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2010 Mazda RX-7: New  Design and Pure Power

Don't call it a comeback, the Rx-7 is being redesigned in 2010. Affectionately known as the "rotary rocket" the 2010 version promises to be the fastest, most agile RX-7 yet, and it could also be a hybrid.

A Rumored Existence Becomes Reality

Rumors of its existence being passed around for years, the new RX-7 appears to be on its way to market at long last. Currently in development, there isn't much on the slate that is set in stone. Sources close to Mazda predict that the all new RX-7 could see a release of 2010 as an early 2011 vehicle. The RX-8, already 7 years old by that time may be ready for retirement, which would confirm the speculation that the RX-7 is in development to take over as Mazda's senior sports car.

With its introduction in 1977, the RX-7 quickly built a large and loyal worldwide following as a fast, agile, and affordable two-seat coupe with a unique and fascinating rotary engine.

In 1986 a redesign added size and a convertible body style, with neither increasing sales. Intelligently, Mazda redesigned for the third-generation 1993 RX-7 coupe, but turbocharged the engine to over 250 horsepower. Enthusiasts loved it, but a weak dollar-to-yen exchange made it too expensive to draw sufficient U.S. sales, so Mazda pulled the plug after 1995, but only in America. The RX-7 continued into the new century for Japan, Europe, and other overseas markets, even as Mazda rolled out the four-door, four-seat RX-8.

Sources say the 2010 Mazda RX-7 will be another Japan-sourced two-door coupe, but based on Mazda's latest MX-5 roadster platform. However, that rear-wheel-drive architecture will be scaled up to near RX-8 size, which could mean a tiny back seat instead of a strictly two-passenger cockpit. Styling is said to be drawn from the 2006 Kabura concept, so look for traditional long-hood/short-deck proportions, an arched roof, prominent cycle-style front fenders, an aggressive nose, and big wheels pushed right out to the corners.

Powertrain Technologies

2010 Mazda RX-7 will inherit the RX-8's "Renesis" rotary engine, modified for more horsepower than today's 212/232. Mazda aims to stand conventional sports car thinking on its ear with RX-EVOLV concept car, a rotary-powered, four-door, four-seat true sports car that promises to be the next big thing in sports cars. The "RENESIS" rotary engine in the RX-EVOLV represents the potential that Mazda believes lies within this unique power plant. The "RENESIS" (Rotary Engine GENESIS) twin-rotor engine delivers a potent 280 horsepower, the highest output ever achieved by a normally aspirated rotary engine, and revs to an astounding 10,000 rpm. 

The "RENESIS" rotary engine has been developed and refined from the multiple side-port experimental rotary engine which powered the RX-01 concept sports car unveiled at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show.

Engineers are reportedly working to install a turbocharger that could be assisted by an electric motor at low rpm. This makes sense for a type of engine that's inherently strong on high-end power but weak on low-end torque. Besides broadening the power band, the "electric turbo" promises to reduce low-rpm emissions, a traditional bugbear with the rotary.

The 2010 Mazda RX-7 won't be luxurious, but furnishings should be appropriate for a mid-priced sports car. So, too, standard equipment, which will likely include 17- or 18-inch wheels housing big four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, plus stability/traction control and perhaps steering with fuel-saving electric assist instead of hydraulic. 

Transmissions should comprise a six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic, though a sequential manual with automatic shift mode might be in the cards. Like RX-8, options should include leather upholstery, heated/power seats, navigation system, keyless entry with pushbutton starting, rear spoiler, lower-body flares, and for weekend racers, a firm "competition" suspension package.

Thirsty For More Fuel Efficiency

Mazda's Wankel-type rotary engine not only presents more emissions-cleanup challenges, it's inherently thirstier than comparably sized piston engines. With that and the prospect of higher fuel-economy standards, some believe the 2010 Mazda RX-7 could appear with a Honda-style gas-electric hybrid system. Instead of a turbocharger, the battery-driven motor would boost engine acceleration at or near full throttle, but would not be set up to drive the vehicle by itself. Presumably, the system would also include regenerative braking to charge the batteries when coasting and decelerating, plus an engine stop/start feature to reduce idling time and thus save fuel. If the 2010 Mazda RX-7 turns out to be a hybrid, it would be the first such vehicle with a rotary power plant.

Early Conclusions

The 2010 RX-7 should be no less unique a sports car as the predecessors to the line were. It's too early to tell whether or not it will live up to the hype as it is in the design phase. RX-7 fans have been waiting for over 10 years for a successor to the throne and they can certainly wait a year more for it to come to fruition. Our recommendation is to be ready to move once it hits the dealer floor. With a likely high demand in the first season consumers will have to get on it if they want one before their friends. Also, like the RX-8, this car is partly a technology and image flagship, so Mazda won't be looking for big sales. Indeed, availability might even be capped at, say, 25,000-30,000 units a year to maintain both exclusivity and resale values. 

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