By Nat Shirley
Friday, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 3:02 pm
 

A top Mazda engineer has confirmed that the automaker is developing an all-new, rotary-engined RX-7 sports car that will debut by 2017.

MX-5 program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto revealed to Car News that Mazda is working on a new RX-7 that will be lighter, more powerful and more fuel efficient than the discontinued RX-8.

Yamamoto, who served as the powertrain manager for the previous RX-7 and also designed the Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B's Wankel motor, said the car will use Mazda's next-generation 16X rotary engine. Whereas the RX-8's 1.3-liter Renesis mill made 232 horsepower, Yamaoto indicated that the 16X will displace 1.6 liters and produce around 300 horsepower in naturally aspirated form (a turbo variant is a possibility down the road).

Thanks to special catalytic converters and combustion principles borrowed from Mazda's SkyActiv technology, the motor should be emissions-compliant around the globe and also boast improved fuel economy compared to the thirsty Renesis. However, Yamaoto said that Mazda would not consider adding a hybrid system as Acura has with the reborn NSX.

"For a pure sportscar, it must be internal combustion," Yamaoto said.

Aluminum will be used extensively in the RX-7's bodyshell, helping keep weight down to about the same 2800 lbs. as the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. A stretched version of the next-generation MX-5 Miata's platform will likely underpin the RX-7, and the car will be a two-seater in all markets except for Japan, where it will feature a pair of diminutive rear seats.

While it's still too early in the development process for anything close to exact pricing details, Yamaoto did say that the new RX-7 will fall between Nissan's 370Z and GT-R sports cars in terms of MSRP - indicating that the car will definitely be more expensive than the RX-8.