Okay, we admit it: we really, really wanted Mazda to build a new rotary-powered sports car. The FD RX-7 was such a legend that, almost 15 years after it was killed off, we look at it with the most rose-tinted of Ray-Bans.
Despite a catalogue of faults you could list with respect to the practicalities of living with one, to its fans it can do no wrong, like that girl at school who you’d swear has dropped out of your dreams but is actually a bit of a bitch.
It’s a bug, and the FD bit us hard. Blame the Fast films if you like, but either way we go as gooey-kneed over it at least as much now as we did in the 1990s. Which probably goes some way to explaining how happy we were to give ourselves up to the goddess of future rotary perfection, Mazda’s RX Vision concept.
Its curves were feminine and powerful; shapely without being delicate. God, it was a good-looking thing. Who wouldn’t want that on their driveway? Who wouldn’t want to upgrade the exhaust (overnight parts from Japan, obvs) and listen to it brap-brap-brapping away all day long?
But no. It wasn’t to be: Mazda’s CEO took the dream away from us in an interview given to Automotive News, stating categorically not just that there won’t be a rotary-powered coupé, but that there won’t be a coupé sized above the MX-5 at all.
Given all the coverage we’d dedicated to the RX Vision, the amount of times we pictured what a production version might look like and the number of times we daydreamed about driving the damn thing, you can imagine this pretty much wrapped our bubble in barbed wire and squeezed.
After the sobbing had stopped and those too emotionally broken to carry on had been taken away in wheelbarrows, we had to set ourselves straight. The RX-9 was never going to happen and we were idiots to think it. We let our epic desire for it to be brought to life cloud our better judgement.
Rotary engines just aren’t efficient when used as the principal drive unit in a car. They can rev to silly heights and create God’s own music from an exhaust pipe, but for all their low-displacement technology they drink fuel like Barney Gumble drinks Duff. And let’s not mention the oil consumption, or the lack of low-range torque, or the service intervals.
Much as we were hoping for Mazda to have pulled a miracle solution to the design’s problems out of some recently-discovered orifice (we wouldn’t care which orifice as long as the solution worked), that sort of wizardry is beyond economical sense to even attempt. That’s why the rotaries that we now have confirmation that the Japanese are working on are specifically aimed at range-extender hybrid drivetrains. BMW i8 aside, these sorts of cars are not generally all that much fun to drive.
Cars like the ones it sounds like Mazda is developing are necessary. The RX-7 is the absolute epitome of unnecessary, but that’s why we love it so much. We wanted Mazda to give us more wrong because it always felt so right, but as of this moment we’re giving up on that and moving on. Internal combustion isn’t dead yet so we may as well enjoy pistons - and rotors - while we still can.