mazda senku

Mazda Senku (2005)

The sensational looking Mazda Senku is a four-seat sports car with the first-ever rotary-engined hybrid powertrain, not to mention some of the longest sliding doors in the business.

At 183 inches (15.3 feet) long, 73 inches across, and 55 inches in height, the Senku is a full nine inches longer, three inches wider, and two inches taller than an RX-8. It also sits on an extravagantly long, 122-inch wheelbase (sixteen inches longer than the RX-8’s). Access to the sumptuous cabin is via massive, electrically operated “flying wing” sliding doors.

The sleek exterior represents a possible direction for Mazda’s next-generation styling. A two-stage, power-operated hatch lid moves up and out, and the rearmost part of the glass roof incorporates solar panels that help charge the hybrid battery.

Inside, the dashboard, the slim designer seats, and the door trim are finished in high-quality leather. Normally, the Senku is a two-seater, but the space behind the seats can be used either for storage or to adapt the car to a two-plus-two. The high-tech, two-level dash features a three-panel display on the top half displaying images from outside the car via on-board cameras. The lower half displays the audio and climate-control systems.

The Senku’s instruments such as the speedo, the tach, and other gauges plus the car’s sat-nav system sit within a stylish, thick-rimmed steering wheel, also finished off in red leather.

The totally new, Mazda-designed, rotary hybrid system uses a new direct-injection, two-rotor engine, combined with a motor, a generator, and a battery. The battery’s location between the engine and the firewall, combined with the compact rotary engine’s front-midship layout, helps create 50/50 weight distribution and a low center of gravity. This hybrid system also features an idling-stop system to boost economy and emissions.

There’s more. Beneath the skin, Senku features a new type of “multi-frame” body construction supporting the engine and front suspension, designed to save weight and improve impact safety over a conventional chassis rail system. Virtual B-pillars are fitted inside the backs of the sliding doors to help maintain sufficient body rigidity despite the huge side door openings.

The Senku has a seven-speed transmission and dry twin-plate clutch. The suspension consists of double wishbones at the front and a multilink rear setup. The concepts rides on monster 235/40R-22 Yokohama Advan Prototype 005 tires.

Is the Senku the next RX-8? Maybe not, but it’s one of the most interesting cars at this year’s show.