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Rotary Sports Car Turning Heads

DETROIT--Mazda Motor Corp. plans to bring to market a high-performance, four-door sports car with the unveiling of its RX-8 design engineering model at the North American International Auto Show here. The RX-8 is powered by a 250-horsepower version of the company’s rotary engine.

The new RX-8 is much closer to an actual production sports car than its predecessor, the Mazda RX-EVOLV concept car that was introduced at the October 1999 Tokyo Motor Show and shown at last year’s North American International Auto Show, according to the company.

“With its four-door freestyle door system, four-passenger comfort and 250-horsepower Renesis rotary engine, Mazda RX-8 is the next big thing in sports cars,” said Mazda President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see this car--or something very close--on some of the world’s most scenic, most fun-to-drive highways in the not-so-distant future.”

Highlights of the car include:

• A lightweight and compact Renesis rotary engine

• Central mid-ship engine layout and 50:50 front/rear weight distribution to enhance control and handling

• Freestyle door system, with front-hinged and rear-hinged doors and no center pillar, that makes getting into and out of the rear seats faster and easier

• Comfortable seating for four adults

• An interior design that mixes the traditional with new contemporary material that appears to “wrap around” the passengers

Overall, the RX-8 has a compact-looking body, while providing enough interior room to seat four adults comfortably. The use of a compact rotary engine allows for the low hood, short overhangs, and overall sports car look while providing interior room on par with a sports sedan, Fields said.

An integral part of Mazda’s revolutionary engineering heritage is its 40 years of experience with the rotary engine. To date, Mazda has produced nearly 2 million rotary-engine vehicles. Mazda is the only automobile manufacturer in the world that offers a pure rotational internal combustion engine. In 1991, Mazda became the first--and thus far only--Japanese auto manufacturer to win the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race with its four-rotor 787B racer. “The Renesis rotary engine represents the potential that Mazda believes lies within this unique powerplant,” said Fields.

“It all starts with the rotary engine,” said Phil Martens, managing director in charge of product strategy, design and product and powertrain development. “Renesis is naturally aspirated, and it is 30 percent lighter and more compact than the turbocharged rotary engine (13B-REW) in the current RX-7. The engine’s weight, size, low center of gravity, and positioning in the vehicle give the car excellent maneuverability and high-end performance,” he noted. “With its side intake and exhaust ports, the Renesis rotary engine also enhances fuel economy and reduces emissions,” he added.

The central mid-ship powertrain layout positions the engine behind the front axle, even closer to the center of the car than with Mazda’s typical front mid-ship rotary engine layout.

The engine will have power levels up to 280 horsepower at 9,000 RPM, Martens said, and is expected to meet stringent global emissions standards at launch.

The RX-8’s structure suppresses bending and twisting of the body and enhances performance by inhibiting vibration and minimizing noise “to provide a supremely quiet driving environment.”

The Mazda RX-8 is totally different from the company's famous RX-7, he said.

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