Mazda’s Rotary Engine Makes Timely Comeback–Just Not What You Expected

  • Mazda Europe revealed yesterday that the iconic rotary engine will return on the new ‘MX-30 R-EV’ plug-in hybrid
  • Incorporated into the new MX-30 R-EV, Mazda also introduced a new bespoke logo featuring an “e” signifying the shape of a rotor
  • The new rotary should deliver at least twice the 100-mile range of the first MX-30

Mazda’s famed rotary engine is making a comeback, just not in the way you might have expected. Forget about rotary-powered coupes like the RX-7 sports car. Mazda just announced that on January 13 at the Brussels Motor Show, they will debut a new version of the MX-30 SUV with a rotary engine, called the ‘MX-30 R-EV’—but fitted as a range extender ‘plug-in hybrid’ powertrain that recharges the batteries.

The rotary engine first surfaced in 1967 powering the cool-looking Cosmo Sports coupe. Twin-rotor engines were subsequently fitted to the RX-2, RX-3, RX-5, Luce, RX-7, Eunos Cosmo Coupe in 1990, and RX-8, until the latter went out of production in 2012. Mazda’s iconic 3-rotor 787B race car went down in history when it became the first Japanese car to win the 24-Hours of Le Mans in 1991.

Mazda also introduced a new bespoke logo shaped like a rotor.

For the record, the 2020 model year MX-30 is the stylish $34,000 SUV boasting Mazda’s typical agile handling and some innovative cork and recycled plastic bottle materials inside, but employing a fully electric powertrain that copped intense industry flack because of its paltry 100 miles of EPA range and meager 0-60 mph time of 8.7 seconds. Mazda product planners insisted that as the vast majority of motorists do not travel more than 80 miles in a day, the MX-30 SUV with 100-plus miles should be acceptable. However, as numerous SUVs started to flood the market, each offering over 200 miles of range, the media had a field day with the MX-30, a factor that led to its unpopularity amongst motorists.

However, the MX-30 will soon be reborn as a plug-in hybrid with a rotary engine and land in European showrooms by year’s end. Just be warned that the rotary will not actually drive the wheels but will instead be used to charge the batteries.

Details are still sketchy at best, but Mazda Europe announced yesterday that the updated crossover, set to be called the MX-30 R-EV, will be revealed in full on January 13 at the Brussels Motor Show. The carmaker also introduced a new logo that will be fitted to the plug-in hybrid, featuring a lowercase “e” inside a triangle that represents the shape of rotor inside the rotary engine.

The MX-30 might have been sold in the U.S. as an EV, but in places like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, a mild hybrid version with Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine was offered—boasting over 300 miles of range. Mazda’s U.S. side remains tightlipped about the MX-30 R-EV, but we expect the plug-in hybrid variant to deliver at least twice the range of the original EV model, and to land in the United States for the 2023 model year starting in California. Watch out for more details of the MX-30 that should (finally) get traction in the marketplace.

OUR THOUGHTS

Mazda really needs this rotary-featured MX-30 R-EV for multiple reasons. Firstly, it needs to pick up the shattered pieces of the original all-electric MX-30 that was bashed by Western media for its ‘unacceptably’ short range and laid-back acceleration. Secondly, by bringing back the rotary engine—even in its range extender capacity—Mazda will get some good mileage from its legendary engine technology, even if it doesn’t;t actually drive the wheels in any way.

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