Ground breaking hybrid platform with a Japanese sports car appeal
Unveiled at the 2023 edition of the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, the new Mazda Iconic SP concept sports car is a marriage between a 2-rotor petrol engine and an electric motor drivetrain. It’s wild that the contentious rotary engine would’ve ever made its return in any form, yet it manages to do so under circumstances that don’t appear to be ideal at the onset. Quietly though, the Japanese automaker has been diligently at work seeing that its rebirth turns out to have both emotional and practical appeal.
Mazda Proves That Hybrid Design Can Be Diverse
If anything, the storied Japanese automaker is providing some clairvoyance—showing us a future that isn’t void of any creativity, nor does there have to be one with an overwhelmingly bland concoction of cookie cutter EVs and hybrid clones, differentiated only by the uniforms they don.
In fact, simply put, the new sports car is the opposite of what a hybrid is understood to be, while still being a hybrid. Yes, the Mazda Iconic SP is a far cry from being a hybrid in the conventional sense—it’s not the gas powered unit being assisted by an electric motor(s), but the other way around. In this car, the rotary engine’s sole function is to keep the electric battery charged, which in turn, sends power to the electric motors which are 100% responsible for putting down power to the wheels.
No word yet on how many motors there will be—or in what type of configuration they’ll be assigned—though we’d hope that a rear-wheel drive version will at least be optional, if not exclusive. In any case, Mazda has claimed that the powerplant used in the concept car produces a sufficiently savory amount of power, with 365 bhp currently what is being advertised. Not too much. Not too little. Just like Goldilocks.
Why An RX-7 Revival Is Still On The Cards
The concept car’s styling directive is keeping in-line with another current Mazda sports car—namely, the Miata—and at first glance looks to be cut from the same cloth as the automaker’s quintessential and diminutive sports car. In reality, the Iconic SP is a much larger car all around, and has a longer wheelbase by some margin—around 11 inches, Mazda says. Some would say that it looks more like the Miata’s new big brother.
However, those from a more enthusiast ilk will be quick to point out that some of the major design cues—particularly, the low-flying front end which flows into a short roofline before swooping down into a sleek fastback silhouette—harkens back to the 3rd generation FD Mazda RX-7. There’s certainly a familiar sensuality at play here, and to me, it’s rather obvious. When it comes to concept car interiors, we shouldn’t read too deep into things, though it has to be said that the below photo certainly pays homage to the company’s sports car heritage.
Along with the presence of rotary technology, this suggests that the concept and future production version, has the credentials needed to be both a natural and spiritual successor to the iconic ’90s Japanese sports car. If this is all anything to go by, hopefully it also possesses the driving dynamics to make it a worthy one, too.
Considering its light weight by today’s standards—just 3,197 lbs, in spite of its larger footprint and heftier drivetrain—the SP is already off to a good start in that department. Add to that, Mazda’s claim that they’ve managed to achieve a 50:50 weight distribution, plus a thoughtfully engineered power-to-weight balance, and you’ve got all the ingredients required to make what the company claims it to be: a car that embodies “the joy of driving”.
Stay Tuned: There’s A Lot More To Come
During the unveiling, Mazda’s European Design Director, Jo Stenuit, also explained that the car’s low center of gravity will deliver “excellent driving performance” while CEO Masahiro Moro reiterated that “Mazda will always deliver vehicles that remind people that cars are pure joy and an indispensable part of their lives.”
Interestingly, this isn’t even the first time Mazda has revealed a rotary/electric drivetrain, as the MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV had already laid claim to that territory earlier this year, albeit with one less rotor and a more economical philosophy. No wonder it didn’t get as much attention. However, the mere mention of a possible RX-7 successor, has all our ears perked up.
Is the Mazda Iconic SP going to disrupt the EV and hybrid landscape with its unique approach to low-emissions hooniganism (shoutout to the late Ken Block)? Hard to say. But it surely generates more excitement and optimism for the future of sports cars, and all of us (car enthusiasts) can only benefit from this.