By on October 7, 2011

Mazda confirmed what the world had known for more than a year: Its iconic, Wankel-powered RX8 is going to die. “Mazda RX-8 production will end in June 2012 ,” says a Mazda statement. Mazda celebrates the end of an era in style.  The Hiroshima company lays on a Mazda RX-8 SPIRIT R special edition that will keep the spirit alive after the RX8 has given up its ghost.

Whither the Wankel?

Wankel’s Drehkolbenmotor (rotary engine) won’t be spinning in its grave. Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi sings an ode on the engine:

“Mazda’s iconic rotary engine recorded its famous victory in the Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race 20 years ago. Throughout 2011, we have been celebrating the 20th anniversary of that victory by demonstrating the winning 787B racecar at Le Mans’ Circuit de La Sarthe and various other events around the world. At each one, the screaming rotary engine and the sight of the 787B have enthralled everyone from young children to race fans who witnessed its victory in 1991. These events have been a powerful reminder of the widespread passion for the rotary engine.

Although RX-8 production is ending, the rotary engine will always represent the spirit of Mazda and Mazda remains committed to its ongoing development.”

The Mazda RX-8 SPIRIT R is available in Japan both with a stick and with a six-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission. It comes with specially-made seats, red brake calipers and colored alloy wheels. Mazda’s curtain and front side SRS airbag system, are standard equipment. The manual will cost 3,120,000 yen ($40,688), the auto will cost 3,250,000 yen ($42,383), all including Japanese tax.

Following the launch, the Mazda RX-8 lineup will consist of the SPIRIT R and the Type G (with six-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission) model grades only. Once they are gone, the RX8 is gone. The Wankel lives on. Somewhere. Somehow.

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57 Comments on “Mazda Celebrates Death Of RX8 With Great Spirits, Wankel Lives!...”


  • avatar
    JCraig

    Looking forward to the next gen based on the smaller lighter Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Miata’s loosely based on the RX, I think.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Actually, after RX8 launched ca. 2003, there was a lot of talk about making a larger roadszer based on the front mechanicals of the rx8, possibly evento replace the miata, but this never came to pass. (Not unlike after the DEW98 platform was developed for the Lincoln LS, there was a lot of talk aboutshortening the wheelbase, calling it DEW-lite, and using it for the Mustang, work that began, but was suspended due to cost, and for a M3-fighter, but this died when Reizleflew the Ford-coop…)

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    They need to turbocharge it again, and they need to deal with the emissions and oil consumption problems. It’s a nice engine in theory, but its dirty as hell, has no torque, and drinks oil. Nobody else is using wankels (or gas turbines) for a reason.

    • 0 avatar
      rehposolihp

      I’m a little fearful that by the time I’m in the car market again all of the sporty cars will have 0 to 60 times under 5 seconds and I’ll never be able to go full throttle from light to light…

      Tires are expensive, speed is dangerous (or so they tell me), and economy cars you can thrash still sound like economy cars.

      Bring it back with the same power and let the people who want to go to the grocery store at the redline be happy too. And while you’re bringing it back fix the oil consumption and emissions : )

      Anyone know if the automatic is still crippled with a 7k rev limit?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Agreed on the drawbacks of the rotary. Mechanically, it is just a gorgeous concept. Something so simple and geometrically beautiful about the way it operates.

        But it kind of sucks in most real life situations. Down on low-end power, stratospheric redline, guzzles gasoline like an engine with twice its output. There are very few applications where this would be acceptable.

        Bummer.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      “Nobody else is using wankels (or gas turbines) for a reason.”

