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'SkyActiv-R' may be the name of Mazda's next rotary engine

The sports car concept that Mazda will unveil at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show later this week will be a two-door, two-seater with a rotary engine under the hood, confirming years of speculation that Mazda will revive the Wankel engine for potential performance cars, according to a new report.

Mazda’s new rotary engine will be called SkyActiv-R, says Autocar. This information comes from a conversation with Mazda R&D chief Kiyoshi Fujiwara on the eve of the Tokyo show. Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai confirmed the concept’s two-seat layout, but would not say definitively if it will go into production, although others seemed optimistic.

Ever since Mazda discontinued the RX-8 in 2012, fans have been pushing for a replacement. Mazda itself largely denied that it was planning a new rotary sports car until recently, when it began dropping some interesting hints. When the firm announced the still-to-be-revealed sports car concept, it noted that a Cosmo 110S will be displayed alongside it. The appearance of Mazda’s first rotary sports car was certain to get fans’ attention.

Kogai has also said that Mazda has a dedicated team working on rotary engines. One of the major challenges of bringing rotary engines back to showrooms will likely be improving fuel economy and emissions. These were always the weak points of Mazda’s previous rotaries, and improvements will only become more important as government standards get tougher.

Mazda’s decision to build a rotary-powered concept car seems to indicate an intent to launch a new production model that could sit above the Miata, just as the old RX-8 and RX-7 did. It’s also possible that Mazda just wants to shamelessly milk its heritage. Or maybe it has something entirely different in mind.

The company has applied for patents for an electrified powertrain that uses a rotary engine as a range extender, similar to the setup used in the Chevrolet Volt. It demonstrated a prototype based on the Demio (known as the Mazda 2 in the U.S.) in 2013. California regulations may soon require the sale of some sort of electric car or plug-in hybrid, and this system could help it meet that requirement.

Of course, we’ll probably have a better idea of Mazda’s plans once the sports car concept is unveiled. And with the Tokyo Motor Show press days getting underway, we won’t have to wait long. Stay tuned.

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