2015 Tokyo Motor Show: Designing the Mazda RX Vision
No automaker building cars for a mass consumer market is building better looking vehicles right now that Mazda. Continually refining and enhancing the company’s Kodo design language, each new edition from Mazda proves that a manufacturer can design, build and sell great looking cars that remain affordable for a majority of buyers.
That said, the latest Mazda to grab headlines — the RX Vision concept sports car that showed its face during the opening press day of the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show – would most likely be less affordable as it would sit atop the model line. Still, whatever production vehicle grows from the RX Vision’s styling is guaranteed to stretch and redefine Mazda’s Kodo language.
For the uninitiated, Kodo is the theory behind the entirety of Mazda’s aesthetic. Based first and foremost on the use of nature’s forms, Kodo looks to visuals suggesting energy and a sensual experience.
During a special press event to discuss the RX Vision, Mazda Head of Design Ikuo Maeda (above) revealed the process that created what many automotive writers tagged the best looking car of the entire auto show.
Maeda-san says through an interpreter that he had fun designing the return of the RX because company executives put no restraints on him. And, he’s optimistic that — while many concept cars are mere show pieces and never see the light of production — some version of the Vision will find the roads.
“Of course, some restorations may apply,” Maeda-san admits. “It all depends on what targets we set for the actual production car.”
While the RX Vision involves echoes of Kodo, it’s unlike anything else Mazda designers produced to this date. Its long, low hood and hunkered, aggressive haunches riding atop 20 inch wheels hints at a power not often associated with Mazda’s traditionally quick, nimble cars and crossovers. Maeda-san and his team used non-automotive inspiration.
“We used our own, non-automotive design cues internally by crafting multiple art pieces that had nothing to do with cars. We also collaborated with traditional Japanese craftsmen to create various artworks from the materials of their own art forms. We prefer to build everything by hand to preserve the delicacy of the — to differentiate from the rest. We wanted this car to look different — to be dramatic.”
“In terms of Kodo Design, I still consider there’s a variety of paths we can take with our cars. Instead of introducing revolution to Kodo principles, we still have room to evolve. We’re not going to make the same thing over and over again. We’ll continue to push. So, the message of this car is dramatically different from what we were doing before, though it’s still a Kodo design car.”
“The result – If you look at the body’s side — you’ll note there’s a sensitive control of light along the car’s side I can think of no car past or present that focused on that control of light.”
Not everything on the Vision is the result of extreme, outside the box thinking. The headlights were inspired by the popular third generation RX-7 as a salute to that Mazda classic and to give the car an expression — a friendly face.
“We want a Mazda to be a beloved part of the family,” Maeda-san explains. “How can you have a member of the family if it doesn’t have a face — if it doesn’t have eyes?”
While Maeda-san likes the experimental aesthetics of the RX Vision, he acknowledges that a production version — no matter what it ends up being called — will have to go through some changes.
“There’s a possibility for the concept of the vehicle being changed due to the reaction. But, we have already determined the essence of what we want to do beforehand. We are waiting to see who will pull the trigger.”
Plus, there are major factors of the vehicle that need to be fleshed out yet. For example, the engine that would power her — the SKYACTIV-R rotary — doesn’t exist in a working form yet (at least not publicly). There’s always the question of appropriate tire size.
“I race cars,” Maeda-san says. “I know the bigger tires don’t always improve performance.”
As far as what final appearance executives choose for the return of the RX, Maeda-san is happy with what he’s seeing at there Tokyo Motor Show.
“Personally, based on my estimation of what a sports car should look like, building this car should be a certainty.”
If the RX Vision does come together with a new rotary engine, it’d be a family affair. Maeda-san’s father designed the original RX 7. It could come down to the son to bring back the great Mazda rotary engine.