Mazda Is Bringing The Rotary Back To The U.S., But Not Like That

Illustration for article titled Mazda Is Bringing The Rotary Back To The U.S., But Not Like That
Image: Mazda

Mazda, a company with a history of making engines that spin (although it hasn’t in a minute) is bringing the rotary back in a vehicle that will come to the U.S. Hooray!

There’s just one catch: This time, it’ll be playing a supporting role.

Mazda North America president Jeff Guyton told The Detroit Bureau in late December (I blame the holidays for the tardiness) that the MX-30 crossover, the company’s first battery-electric vehicle that’s already on sale in Europe, will be offered with an optional range extender when it eventually makes its way west of the Atlantic. That range extender will be a Dorito.

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While we knew the rotary range extender was coming, we weren’t sure if it was destined for American shores. In battery-only guise, the MX-30 can travel 124 miles on a charge, which some would argue doesn’t come anywhere near close to cutting it for the U.S. market. According to Nikkei Asia, Mazda is hoping to double that with the rotary, for a maximum range of 249 miles. Still not amazing, considering many automakers are inching closer to or hovering around the 300-mile mark with increasing regularity, but surely an improvement.

Why a rotary? Well, in addition to being in Mazda’s wheelhouse, the rotary’s high output relative to its size and limited vibration compared to a conventional gas engine makes it suitable for an EV, where space and lightness comes at a premium, and passengers expect little rumble.

Elsewhere in the interview, Guyton touches on Mazda’s other electrification plans, including a crossover powered by Toyota’s hybrid tech designed primarily for North America, as well as its own “large platform architecture that will have plug-in hybrid capability” that is “coming in the not too distant future.

“By 2025,” Guyton told The Detroit Bureau, “I don’t think we’re going to be selling much of anything that doesn’t have electrification onboard. We certainly see the trends everybody else sees.”

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Surely most enthusiasts didn’t beg for the rotary to make a comeback only to play second string to stinkin’ batteries, but there’s something poetic about Mazda digging deep into its past and repurposing an old idea for a new context, that only it ever believed in to begin with. The hope is that as a range extender, the rotary can run at a constant, ideal RPM and therefore always operate at maximum efficiency, as CleanTechnica thoughtfully explains.

The important takeaway here is that if there is a way to keep the rotary around, Mazda is probably open to it, but more likely, has already researched it. And that’s really all a spinning engine enthusiast could reasonably ask for in these turbulent times.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

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DISCUSSION

halftrackelcamino
Half-track El Camino

A 249-mile range with an extender is going to go over like a lead balloon. That’s about the minimum viable range for a pure electric over here, unless you’re trying to sell a city car (something else that Americans don’t buy) which this clearly isn’t. If you need to burn gas to do it, why even fucking bother? It’s the worst of both worlds—all the range anxiety of electric, with all the emissions of ICE.

Also, I thought Mazda made pretty cars. What’s with the hideous black inner-tube looking thing running all the way around the edges of the car? Some kind of inflatable bladder? And why did they give it a roof from last generation’s Nissan Rogue? What the actual fuck Mazda, I thought you were better than this. No, you are better than this because every single other car you make is absolutely gorgeous. Why’d you take an ugly stick to this one?

Oh, and why does this get to be an MX model? That’s for sports cars. Is this some kind of nonsensical attempt at associating their electric crossover with an iconic sports car, like what Ford did to the Mustang? Because that made so much sense when they did it. Whatever, who even cares anymore. 

Damn, and I am a card-carrying rotary freak, too. Come on though, this thing is extremely half-baked.