Mazda Designer Discusses RX-7 Influence and Pop-Up Lights in Iconic SP Model

The Popularity of Popping Lights: Beauty or Functionality?

It is not difficult to encounter people who are enamored with Mazda’s rotary-electric sports car, as it is undeniably stunning. Recently, Top Gear magazine had the chance to chat with the brilliant mind responsible for designing this iconic SP concept. Masashi Nakayama, the chief designer at Zoom-Zoom company, shares his insights on the inspiration behind the car’s striking appearance.

During the design process, it was no surprise that the RX-7 played a pivotal role as the main source of inspiration. When asked about the decision to incorporate pop-up headlights, the response was straightforward: “Why not? It’s visually appealing, isn’t it?” According to Nakayama, the company’s goal is to create a design that goes beyond traditional logic, where not everything has to have a logical explanation.

According to Mazda’s head of design, the Iconic SP is intended to evoke thoughts of the popular RX-7 model. He expressed his desire to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of a future production version. This stylish coupe is among the concepts that we are eagerly anticipating to receive approval for production. This may not be far-fetched, as a team of 36 engineers solely dedicated to rotary engines is currently focused on creating “appealing cars that ignite passion in customers.” In a recent statement, Mazda’s President and CEO Katsuhiro Moro stated his determination to bring this dream of a rotary sports car closer to reality.

Is the upcoming road version going to be a revived RX or a completely new MX-5? A recent interview with Top Gear hints at the former. However, Masashi Nakayama had previously stated in October of 2023 during the unveiling of the Iconic SP that the sports coupe could potentially be downsized to the proportions of a Miata. The concept car was intentionally designed larger than necessary. Why? To create a buzz at the Japan Mobility Show where it made its global debut.

We would like to emphasize that the dimensions of the car measure 164.6 inches (4.18 meters) in length, 72.8 inches (1.85 meters) in width, and 45.2 inches (1.14 meters) in height. It boasts a weight of 3,197 pounds (1,450 kilograms) with an even distribution between the front and rear axles. In comparison to a Miata, it is significantly bigger and bulkier, however, Mazda assures that they were able to fit all the necessary components into a sports car of similar size to the ND model.

FIRST LOOK: Rotary-Engine Mazda Previews Next RX-7

A new iteration would not serve as a direct replacement for renowned models such as the RX-7 or RX-8, as its powertrain would not transfer energy directly to the wheels through a rotary engine. Instead, the two-rotor combustor would function as a power generator to charge an accompanying battery. In this innovative design, the internal combustion engine (ICE) operated with a variety of fuel options including gasoline, renewable fuels, and hydrogen. The Iconic SP was essentially classified as a plug-in hybrid, featuring a charging port for the undisclosed battery pack.

With a whopping 365 horsepower at its disposal, the rear-wheel-drive design boasted twice the power of the latest Miata model equipped with a 2.0-liter motor. Notably, Mazda has already introduced a finished version featuring a rotary engine that is completely disconnected from the vehicle’s wheels – the compact MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV crossover.

If a new sports car were to debut in the coming years, it would mark the 13th performance vehicle equipped with a rotary engine. It remains to be seen if the sleek headlights will be retained for production, as strict safety standards have effectively put an end to the use of pop-up lights. However, Ferrari has managed to find a solution by incorporating sliding “eyelids” on the Daytona SP3, as demonstrated in the video below. While the headlights do not physically pop out, the overall effect is reminiscent of the iconic feature.

Ferrari Daytona SP3

Source: Top Gear / YouTube

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