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Mazda has revived the rotary-engined sports car, but not as you might think

The Mazda Iconic SP sports car concept has been unveiled at the Tokyo motor show, equipped with a rotary range extender

We’ve been eagerly awaiting the next rotary-powered Mazda sports car since the RX-8 went off sale in 2010, and while tightening emissions regulations mean that the Wankel engine is unlikely to return in its traditional form, Mazda is at least exploring its use in future EVs

The MX-30 R-EV crossover has already come to market with a rotary range extender, but this – the new Iconic SP concept – is an altogether more exciting application of similar technology. 

Built as a two-door, two-seat coupe, the Iconic SP is larger than an MX-5 but smaller than a Porsche Boxster, with a classical long-bonnet silhouette reminiscent of the FD RX-7. If the shape looks familiar beyond that, it’s because Mazda previewed the Iconic SP’s design in a teaser video late last year. 

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The use of a compact twin-rotor range extender enables a low centre of gravity and a sleek bonnet line, and while Mazda hasn’t detailed the Iconic SP’s motor and battery layout, it’s said to generate 365bhp with a kerb weight of 1450kg. The idea is that while the electric motors provide propulsion, the rotary engine can serve as a generator to boost range, with the potential for different fuel types – including hydrogen – to be used for this purpose. 

The Iconic SP’s ultra-minimalist design language is unlikely to reach production any time soon, but its cabin is closer to showroom-ready. Mazda has stuck to tradition with a simple round steering wheel and body-coloured door accents similar to those you’ll find in today’s MX-5. 

The centre console houses gear selector controls and the primary infotainment screen is set within the dash, and appears no larger than the unit fitted to Mazda’s latest production cars. A curved digital dial pack is set behind the steering wheel and offers speed, drive mode and G-meter readings, as well as a circuit map for track days. 

The Iconic SP doesn’t directly preview a future production car, but the next-generation MX-5 could offer similar powertrain technology as it moves into the electric age. ‘We love the MX-5, and the world loves the MX-5,’ said Mazda CEO Masahiro Moro. ‘We are determined in the age of electrification to keep the joy of driving which the MX-5 represents alive, and the Mazda Iconic SP, with its dual rotary power generator EV powertrain is our dream solution.’

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