Mazda RX Vision Wows ‘Em In Tokyo

Mazda RX Vision concept

If you ever lusted after a Jaguar XK-E coupe, the Mazda RX Vision will make your insides quiver. Amidst all the hoopla and hype at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, all the silly concepts that sync the color of the front grille to the beat of the music playing inside or offer seats that turn toward each other so passengers can converse while driving autonomously, Mazda has revealed its recipe for the perfect sports car.

Two seats, an engine, a transmission and a steering wheel. Add in a brake and a clutch pedal. Stir in a dollop of instrumentation. Wrap it all up in the slinkiest, sexiest sheetmetal you can find then paint it a shade of red that is almost lascivious. Bake it and what you have is a drop dead gorgeous automobile designed to make strong men weak and women swoon.

Mazda’s fascination with the Wankel engine has been going on since before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The idea of an engine without pistons has become almost an obsession with Mazda engineers. They gave us the brilliant Cosmo coupe in 1967, followed by the world’s only rotary powered pickup truck. Then came the hugely popular RX-7 sports car, followed by the RX-8 sedan.

05_rx-vision-1024x682The Wankel engine produces a lot of power for its size. People who drove a rotary powered Mazda with its trochoidal lobes spinning away under the hood fell in love with its uncanny smoothness and its banshee like wail as it spun up to 8,000 rpm and beyond. But the Wankel has always been fairly thirsty. It’s fortunes have moved up and down in lock step with gas prices over the years. It has also been stubborn about meeting ever tightening emissions standards.

But now, Mazda thinks it has tamed the Wankel at last. Kiyoshi Fujiwara, head of research and development at Mazda, told Australia’s Drive at the Tokyo show that the engine in the RX Vision — if it is produced — will feature a turbocharger to improve performance and economy. He also said the car will use its own dedicated chassis, rather than the platform that sits under the new Miata.

The car has a wheelbase of 106.3″, which is longer than that of the Jaguar F-Type, but the car is shorter overall. Mazda representatives told Car & Driver in Tokyo that their overarching goal when designing the RX Vision was “to shave away all but the essentials” and give it a style that doesn’t rely on the presence of character lines for its identity.

Cars today are replete with creases, crinkles and cut lines designed to create an exciting exterior. But the original XK-E didn’t need any of those fake facade features for Enzo Ferrari to call it “the most beautiful car in the world.” The RX Vision proves once again that a smooth exterior has an elegance and purity all its own.

Will the RX Vision see production, and it if does, how much will it cost? We have no answers for those questions at the moment. In the past, Mazda enjoyed sales success when its RX-7 cars played in the same end of the market pool with Camaros and Mustangs. When it gravitated to the deep end and tried to swim with Porsches and Ferraris, the RX-7 sank without a trace. Let’s hope Mazda can build a marketing case for this car. The world needs more beautiful cars like this.

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Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.