Rotary Innovation: Mazda RX-8

When Mazda was first introduced to the U.S. auto-market back in 1970, this company brought a revolutionary innovation on automobile design and engineering technology: The Wankel Rotary engine and the RX series. The latest product of this technology is the Mazda RX-8, which is one of the performance car that I like the most, even though there are negative comment about this car.

The Mazda RX-8

Brief History of the RX

At the beginning generation of this product line, Mazda sold its R-100, RX-2, RX-3 and RX -4 series of rotary-power coupes, sedans, and wagons. The company also sold a rotary powered pickup model for a few years, and the rotary engine did a great job of introducing Mazda to America.

The Mazda RX-7

The RX-7 that went on sale in 1978 was the most successful rotary-engine-powered car because of its power output, handling and eye catching body design. The last year the RX-7 was sold in the U.S. was 1995, but the rotary engine make a comeback a decade later. The Mazda RX-8 was introduced in the middle of 2003 and it has higher performance than its predecessors and more practical in almost every way. The RX-8’s new award winning rotary engine is called the RENESIS and it is named International Engine of the Year 2003.

What is a Rotary Engine?

At this point, we had seem Rotary engine many times, but what is it that makes the RX outstanding? Like a piston engine, the rotary engine uses the pressure created when a combination of air and fuel is burned. In a piston engine, that pressure is contained in the cylinders and forces pistons to move back and forth. The connecting rods and crankshaft convert the reciprocating motion of the pistons into rotational motion that can be used to power a car.

Rotary engine

In a rotary engine, the pressure of combustion is contained in a chamber formed by part of the housing and sealed in by one face of the triangular rotor, which is what the engine uses instead of pistons.

The flow of Rotary engine

The rotor follows a path that looks like something you’d create with a Spirograph. This path keeps each of the three peaks of the rotor in contact with the housing, creating three separate volumes of gas. As the rotor moves around the chamber, each of the three volumes of gas alternately expands and contracts. It is this expansion and contraction that draws air and fuel into the engine, compresses it and makes useful power as the gases expand, and then expels the exhaust.

The RX-8 Performance

Produced from 2004 through 2011, the Mazda RX-8 was a four-seat sport coupe with a pair of rear-hinged doors that eased access to the surprisingly roomy rear seats. The RX-8 was powered by a 1.3-liter twin-rotor Rotary engine. Power output depended on the transmission choice. The version with a six-speed manual produced 232 horsepower at 9,000 rpm, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The six-speed automatic made 212 hp and had a redline limit of 7,500 rpm. With either transmission, the RX-8’s rotary delivered a 152 pound-feet of torque, which meant you had to keep the rotary at high rpm to keep the car perform to optimal.

Trim levels included Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and R3.

Even the base car came well equipped, featuring 18-inch wheels, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The Grand Touring got a limited-slip rear differential, automatic xenon headlights, a power driver seat with memory functions, heated seats, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, a Bose stereo, Bluetooth and a navigation system.

The R3 was a high-performance model that features 19-inch wheels, an aggressively tuned suspension, Recaro sport seats, exterior body modifications and some high-tech convenience features such as touch screen navigation system instead of the nod turning one.

The End of the RX and Rotary? No Way!

Unfortunately, we can only purchase 2011 or used RX series because Mazda announced that 2011 is the last year of the RX-8 production due to the high production cost and decline on sales in recent years and I am unable not provide an accurate cost of ownership. However, that doesn’t mean the end of the Rotary technology. There are rumors from many different car review homepages that said a new Mazda RX model with is working in progress, which offer a X16 Rotary (1.6 liter) engine instead of the 1.3 liter, lighter weight and possibly better fuel efficiency.