      Wankels — true. Gas turbines totally dominate airplane and electric generation uses.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      Rotarys are awesome for airplanes though – when they fail, they generally just sort of lose power and peter out instead of locking up hard.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        What? Rotary aircraft engines were nothing like Wankels and have been obsolete for decades.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_engine

      • 0 avatar
        zeus01

        They’re more suitable for aircraft use than for cars. Weak torque at low rpm is of little er, no consequence whatsoever in an environment where a engine is required to operate at power settings above 65% during 90% of a typical flight. And rotaries are not at all stressed at prolonged high-power settings.

        http://www.rotaryaviation.com

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      yep, notice that the Germans, who invented the wankle motor, abandoned the design… it’s a clever engineering exercise, but conventional motors do the same job, with better fuel economy and better reliability…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      They can’t be easily turbocharged because predetonation on a rotary is really, really bad. Like “replace the whole engine” bad.

      The emissions are a greater problem: the engine is hard to control valve timing on. You’d need to really think it through to figure out the kind of timing that’s trivial in a piston engine.

    • 0 avatar
      serothis

      and that reason is?

      I know what you’re eluding to but the correct answer is research, patents, marketing, etc. Any company that wants to use a wankel engine either has to contract with mazda for their engines; Or has to start from scratch and hope their ideas aren’t already patented by mazda.

      After that, their engine will automatically be assigned the already established reputation (justly or not).

      After that, they have to then compete with an established line of rotary cars (the rx line). Notice how miata competitors don’t survive long. It’s hard going up against an established name.

      That’s a huge/costly uphill battle for not much reward (another engine line).

      Simply saying that the quality of an engine is directly proportional to the number of automakers that make them, is dead wrong. Otherwise you would have to say flat-6 engines suck because only porsche and subaru use them. Or w16 engines suck because only a few notable examples (like the veyron) use them.

  • avatar
    wsn

    RX-8 really doesn’t have to die. All it needs is a good turbo 4 cylinder. Buy from Subaru maybe?

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      How about a V8? The aftermarket is already doing it.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        I don’t know. If anything, Mazda will likely buy an existing one from a Japanese source. There isn’t many Japanese V8 choices. From Tundra? I really doubt the feasibility.

        The only feasible ones I can think of are the engines from STI or IS250.

        I mean, RX-8 shouldn’t be viewed as a niche product in rotary engine sense. It’s the only dedicated RWD Japanese sports coupe. Lexus IS and Infiniti G are both shared with sedan and looks like sedans. LF-A is way too expensive to be counted. What else? Lexus SC and Honda S2000 are both gone. It’s a shame that RX-8 is going away.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      You are completely correct that the RX-8 (MX-8) does not have to die. It could live on as a lighter Genesis Coupe/more powerful FT-86. Mazda has the 2.3L MZR-DISI turbo-4, and a SKYACTIV-G turbo is probably planned. Re Subaru – I don’t think that would work. I think an I4 would fit the RX-8 chassis better than a flat-4, and Subaru also probably wouldn’t want to undermine the FT-86 project. The Miata and RX-8 platforms are very related, and the Miata fits an I4 fine.

      Honestly a naturally aspirated SKYACTIV-G would engine be fine in the RX-8 chassis, 150 HP could be pretty fun in my 240SX.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The problem is the weight distribution and packaging. The whole reason the RX-8 can drive like it does is without being much larger than it is is because the engine is physically tiny. Even Subaru’s boxer four is much larger. A V8? No way…

      Mazda could stuff a bigger engine into the car, but it’d result in compromises that fundamentally undermine it.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @psar: V8 fits great! See: http://tinyurl.com/6bvs6zj

        For the added weight, you will get a lot more power. The LS series aluminum blocks are fairly light (@400lbs dressed) and small enough to fit just about anywhere.

        The added power would compensate for any changes to the character of the car. It might even give it a new character.

      • 0 avatar
        serothis

        @geozinger

        It’s not really a question of “can a v8 fit?” but rather it will dramatically reduce the handling. More power doesn’t compensate for reduced handling.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Please let me know the weight of the RX-8 rotary, and of the 2.3L MZR-DISI turbo-4. I hate to put the burden on you, but I can’t find them, and you’re making the bold claim a larger engine would “undermine” the RX-8.

