The unique Mazda RX-8 goes on sale in late summer. Its uniqueness comes from two distinct features, first the freestyle door system that incorporates rear doors that open the opposite way to conventional doors, to allow ease of access to the rear seats, thereby creating a true four seater without compromising the coupe styling.
The second unique feature is the rotary engine. This remarkable piece of engineering is part of Mazda's heritage and has brought the Japanese manufacturer some of its greatest successes.
Mazda first started to develop the rotary engine in the 60s, each development improving in power and reliability. In 1991 a Mazda four rotor 2.6-litre rotary engine powered the first Japanese manufacturer to the Le Mans crown, when the Mazda 787B was driven to victory in the 24-hour endurance race by British driver Johnny Herbert, proving the reliability and performance of this unique engine.
Much of the information and technology from Le Mans has been used in the development of subsequent engines and the RENESIS is the latest offering from Mazda. Reliability is unquestionably as good as any Otto cycle engine but engineers are able to manufacture a physically smaller and lighter unit that offers far greater power than the equivalent sized conventional engine.
One of the key areas that chassis engineers concentrated on was the Mazda RX-8’s responsive handling and performance in order to deliver driving pleasure far beyond the normal. A key factor in achieving the Mazda RX-8’s unrivalled performance and superb handling is its light weight, perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution, and low yaw-inertia moment and centre of gravity.
A major contribution to this weight distribution and the front-midship layout is the RENESIS engine. Naturally aspirated, the RENESIS is smaller and lighter than Mazda’s previous turbo rotary engine (13B-REW), and it is only 338mm high, the same as the transmission. This made it possible to mount the engine about 60mm further rearward and some 40mm lower than in the Mazda RX-7, which already has the engine’s centre of gravity behind the front axle.