2008 Detroit Auto Show: Mazda Furai Concept
What it Is
Mazda Furai Concept Preview – Detroit Auto Show: If Mazda were ever to build a super car, this would be it. Based on the factory-backed American Le Mans Series race car, the Furai is built with carbon composites and uses a three-rotor engine that produces 450 horsepower and runs on ethanol fuel (E100) developed by BP. The name means “sound of the wind,” which we’re guessing is what spectators would hear as the car went by.Why it Matters
Mazda wants to keep its racing involvement in the minds of buyers regardless of whether they are shopping for a sports car or not. Several models are raced on a regular basis, allowing the company to claim that on any given weekend more Mazdas are road raced than any other brand. Beyond the halo effect of the Furai, the car runs on a new ethanol, E100, so it’s somewhat “greener” than if it ran on 100-octane racing gas.
What’s Under the Hood
Under the sleek carbon fiber skin is Mazda’s 20B three-rotor engine, which is derived from the current Renesis rotary found in the RX-8. The 20B is built as a racing-only engine and hasn’t been used in a production car as of yet. OK, it probably won’t ever be used in one that burns gasoline, but maybe one running on something else could hit the road. Given that the chassis was originally designed for a prototype class, sophisticated racing dampers, exotic components and braking power in the realm of three or four g's place the Furai in the exotic concept category.
What it Looks Like
The Furai’s design is a continuation of Mazda’s Nagare – "flow" in Japanese – styling language. The cockpit sits far forward, as is typical of a mid-engine prototype racer, the body looks to have been molded on top of the components underneath and there’s an organic character to the sweeping fins on the front and sides. It could almost be at home on the sci-fi television show “Farscape.”
What Mazda Says
“Furai purposely blurs boundaries that have traditionally distinguished street cars from track cars. Historically, there has been a gap between single-purpose race cars and street-legal models – commonly called supercars – that emulate the real racers on the road. Furai bridges that gap like no car has ever done before.” – Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda North America design director.
What We Think
Mazda has shown some interesting concepts lately, but the Furai is an actual operational prototype, one that offers a fine balance of modern and purposeful design, is built on a real race car chassis, and draws power from an engine worthy of an exotic. Alas, Mazda isn’t in the exotic car business, so the Furai isn’t likely to enter production. But maybe the Hiroshima outfit will look at what Nissan’s doing with the GTR and bring its own high-end sports car to market. We can hope and dream at least.
By Bob Beamesderfer
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Mazda