        I don’t believe that claim because I drive an NC Miata, which is related to the R8-X but 500 pounds lighter, and its piston I4 engine hardly undermines its balance.

        The problem with the gas mileage is that it kills the possibility of the RX-8 as an only/main car for anyone with a commute, even if they don’t drive it like a commuter car on the weekends. The reliability issues hurt it in the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The RX-8 has to be a rotary, thats what the “R” stands for… if they drop the rotary it would be an MX8 or whatever.

      Then again, no one sticks to thier naming conventions anymore, thats why we have a 328 and a 335 from BMW with the same size engines, Mercedes with the completely wrong V8 engine sizes on the trunk lids, etc.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    What, no video of the 787B? ;) That car has one of the best sounding engines ever, http://youtu.be/ox2wgHqrNy0
    Sad to see the RX-8 go. It would be the perfect car for me if it was available here with the automatic. I need at least a tiny backseat and an automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      Here’s a video of an RX8 with LS1

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8nbqUKUTC4

      Reminds me of the Porsche 924 – a great car in need of a better engine.

      • 0 avatar
        geggamoya

        If i’m ever doing a V8 swap, it will be in a Volvo 240 or 740 ;) Too bad i live in a country where that would be nearly impossible due to regulations.

        Porsche fixed the 924 with the 944 and 968, and i would not mind a 924 Carrera GTS either ;)

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Agree on the automatic part. Ideally, it should have the IS-F engine and transmission. But if it’s too big of an engine, the IS-250 one could also work.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Every time I’ve test driven the RX-8, I’ve marvelled at the balance and character of the car. But I’ve ultimately always backed away because of the care and feeding required of the Wankel that lives under the hood. I know the rotary makes the RX-8 what it is, but abysmal fuel consumption and tricky oil use have alway pulled me back from the brink of potential ownership. That said, I’m still sad to see it go.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The oil use isn’t really a big deal: just keep a quart in the trunk and top it up every second or third fill. It’s no worse than, eg, what I have to do with wiper fluid in winter.

      The powertrain is otherwise pretty robust—this isn’t the turbo RX-7, not at all. It’s also not that fuel-hungry compared to other sports cars, especially when driven hard. I mean, no, it won’t get 30 on the highway like a Corvette will, but if you bought a Corvette and get consistent 30s you’re doing something wrong.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Like everyone else the reason the Nissan Z is on my list and not the Mazda RX-8 is fuel consumption, oil consumption and lack of torque. The old twin turbo RX-7 was the car of my dreams: small, light, turbo, hatchback – seems this breed of car is long gone.

    • 0 avatar
      serothis

      seriously? you do realize that the much lighter rx-7 had worse fuel economy, injected just as much oil, and with the twin turbos required even more meticulous maintenance to achieve numbers only slightly higher than the N/A renesis…right?

      The rx7 was a absolutely fantastic car, but all the qualities you bemoan about the rx8 were present in the rx7 to a higher degree.

      Also, as is repeatedly mentioned directly from mazda, hell i’ll just quote the article “Mazda remains committed to its ongoing development.”

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        +1

        My best friend had an RX7 Turbo II, which was the really good generation single turbo before the self destructive twin turbo came out. That car was stock, still OMG fast, OMG fun, and thristy and delicate too. What a great car, but when the twin turbo came out, WOW, that was just a beautiful perfect looking car, and so fast.

        Not too long after people realized they were in the shop more than they were on the road. The Mazda dealers would have 4 or 5 of them in the shop at a time, and they really didnt sell too well. Ever priced out a used twin turbo these days? They are bargains. And the LS-x drops right into those too, with NO weight issues. The fully dressed 13b twin turbo weighs almost exactly the same as the LSx, and I think I read that with other mods like an aluminum radiator, etc, you can actually get them to weigh less than a stock RX7TT.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    A quart of oil every ~2k miles, big deal. Torque doesn’t accelerate cars, power does. Rocket motor dragster: 3.22 sec 1/4 mile @ 396 mph with NO TORQUE. I’ve never understood why people who extol the vitues of manual transmissions, don’t seem to want to shift them. When the 13b was developed in the 1970′s, cars were much lighter. Given the +50% pork facter, the engine needs more displacement, but that’s not accomplished without a whole new engine (16x) which ain’t gonna happen until Mazda gets on better financial footing (if ever).

