The flame still burns within Mazda to stage a rotary engine revival. Before you start getting excited, it's way too soon to start saving money for the fabled, next-gen RX-7 or RX-8. Still, company boss Masamichi Kogai confirmed to Autocar that the Japanese automaker has an engineering team dedicated to improving the Wankel.
This development group has the hard task of trying to make the rotary stack up to modern internal combustion engines in terms of emissions and fuel-economy standards. Neither factor were ever exactly Wankel's strong suits. Kogai described them as working "very enthusiastically" to Autocar. The boss didn't discuss any future RX-vehicles or the size of the team, however, a report from last year indicated that there were 30 engineers in partnership with universities to update the engine's design.
After problems keeping up with emissions and fuel economy, Mazda built it's last rotary for an RX-8 in June 2012. Since then, there have been intermittent rumors of a return. One possible solution was a design called the 16X that was supposed to offer more torque and better fuel economy. Another possibility was a small-displacement unit as a range-extender in an electric Mazda2.