Special Coverage

Auto Show

TOKYO – When Mazda Motor Corp.’s Taiki concept, a futuristic look at a front-engine/rear-drive sports car, hits the stage at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show, it will provide a sneak peek at the next-generation version of the auto maker’s signature rotary engine, dubbed the 16X.

The new rotary is just a part of a plan Mazda announces here to overhaul its engine lineup by about 2010.

The Taiki, Mazda’s lone concept, will be joined at the Tokyo show by the Japan debut of the Atenza (Mazda6) and the latest iteration of the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid.

The Taiki is a creation of Mazda’s Yokohama Design Center. The innovative 2-seater features silver gullwing doors and a taut, aerodynamic body that gives the car a sleek 0.25 drag coefficient.

The car’s 22-in. tires are fitted onto wheels designed to look like the turbo-fan blades of a jet aircraft. Bright blue light-emitting diodes built into the body panels accentuate the car’s powerful lines.

Measuring 180.0 ins. (457.2 cm) long with a nearly 120-in. (305-cm) wheelbase, the Taiki follows the Nagare concept that bowed at the 2006 Los Angeles auto show, the Ryuga unveiled in Detroit in January and Hakaze revealed for the first time in Geneva in March. All four models will be displayed together on Mazda’s Tokyo stand.

Linking the rotary engine to the rear wheels is a twin-clutch 7-speed power shift transmission.

Laurens van den Acker, general manager of Mazda’s design division, says the car marks an evolution of Mazda’s current styling philosophy centered on the twin concepts of “emotional” and “sporty.”

The Atenza, unveiled initially at the Frankfurt auto show in September, will be available in three body styles in Japan, a 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback and station wagon.

Equipped with a new 2.5L engine in Mazda’s MZR series, the Atenza is said to offer improved driving performance and be substantially quieter, with engine noise half that of the previous model.

Other new features include electric power steering and a double wishbone suspension both front and rear. Safety systems include radar cruise control and rear-vehicle monitoring. The latter is an industry first and uses radar sensors, installed in both left and right rear corners of the body, to detect approaching vehicles in the blind area behind the B-pillars.

The Atenza’s 2.5L gasoline engine is the seventh in the MZR series that now includes displacements of 1.3L, 1.5L, 1.6L, 1.8L, 2.0L and 2.3L.

Meanwhile, on the future engine front, Mazda plans to add new gasoline reciprocating and rotary powerplants and a new diesel series to the lineup.

The diesel will feature an aluminum block, piezoelectric injectors and a 2-stage turbocharger. Engineers plan to meet U.S. Tier 2 Bin 5 standards, though they decline to detail how that will be accomplished.

The new rotary, which will be lighter and more compact than Mazda’s current rotary, will employ the direct-injection system and aluminum housing developed for the RX-8 Hydrogen RE. It will have a 1.6L displacement.

The auto maker’s next-generation gasoline 4-cyl. aims for a 20% improvement in fuel economy over the existing MZR series.

Mazda also confirms it will launch the tri-fuel Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid in early 2009. The model, unlike the RX-8 Hydrogen RE that runs on gasoline and hydrogen, can operate on electricity as well.

Akihiro Kashiwage, program manager, says power has been increased by 40% from 107 hp to 147 hp. The Premacy Hybrid can reach 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 11 seconds. Running on hydrogen, its range is 125 miles (201 km), double that of the RX-8 Hydrogen in its hydrogen mode.

Main components include the hydrogen rotary engine, generator, inverter and motor and 346-volt lithium-ion battery. The car’s hydrogen fuel tank can hold 40 gallons (150 L) of compressed hydrogen. The RX-8 Hydrogen’s tank has 29-gallon (110-L) capacity.

To date, the Hiroshima-based auto maker has leased eight RX-8 Hydrogen vehicles. It plans to more than triple that with the Premacy Hybrid.

It will be available first in Japan, according to Kashiwage, who says no decision has been made to sell the Premacy Hybrid overseas.