    • 0 avatar
      .

      “Torque doesn’t accelerate cars, power does.” Wait… what?

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Actually, it’s “tractive effort” (i.e. how hard the wheels push against the road in the horizontal direction) that accelerates a wheel driven vehicle. To maximize tractive effort you must maximize the torque on the drive axle(s). And finally to maximize drive axle torque you must select the gear which maximizes engine power (not engine torque) at the speed the vehicle is currently traveling.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’ve never understood why people who extol the vitues of manual transmissions, don’t seem to want to shift them.

      There’s a big difference between those who like the idea of a manual and/or don’t mind driving one if they don’t have to shift too much or learn how to heel-toe, and those who couldn’t imagine paying money for a vehicle with an automatic of any kind!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love these cars and honestly only one thing keeps me away. I don’t fear the Wankel, in fact I love that the harder you ride it, the more you flog it, the more the car likes it (just ask my lady :D). The thing keeping me away is the fuel economy. If you could get an honest 30mpg on the highway in it I’d be sold.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      If it could manage even 25 I might consider it. From what I have read, owners top out around 21 mph.
      Anything that makes my 540 look fuel efficient (while also being slower in the real world) is a tough sell for me.
      I’m sure the rx8 drives circles around my car in the twisties, but with the gas mileage it gets, it is tough to justify for street use.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’m going to say it again: if you buy a sports car on the premise of consistently high highway mileage, you really shouldn’t be getting a sports car at all.

      I had a Corvette for a week. I’m sure you could drive it like a granny and get good mileage, but geeze, why not just get a Camry Solara?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Some six speed manual ‘Vette owners have recorded mileage near 30mpg on the highway. The reason to desire a sports car with decent mileage is to make it an easier sell to your spouse or significant other. The RX-8 is already supremely useable with four clam-sell doors and a reasonable amount of rear leg room. It also means you might reasonably use it MORE.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Yea Dan, that was my point too… they went through the trouble to make it a “family” sports car, but the gas mileage was too much of a hit for most family guys to consider as a daily driver.

        I still wish I had gotten one though, as it turns out my GTI has a hard time keeping in the mid-20s anyways, if the RX8 could consistently delivery 21mpg around town, I could have lived with it in trade for owning a real sports car.

      • 0 avatar
        evan

        psarhjinian — the reason you probably need to keep on saying it again and again, is that you have no idea what you are talking about. Many sports cars get excellent fuel mileage. My slightly breathed-on 964 gets over 30 mpg on the highway without even trying. I always record fuel mileage, and I never get less than 20 mpg in mixed driving.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As an early adopter of the Wankel (1973 RX-2, purchased new), I hate to see the engine put out to pasture. AFAIC the only drawback to the Wankel is the poor fuel consumption, now that the seals issue is, apparently, fixed. Even the little RX-2 — which probably weighed not much over 2,000 pounds and carried only 4 people — would do well to get more than 20 mpg on the highway, admittedly with a 4-bbl carburetor, rather than fuel injection.

    I never found the oil consumption to be a bother; nor did I find the engine’s relative lack of low-end torque. In a time when most engines were redlined at 5000 rpm and were essentially “done” by 4,000, having an engine that was just coming to a boil at 4500 rpm (when the secondaries of the carb would open up) was quite a revelation. My car did an honest 100 mph any day of the week . . . although I worried about the integrity of the Michelin-X radials it rode on at that speed . . . since they were only rated to 80.

