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Is Mazda secretly preparing a Mazda6-based coupe powered by a rotary engine?

Mazda hasn’t offered a rotary-engined car since the RX-8 was given the axe in 2012. That doesn’t mean the Wankel engine is gone for good, and a new report coming out of Australia finds the Hiroshima-based automaker is busily developing its next rotary-engined coupe.

Tentatively called RX-9, the coupe will be built on a rear-wheel drive evolution of the SkyActiv platform that currently underpins the Mazda6. What it will be powered by is an open question at this point because it’s still at the embryonic stage of development, but sources close to Mazda speculate it could use some form of electrification in order to keep the low gas mileage that’s typically associated with Wankel engines in check. A manual transmission will come standard, and buyers will likely be able to order an automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive, or both at an extra cost.

Mazda put the rotary-engined coupe on hiatus a couple of years ago because it had to focus on renewing its core models in order to return to profitability, a task that’s easier said than done for an independent automaker. Persistent industry rumors claimed that a successor to the RX-8 had been axed for good, but Mazda is adamant that the project was never fully abandoned.

“After all, after the MX-5, the rotary is the spirit of the company. They’d all love to work on the next one,” points out an anonymous insider in an interview with Motoring.

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If all goes as planned, the RX-9 will be previewed by a close-to-production concept that will be presented at a major auto show in 2017, a date that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Cosmo Sport, Mazda’s first-ever regular-production, rotary-engined car. The concept will be toned down a little, and the RX-9 will be unveiled in 2020 as part of the automaker’s centennial celebrations.