The Rotary Engine Sucks

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Every time a new Mazda model is announced, a certain number of unwashed yokels always seem to mention that the car would be hella better if only they used the Wankel rotary. News flash: the rotary is a garbage engine.

I imagine that automotive engineers have a tough go in life. They’re obligated to dress like they took a homemade animatronic to prom, they’re the only people other than third graders that would actually spend money on a protractor, and they create cars with engines that permanently-between-jobs journalists can mock for not giving them an instant boner. Hey, I get it.

However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that the Wankel rotary engine is a goddamn mess and anyone with a degree in engineering that proposes it as an idea should be fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.


I’ve owned one, so yes, I know what I’m talking about.

Don’t believe me? Here’s how it works.

In a regular piston engine, pistons on a crankshaft move up and down and harness the power of combustion. Over the years, this type of engine (known as the Otto cycle) has become quite efficient, powerful, and emissions-friendly. It’s in everything from Smart cars to Ferraris.


In a rotary, instead of having pistons or anything that makes sense to a learned person, there’s a Dorito-looking rotor on an eccentric shaft that moves in an oblong arc in a housing that’s sealed with what might as well be string cheese. It also harnesses the power of combustion, but an inherent design flaw means that it burns oil like your uncle’s ancient lawnmower with the grace of an armadillo in a washing machine, and it was created by an insane Nazi.

But wait, that’s not all! It’s also impossible to start reliably, if you turn it off before it’s fully warmed up, you’ll have to clear your schedule for the next few hours to get it adequately cool down and un-flood itself and the entire engine lasts maybe as long as the first minor service interval on your aunt’s Honda Civic.


It has the fuel economy of an ‘80s cruise liner and the torque output of a clothes hamper falling down the stairs. It’ll start or not start, depending on what you had for breakfast that day and if you were mad your mother earlier that week, and the only exhaust note it knows is a drone that sexually attracts homicidal bees. And it was made by a fucking Nazi.

It’s a hateful motor and no matter how many rotors you slap on it, it doesn’t make up for the fact that it sucks. The rotary engine should be forgotten like phrenology, LaserDisc, and Mambo Number Five.


It’s not even the MySpace of engines because the rotary didn’t lead to an evolution of anything. I imagine the rotary engineers just shrugged their shoulders after countless failed iterations and collectively said “Man, what a colossal waste of cocaine that was.”

Don’t be fooled by enthusiastic forum fanboys; every single rotary owner knows what it’s like to wake up and wonder whether or not they’ll engage in the miracle of automotive transportation because of the gigantic piece of shit lurking in their car’s engine bay. Instead, get a V8. Get a V6. Swap in a golf cart motor. Rip out the floor and use your bare feet against the asphalt. Anything other than the rotary.


That is all.