    • 0 avatar
      hatuman

      My first car was a 1985 RX-7. I owned it for a year and then couldn’t afford it any longer. I lived for the power band that kicked in around 5000 rpm. The buzzer that went off when the rpms went over 7000 always used to scare me. A little. It was a rocket between 5000 and 7000 rpm. I miss that car.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I’m sad to see the RX8 go too, and I’m still driving my old 1984 RX7 once in a while. When it finally goes, I’ll be looking at Mustangs. Dreadful lack of loyalty, I know….

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      If you’re only driving the RX7 once in a while, I’m surprised it starts. Those cars need to be driven regularly, as we learned the hard way when my wife stopped commuting in hers.

  • avatar

    AH STILL WANT MY MOTHA F***IN’ MAZDA FURAI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://www.autoblog.com/2008/01/13/pics-and-video-aplenty-mazda-furai-concept/

    RESPECT MAH FURAI AUTHORITAH!

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I could never understand why the Wankel was never an option in the MX-5. That could have been a really cool Halo-car for Mazda, years ago. Even if they didn’t sell many compared to the ‘normal’ Miata sales I think it would be worth the effort.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I would guess that anyone who would consider buying a rotary MX-5 would be too hard-core to want a convertible sports car… and therefore why bother offering it when the RX8 sit there (heavily discounted basically to the price of a similarly equipped MX5)??

      Plus, the Mazdaspeed MX5 was faster than the RX8 IIRC…

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I thought it was great that Mazda stepped up and offered 100k engine warranty on every RX8, that basically elimated concerns about the longevity. But I think the big problem was the gas mileage and the looks. The front of the car was perfect… the back… well, kinda looked like they ran out of money. Actually, it wasnt even the back, its the middle, that dorky half-door and odd hatch ruined it. The entire point of the design was to make it more practical, but then economy negated that. I think I could have lived with one or the other, but not both.

    Bonus though, used RX8s are cheap (and the ones with blown engines are almost free. Now that the LS-X can be dropped in, I think that might be the perfect project car!), and cancelling them is going to make them even cheaper. Very nice, slightly used ones can be had for less than the price of a generic economy car.

    Maybe Michael Karesh should consider one of these to replace the P5 with?? You would have to give up the mileage requirement though…

  • avatar
    Joss

    Go find an NSU Ro 80 – they’re rare & priceless now. Might find a Ford Transit under the hood… Just subtract about 12K from the odometer and that’s how far the Ford’s gone since the original wanker cracked…

  • avatar

    Today’s other interesting rotary fact: the inventor of the eponymous engine, Felix Wankel, never had a driver’s license as he was very near-sighted. He was also a bit short-sighted, having joined the Nazi party in 1921 (only two years after Hitler joined it).

  • avatar
    Boff

    The Wankel lives on…in my driveway!

  • avatar
    zeus01

    I’ve owned six 1st-gen Rx7s: an ’81, two ’82s, an ’84 and a pair of 85s. All were practically bullet-proof mechanically, and oil consumption was about a quart every five tanks of fuel. The bodies tended to rust though, especially around the seams.

    Back then zero-to-sixty times in the 9-second range were acceptable in a sports car. If Mazda hopes to use the rotary in another one though they’ll need to a) get rid of the low-end torque deficiency, b) accomplish this without turbos or forced induction of any kind and c) do this while also creating a rotary with a BSFC closer to that of contemporary piston engines.

    The only way that I can think of to do this would be with a downsized version of the 20B triple-rotor engine.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I alway wondered why they don’t do a single or the existing twin rotor Wankel with a gas/electric hybrid set up. That way you address the poor mileage and low torque issues.

    • 0 avatar
      jruhi4

      Audi did this at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show with the A1 e-tron concept, using a 254cc single rotor Wankel as an electric vehicle range extender akin to the Chevy Volt’s.

      http://green.autoblog.com/2010/03/03/geneva-2010-audi-a1-e-tron-wankels-its-way-to-the-show-floor/


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