Mazda concept for Tokyo stokes talk of RX sports car’s return


TOKYO — Mazda Motor Corp., which retired the venerable RX-8 sports car in 2012, will stoke speculation about a possible successor with a new sports concept at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Mazda describes the design as modern with a “sense of lineage and authenticity, appearing almost to condense Mazda’s entire history of sports car development into a single model.”

A teaser photo shows a black vehicle with a long hood, rear-slung cockpit, rounded fastback and muscular rear fenders — all taking cues from the brand’s Kodo design language.

Mazda gave no name for the concept and offered no details about the car’s drivetrain.

Executives have sent mixed signals on the fate of the brand’s sports car line and its famed rotary engine, which was taken out of circulation along with the last RX-8.

The rotary engine had been a Mazda bragging point ever since the company became the first to market the technology in 1967, in its Cosmo Sport/Mazda S110.

A rebirth has been the subject of incessant speculation. Mazda engineers developed a small rotary engine to generate electricity in an extended-range hybrid Mazda2.

CEO Masamichi Kogai has said that engineers still keep working on the technology.

And design chief Ikuo Maeda has said he wants to revive the RX series, which includes the RX-7, a precursor to the RX-8. He opined that any resurrected sports car couldn’t be called an RX without having a rotary, because the R in RX stands for rotary.

Yet in an interview last year, Kogai also said the company had no immediate plans to release a sporty successor to the RX-8.

He said Mazda needed to focus on its bread-and-butter lineup of Skyactiv vehicles equipped with fuel-efficient drivetrains and lightweight architectures. As a small company, it couldn’t afford to venture into too many segments.

The implication was that the two-seater MX-5 Miata roadster would have to fill Mazda’s thrill gap in the interim. The new concept suggests Mazda is contemplating the next step.

The concept’s teaser shot hints at a possible evolution of the Kodo design language in line with the rounded, full-volume bodywork of the latest generation MX-5 Miata.