Mazda RX-8 Ends Production: Demise of the Rotary?

Mazda RX-8 Spirit R

Mazda has finally given up on the RX-8, a very good sports car with a pack of problems. The company sold only 2,896 last year, 1,245 of them in North America. Mazda, however, has sold almost 2 million rotary-engined cars in total over 45 years.

A limited edition (1,000 copies) RX-8 Spirit R (above) will be made and sold only in Japan as production ends in June 2012. It will be a trimmed-out, fancified RX-8, with tuned suspension, bigger brakes and wheels, etc.

The rotary, or Wankel, engine that has powered the RX series cars is a brilliant concept—simple, with very few moving parts, delivering very smooth power at high rpms. Mazda began development of the engine in 1961 and seemingly solved the engine’s biggest problem, compression seals on the rotor.

But there were a bunch of operating problems that never got solved—among them overheating, oil type and consumption, excessive gas consumption and poor low-speed torque.

But what seems to have killed the RX-8, finally, was Mazda’s attempt to dodge increasingly rigorous U.S. CAFE standards.

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