The Mazda Iconic SP concept made its debut at the Japan Mobility Show today with a novel feature that sports car fans have been clamoring for since 2012: a rotary engine. Looking very much like the company’s Vision Study design piece from last year, the fixed-roof Iconic SP is a bit larger than the current MX-5, making it a tantalising continuation of the RX-7’s legacy.
But unlike that legendary coupe, the Iconic SP makes use of its two-rotor mill not to drive the wheels, but to charge a battery of unknown capacity, which then sends juice to an unspecified electric motor layout. While there are those burning questions about the so-called R-EV’s powertrain specifics, wherever the juice comes from, there sure is a lot of it – 365 bhp to be precise. Mazda says the rotary can run on a variety of fuels, including hydrogen and renewable fuel, and the battery can also be plugged into a home outlet to recharge it.
Gallery: Mazda Iconic SP Concept
Coming in at 4,180 millimetres (164.6 inches) long by 2,100 mm (82.8 in) wide and 1,150 mm (45.2 in) high, the conic SP is 267 mm (10.5 in) longer than a current MX-5 and 104 mm (4.1 in) shorter than a 1995 RX-7. According to the company, the Iconic SP weighs in at a slightly portly 1,450 kilograms (3,197 pounds), making it about 181 kilograms (400 pounds) heavier than the RX-7 and about 362 kg (800 lbs) more than the MX-5. Such is the price one pays for electrons, and the Iconic SP still isn’t that heavy compared to the 1,515 kg (3,342 lb) Toyota Supra or 1,600 kg (3,519 lb) Nissan Z.
It wears its size very well, too. Mazda says the compact powertrain allows a very low bonnet and ultra-compact dimensions, and the Iconic SP’s Coke-bottle wings/fenders provide a modern contrast to the RX-7-style windows and rear hatch. The automaker’s modern grille shape appears on the nose, and Venn-diagram taillights recall both the NA-generation MX-5 and FC-generation RX-7. The doors open in a graceful, upward motion, not unlike Aston Martin's swan wing design. The Iconic SP is painted a beautiful shade called Viola Red, which is brighter than the company’s signature Soul Red Crystal – appropriate for a sports car.
Inside, the Iconic SP is a triumph of minimalism, with a typewriter-key gear selector, digital instrument cluster, and small infotainment display being the only distractions from its curvaceous, flowing design. The kakenui stitching first seen on the CX-90 SUV appears on the Iconic SP concept’s dashboard and door panels, and the seats wear biofabric upholstery (a word we haven’t heard Mazda use since it developed a seat material made from renewable plastic in 2009).
The combination of plug-in electric and range-extender tech isn’t new, even at Mazda – the MX-30 PHEV has a 0.8-litre single-rotor powerplant under the bonnet to keep the battery charged. The two-rotor engine in the Iconic SP might displace 1.6 litres, given the MX-30 uses a 0.8-litre single-rotor design. What’s more, the mill in the sports car can be used as a V2L generator, appropriate for everything from tailgate parties to backup power during severe weather.
Mazda describes the engine architecture as scalable, so it’s possible the renewable-fuel rotary technology could be used for other applications. Dedicated home generators could make use of small-displacement rotaries, while larger vehicles could potentially daisy-chain rotors together to make bigger power. That said, the Iconic SP concept is a vehicle that is intended to underscore Mazda’s commitment to driving enjoyment first and foremost.
“Mazda will always deliver vehicles that remind people that cars are pure joy and an indispensable part of their lives,” said company Representative Director, President, and CEO Masahiro Moro. “As a car-loving company that mass produces the inspiring mobility experience, we are committed to shaping the future … where everyone can proudly say, ‘We love cars.’"