for rotaries the way Mazda is, it did feature a Wankel range-extending engine in the A1-based e-tron concept that it showed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Perhaps Mazda is discussing the possibility of supplying rotaries to Audi for a possible production version of the e-tron system as a way of helping to fund development.

A Motor Trend report last month indicated that Mazda wants to develop a range-extending set-up of its own, using a Toyota hybrid drive system to boost power and extend the RX-9's range. Unlike in Audi's concept, the rotary engine would continue to serve as the primary motivation in this model.

Whatever the case, it looks like the RX-9 (or something similar) is on the way. This refutes a Car and Driver report last month (just a week after Motor Trend's report ) that stated that a rotary/hybrid-powered RX-9 is not happening. While it's not clear when Mazda will launch the new RWD sports car, it should be worth waiting for. Instead of the odd three-door configuration of the RX-8, Mazda will return to an RX-7-style coupe platform. The car will reportedly be built on the new MX-5's platform and will include styling influence from the voluptuous Shinari concept.

If that doesn't get you excited, Motor Trend's source inside Mazda summed it up: "Smaller, lighter, cleaner, more fuel-efficient, and more fun to drive."



DipStick | 7:19AM (Sat, Jun 18, 2011)

I hope they keep the the motor alive, but since the Wankels two major drawbacks are relatively high emissions and poor fuel economy, the future is not that bright for the it unless they can tweak it to be more efficient.

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