Mazda is appealing to car lovers with its latest concept car, bringing back the rotary engine for the sporty Iconic SP.

It’s been over a decade since Mazda discontinued its last rotary-powered sports car, the RX-8. Diehard Mazda fans have been hoping for a successor with countless rumours circulating, especially after the release of the RX Vision concept car back in 2015 demonstrating that Mazda had not forgotten about the Wankel powertrain just yet.

The return of the rotary engine to the masses came rather quietly, in the form of a small single-rotor unit used as a generator to power the batteries in the MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV, a variant of the quirky SUV that’s not available in Australia. Now that’s hardly what enthusiasts had been hoping for as the grand return of the rotary.

That being said, Mazda has just unveiled a new sports car concept at the 2023 Japan Mobility Show which incorporates a rotary engine once again. Dubbed the Iconic SP, it uses a similar setup to the MX-30 R-EV, but with an intriguing two-rotor engine to the used as a generator for its batteries, with Mazda stating the engine can run off hydrogen and other carbon neutral fuels. That’s not exactly a stretch of the imagination, either, as Mazda demonstrated a hydrogen rotary engine 20 years ago in the RX-8 Hydrogen RE prototype.

Boasting a hefty 272kW of power, the Iconic SP weighs just 1450kg, giving it a similar power-to-weight ratio as its would-be rivals, the Toyota GR Supra and Nissan Z.

The rotary engine solely charges the battery, which then powers the electric motors that drive the wheels. As the engine isn’t mated to the wheels directly itself, this means that it can also be used as an electricity generator for other applications, such as outdoor leisure or emergency situations.

Mazda claims the engine is “highly scalable”, hinting at the possibility that this powerplant could already be nearing production capacity, with the MX-30 R-EV already demonstrating that the core technology is production-ready – aside from the hydrogen fuel component, of course.

The Iconic SP’s low-slung front end is achieved by mounting the engine in the centre of the car, also allowing the concept to maintain a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. We can’t imagine the sweeping curves would be affordable to manufacture, but they do make the car look drop-dead gorgeous. Its fittingly reminiscent of what a future RX sports car would (and should) look like.

Red has always been a hallmark of Mazda’s palette, and this is no different. Painted in a new Viola Red hue, the colour was developed specifically for the Iconic SP and is based upon Mazda’s corporate philosophy of “enriching life-in-motion for those [the company] serves”.

Mazda states that this concept was designed to respond to the emotions of those who “love cars” and “desire a car that simply embodies the joy of driving”, and if the future of carbon-neutral motoring includes a lightweight rotary-powered gem, you can count us in.


Shuqi Yu
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