Named after the final limited edition Mazda RX-7, Mazda will be commemorating the end of the Rx-8 with a final special edition model, Spirit R, that will go on sale in Japan only on November 24th of this year. The manual version of the Mazda RX-8 Spirit R is based on the RX-8 Type RS and the a six-speed automatic will be modeled after the Type E.
Both of the new models will feature an exclusive SPIRIT R badge, black bezels for exterior lighting, red front and rear brake calipers, and a piano-black transmission tunnel trim. The manual transmission will also include special bucket seats from Recaro and bronze 19” alloy wheels with 225/40R19 tires whereas the automatic will feature black leather seats, steering wheel and parking brake lever that feature red stitching, a sports suspension, larger brakes, and Gun-metal finish 18” alloy wheels with 225/45R18 tires.
“Although RX-8 production is ending, the rotary engine will always represent the spirit of Mazda and Mazda remains committed to its ongoing development.” Said Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda’s Representative Director, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, in a press release from Mazda, giving glimmer of hope for rotary fans that development for the RX-7’s successor is still on the table at Mazda headquarters.
Mazda expects to sell 1,000 units of the limited edition model before the Mazda RX-8 production ends in June of 2012. Prices start at $40,675 with the six-speed automatic transmission and $42,400 with the six-speed manual.
Mazda’s rotary engine history
1961 Jul Signs a technical contract with NSU and Wankel
1967 May Announces the completion of the rotary engine and introduces the Cosmo Sport 110S
1968 Jul Introduces the Familia Rotary Coupe/Mazda R100
1969 Oct Introduces the Luce Rotary Coupe/Mazda R130 Coupe
1970 May Introduces the Capella Rotary/Mazda RX-2 series
1971 Sep Introduces the Savanna Rotary/Mazda RX-3 is introduced
1972 Nov Introduces the Luce Rotary/Mazda RX-4 series
1973 Jun Cumulative production of rotary engine vehicles reaches 500,000 units
1975 Apr Introduces the Roadpacer
1975 Oct Introduces the Cosmo AP/Mazda RX-5
1977 Jul Introduces the Cosmo L (Landau top)
1977 Oct Introduces the Luce Legato/Mazda 929L
1978 Mar Introduces the Savanna RX-7/Mazda RX-7
1978 Nov Cumulative production of rotary engine cars reaches 1 million units
1981 Nov Introduces the new Cosmo and Luce/Mazda 929 rotary series
1986 Apr Cumulative production of rotary engine vehicles reaches 1.5 million units
1986 Sep Introduces the fully redesigned Luce
1990 Apr Introduces the Eunos Cosmo featuring a three-rotor rotary engine
1991 Jun The Mazda 787B wins the 59th Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race
1991 Dec Introduces the fully redesigned RX-7
2002 Mar Introduces the SPIRIT R final limited edition Mazda RX-7
2003 Apr Introduces the Mazda RX-8
Though little is still known about a possible RX-8 successor, the latest from Autocar includes reports of new laser ignition technology that would replace the spark plug ignition system currently used in the Wankel motor. The implication comes after a comment made by a senior engineer at Mazda that said the upcoming rotary sports car would use a “special kind of ignition system”.
The engine, internally dubbed the “16X”, would be using the laser ignition to create a more complete and controlled method of ignition for each combustion chamber allowing the rotary to run leaner and more efficiently. This would allow the new rotary to pass the upcoming European emissions regulations which the current RX8 is unable to do.
The lasers are said to measure 9mm in diameter, making them compact enough to fit in the engine and should actually require less space than a typical spark plug. The new rotary set-up will likely require a smaller hole tapped into the combustion chamber of the engine which would also lend itself well to Mazda’s aim at making a more compact and lighter weight engine. It also promises to offer more torque, in part, due to the larger 1.6 liter capacity.
There has been no word of the technology filtering down to the conventional combustion engine, but if the laser ignition concept worked well, it is conceivable that it could be applied to piston powered engines as well for improved power and could potentially enhance the combustion process. As a matter of fact, the laser ignition technology is not all that new, Ford was working on something similar in 2009.
Overall, the 16X is looking to be a promising engine and if Mazda is able to solve the issue of cost, the next rotary could be a leaner, more efficient engine with more precise timing.
There have been rumors abound lately about a possible revival of the RX-7 and other rumors about the possible end of the rotary engine altogether, but the latest word on the street is about a possible collaboration between Mazda and Audi that just may be the savior for the rotary engine.
With the RX-8 soon to be discontinued and mixed signals from Mazda on a possible RX-9 modeled after the RX-7, the fate of the rotary engine is in the minds of many Mazda enthusiasts. The Wankel has been a signature in the Mazda lineup since 1964 when it was first showcased in the Cosmo R100 coupe.
Now there’s talk of Audi teaming up with Mazda for the next chapter of the rotary engine car by developing a rotary for the Audi A1 e-tron, Lexus’s attempt at the nearly all-electric compact with a range extender that currently uses a single-piston rotary engine to charge the batteries as the car is running.
Inside Line recently reported that sources inside Mazda say engineers are already developing new technology for the Wankel by potentially removing the conventional spark plugs and replacing them with a laser ignition. By doing this, the engine will be much more efficient and will produce less hydrocarbon emissions than the older version. The car will produce only 130g/km or carbon dioxide rather than the 299g/kg that is currently produced by the RX-8. Reports on this development are also followed by reports that a launch of the new rotary has not been green-lighted and the Mazda is seeking additional funding.
So Audi provides the influx of cash and Mazda provides the technology to put a Wankel range-extender underneath the trunk floor of the A1 e-tron. It sounds like a win-win on the surface, but talk is cheap and a Mazda-Audi partnership seems like an odd couple in the making.