Mazda Global Design Director on the RX-Vision Concept Car

“For a long time I’ve dreamed of creating a real sports car, a serious car for grown ups that just epitomizes cool,” says Ikuo Maeda, executive officer and general manager of Mazda’s design division.

The RX-Vision is exactly that. Long, low and wide, the front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car concept is beautifully proportioned and its surfacing sublime. It’s the quintessential sports car from a brand that hopes to reignite passion in the automobile and change the minds of those who see car ownership as more of a burden than the embodiment of freedom.

Powered by the Mazda’s next-generation rotary engine, which generates power through the rotational motion of a triangular rotor rather than a conventional ICE engine’s crank, pistons and cylinders, the RX-Vision is a technical showcase for a form of propulsion that has long been abandoned by other manufacturers.

Overcoming numerous technical difficulties, Mazda succeeded in commercializing the rotary engine in 1967, fitting it in the Cosmo Sport (aka Mazda 110S), and remains the only automaker to mass-produce it. The company’s continued efforts to improve power output, fuel economy and durability of the rotary led to an overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991. Over the years, the rotary engine has come to symbolize Mazda’s creativity and tireless endeavor in the face of difficult challenges.

But perhaps one of the most difficult challenges the automaker faces in light of current trends is that of falling interest — particularly in Japan and highly populated urban areas — of a younger generation of buyers.

Maeda cites the waning interest of millennials and the dedication and passion of Mazda’s engineers that have worked hard to perfect the rotary engine over time as the deciding factor in creating the concept. It was a good way to create an emotional product that the younger demographic would find appealing whilst showing off the automaker’s technological ingenuity.

“I knew I wanted those classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive proportions that people find truly beautiful,” Maeda says, “I’ve long wanted to create forms that imply a distinctly Japanese aesthetic.”

The pared down exterior design utilizes light to lend drama to the sculptural form; its movement communicating elegance and sophistication without the need of superfluous elements. The concept’s front and rear lamps are nestled within the bodywork; their highly technical appearance like a jewel in a case.

It’s a message that’s repeated in the interior, where pure shapes — and the interplay of natural and technical materials and red and black colorways — coexist with gorgeous fashion-inspired detailing and a classic analogue gauge pack in front of a minimalist steering wheel.

It is with these forms and volumes that Maeda’s design team succeeded in creating a car that was named the Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year at the 31st Festival Automobile International in Paris, France.

The award, one of the grand prizes at the annual event, is given to the vehicle that best embodies pure design creativity and emerging trends, with the winner chosen by a jury of experts and enthusiasts from the world of motorsports, architecture, fashion and design.

The overall simplicity of the RX-Vision’s design (both inside and out) and the accolade given to the company in recognition of its beauty proves that elegance and sophistication are still widely regarded as essentials in the perceived overall ‘beauty’ of an automobile. Now if we could just get that memo out to some other carmakers.


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